Pope St John XXIII was born on November 25 1881 in Sotto il Monte, Bergamo Province, Lombardy Region, Italy, and given the name Giuseppe Angelo Roncalli.
He was the 260th pope who convened the Second Vatican Council (Vatican 2) in 1962.
He was pope from October 28 1958 until June 3 1963 when he died at the age of 81 years in his Apostolic Palace in Vatican City.
We celebrate his feast day on October 11 every year in the Catholic Church.
|Pope Saint John XXIII Biography|
|Date of Birth||November 25 1881|
|Place of Birth||Sotto il Monte, Bergamo, Italy|
|Profession||Pope and Bishop of Rome|
|Place of Work||Vatican, Rome, Italy|
|Date of Death||June 3 1963 (aged 81)|
|Place of Death||Apostolic Palace, Vatican City|
|Feast Day||October 11|
|Beatification||By Pope John Paul II on September 3 2000 in Saint Peter’s Square, Vatican City|
|Canonization||By Pope Francis on April 27 2014 in Saint Peter’s Square, Vatican City|
|Patron Saint of||
St John XXIII, Pope Life History
Pope John XXIII hailed from a large family of 13 children. He was the fourth born and the eldest son in the family. His father’s name was Giovanni Battista Roncalli and his mother was Marianna Giulia Mazzola.
The family was poor and earned their livelihood by sharecropping whereby the landowner allowed them to till the land in return for a share of the crops produced on that land.
Pope John XXIII received his First Holy Communion as well as Confirmation in 1889 at the age of 8. He attended school in his hometown at the age of twelve.
He entered Bergamo’s diocesan seminary in 1892 and joined the Secular Franciscan Order on March 1 1896 and thereafter, on May 23 1897 professed his vows as a member.
In 1901 while studying in Rome he took a year off for military service. He graduated with a doctorate in canon law in 1904 and was ordained as a priest on August 10 1904 at Santa Maria Catholic Church in Monte Santo, Rome.
He was appointed as the secretary to Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi, the Bishop of Bergamo in 1905 and worked till the bishop died on August 22 1914. During this time he also lectured in the Bergamo diocesan seminary.
When World War I broke out, Fr. Roncalli joined the Royal Italian Army as a sergeant and became a chaplain as well as a stretcher carrier in the medical corps.
When the war ended in 1919, he was discharged from the army and became the spiritual director of the Bergamo diocesan seminary. He also opened a hostel for students in Bergamo.
When Fr. Giuseppe Angelo Roncalli traveled to Rome to meet Pope Benedict XV, he was appointed as the Italian president of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.
Fr. Roncalli was appointed by Pope Pius XI as the Apostolic Visitor to Bulgaria in 1925, a position he held until 1935.
In the same year, 1925, the pope also appointed him as the titular archbishop of Areopolis, Jordan, and therefore was consecrated as a bishop. Here he worked closely with the Eastern Catholics and understood them.
He was appointed as a titular archbishop of Mesembria, Bulgaria and Apostolic Delegate to Turkey and Greece in 1934.
Because of his strong positive predisposition and sympathy towards the government in Istanbul, culture, history, and the people of Turkey, he became known as the Turcophile Pope. Here he improved relations between the Orthodox and Muslims.
In this position, he helped many Jewish refugees in Europe who started referring to him as a Righteous Gentile. He also helped many pilgrims from Bulgaria to go to Rome to meet the pope.
Bishop Roncalli’s mother died in February 1939, the same period Pope Pius XI died. Roncalli was, therefore, unable to attend his mother’s funeral because of the tight schedule and obligations during the election of a new pope.
Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli was elected the new pope on March 2 1939 and took the name, Pope Pius XII. The new pope shortly afterward made Bishop Roncalli the head of the Vatican Jewish Agency in Geneva.
In 1939, World War II broke out and Bishop Roncalli departed as head of the Vatican Jewish Agency and went to Turkey but continued to help the Nazi-oppressed Jews in Greece and around Europe throughout the war period.
The help he accorded to the Jews during this period has been recognized far and wide by many nations and people, especially the Jewish community around the world.
He played a very pivotal role in championing for the establishment of the Jewish State after the end of the war.
Archbishop Roncalli was made the new Apostolic Nuncio of France on December 22 1944 after the country was liberated from Nazi occupation.
He helped to get rid of the bishops who collaborated with the Nazi regime and helped them in the occupation of France during World War II.
His good work as the Nuncio in France made the sitting President of France, Vincent Auriol give him the award of Commander of the Legion of Honour.
Archbishop Roncalli’s rank was raised to a Cardinal by Pope Pius XII and subsequently appointed as the Patriarch of Venice on January 12 1953 after the death of Archbishop Carlo Agostini.
Pope Pius XII died on October 9 1958 and Cardinal Roncalli was elected as the New Pope and took the regnal name, John.
The choice of this name surprised many people because, for around 500 years, the previous popes avoided it for it was associated with antipope John XXIII (1410-1415) who had opposed Pope Gregory XII.
The 1958 papal conclave thought that Pope John XXIII, because of his advanced age, would not do much while in office and thought he would serve for a very short period.
After his coronation, he embarked on visits around Rome to visit the sick in hospitals, prisoners, reformatory schools for juvenile delinquents, and other institutions that take care of the least of our brothers and sisters. This kind gesture made many people including non-Catholics to like him a lot.
In 1960, during the Good Friday liturgy, Pope John XXIII told the faithful to stop terming the Jews as faithless and requested the elimination of the phrase that calls for the conversion of the Jews from the Good Friday liturgy.
Instead of becoming a short-period pope who would do nothing, Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council on October 11 1962, the council that changed for the better, the face of Catholicism in matters of liturgy, ecumenism, approach to the world, and evangelization.
Pope John XXIII presided over the Rome diocese’s first synod in 1960 and thereafter issued a rule in 1962 mandating that all cardinals should be bishops.
He also annulled the regulation of Pope Sixtus IV limiting the membership of the College of Cardinals to 70 and enlarged it to 87 with a sizeable international representation.
Pope John XXIII created the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity to head the Church into better relationships with other Christian and non-Christian denominations.
He prohibited the use of contraceptives which he said interfered with the procreative will of God and also upheld the traditional view that married couples should not divorce.
During the height of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, he offered to moderate the peace negotiations. Although many people approved of that move the warring parties declined to accept his offer.
US President Lyndon B. Johnson posthumously awarded Pope John XXIII the Presidential Medal of Freedom on December 3 1963 in recognition of the good relationship between him and the United States of America. This is the highest civilian award in the United States.
Pope John XXIII Death
Pope John XXIII was diagnosed with stomach cancer on September 23 1962. The information was initially withheld from the public and the pope’s public appearances were reduced.
He died on June 3 1963 at the age of 81 having served as pope for four years and seven months. He was buried after three days on June 6 in the Vatican Necropolis.
The cause for the canonization of Pope John XXIII was opened on November 18 1965 by Pope Paul VI. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 3 2000 in Saint Peter’s Square, Vatican City after a miracle of curing an ill woman was ratified.
Pope John XXIII was canonized by Pope Francis on April 27 2014 in Saint Peter’s Square, Vatican City
Pope John XXIII Feast Day
We celebrate St John XXIII’s feast day on October 11 every year in the Catholic Church. This date is not the usual date of death as it were, but the date the pope opened the Second Vatican Council.
Pope John XXIII is the Patron Saint of
- Papal delegates
- Patriarchy of Venice
- Second Vatican Council
- Christian unity
- Diocese of Bergamo
- Sotto il Monte
- Italian Army
- Other popes named John
St John XXIII, Pope Quote
👉 “It is not that the gospel has changed; it is that we have begun to understand it better.
👉 Those who have lived as long as I have were enabled to compare different cultures and traditions, and know that the moment has come to discern the signs of the times, to seize the opportunity, and to look far ahead.”
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