Blessed Pope John XXIII
Today is the feast of Blessed Pope John XXIII, pope from 1958-1963, best known for convening the Second Vatican Council. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 3, 2000. His feast is assigned to the day on which the first session of Vatican II opened in 1962. His feast is not on the General Roman Calendar, but can be celebrated locally.
Born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli at Sotto il Monte, Italy on 25 November 1881; elected Pope on October 28, 1958; died June 3, 1963 in Rome; beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 3, 2000.
Angelo was the fourth child of 14, born to pious parents. His religious education was entrusted to his godfather who instigated in him a deep response to the mystery of God.
He entered the minor seminary in 1892 at the age of 11, became a Secular Francsican in 1896 and in 1901 he entered the Pontifical Roman Seminary. On being ordained in 1904 he was appointed secretary to the bishop of Bergamo and taught in the seminary.
His great friends among the saints during this formative period were St Charles Borromeo and St Francis de Sales, two outstanding intellectuals and also formidable pastors.
He served as a military chaplain during the First World War, served as spiritual directory of a seminary and in 1921 served as the Italian president of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.
In 1925 Pius XI made him a bishop and sent him to Bulgaria as the Apostolic Visitator For his Episcopal motto he chose Oboedientia et Pax. In 1935 he was assigned to Turkey and Greece where he ministered to the Catholic population and engaged in dialogue with Orthodox Christianity and with Islam.
During the Second World War he used his diplomatic means to save as many Jews as he could by obtaining safe passage for them.
He was created cardinal and Patriarch of Venice in 1953 and was a much loved pastor, dedicating himself completely to the well being of his flock.
Elected Pope on the death of Pope Pius XII he was an example of a ‘pastoral’ Pope, a good shepherd who cared deeply for his sheep. He manifested this concern in his social encyclicals, especially Pacem in Terris, “On peace in the World.”
His greatest act as Pope however was undoubtedly the inspiration to convoke the Second Vatican Council, which he opened on October 11, 1962.
Pope John’s spirit of humble simplicity, profound goodness, and deep life of prayer radiated in all he did and inspired people to affectionately call him “Good Pope John.”
Blessed Angelo Roncalli, Blessed John XXIII by James Martin, S. J.