Born
25 November 1881 at Sotto il Monte, diocese of Bergamo, Italy as Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli

Papal Ascension
28 October 1958

Died
3 June 1963 at Rome, Italy of natural causes; buried in Saint Peter's basilica, Vatican City

Name Meaning
God is gracious; gift of God (John)
Predecessor: Pius XII
Successor: Pope Paul VI

Profile

Also known as
Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli

Memorial
11 October

Born to an Italian peasant family. Educated at Bergamo and the Pontifical Roman Seminary.

Ordained on 10 August 1904.

Secretary to the bishop of Bergamo from 1904 to 1914, during which he wrote the basis for his five-volume biography of Saint Charles Borromeo.

Served in World War I in the medical corps, and as a chaplain. Worked in Rome after the war, and reorganized the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.

Archbishop in 1925.

Vatican diplomatic representative to Bulgaria on 16 October 1931, then Turkey and Greece on 12 January 1935.

Named papal nuncio to France in 1944 where he mediated between conservative and socially radical clergy.

Created cardinal on 12 January 1953, and patriarch of Venice on 15 January 1953.

Elected 261st pope on 28 October 1958.

Early Career

 As pope, he stressed his own pastoral duties as well as those of other bishops and clergy. Promoted social reforms for workers, poor people, orphans, and the outcast. He advanced cooperation with other faiths and traditions including Protestant, Greek Orthodox, Church of England, and even Shinto. In April 1959, he forbade Catholics to vote for parties supporting Communism. His encyclical Mater et Magistra of 14 July 1961 advocated social reform, assistance to underdeveloped countries, a living wage for all workers, and support for socialist measures that promised real benefit to society.

He nearly doubled the number of cardinals, making the college the largest in history. On 25 January 1959, he announced his intent to call a council to consider ways to renew the Church in the modern world, promote diversity within the unity of the Church, and consider reforms promoted by ecumenical and liturgical movements. Convening the council, known as Vatican II, on 11 October 1962, was the high point of his reign.

His heartiness, his overflowing love for humanity individually and collectively, and his freshness of approach to ecclesiastical affairs made John one of the best-loved popes of modern times.  

Pope

Pope Saint John XXIII reigned as Pope from 28 October 1958 to his death in 1963 and was canonized on 27 April 2014. Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was the fourth of fourteen children born to a family of sharecroppers who lived in a village in Lombardy. He was ordained to the priesthood on 10 August 1904 and served in a number of posts, including papal nuncio in France and a delegate to Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. In a consistory on 12 January 1953 Pope Pius XII made Roncalli a cardinal as the Cardinal-Priest of Santa Prisca in addition to naming him as the Patriarch of Venice.

Roncalli was elected pope on 28 October 1958 at age 76 after 11 ballots. His selection was unexpected, and Roncalli himself had come to Rome with a return train ticket to Venice. He was the first pope to take the pontifical name of "John" upon election in more than 500 years, and his choice settled the complicated question of official numbering attached to this papal name due to the antipope of this name. Pope John XXIII surprised those who expected him to be a caretaker pope by calling the historic Second Vatican Council (1962–65), the first session opening on 11 October 1962. His passionate views on equality were summed up in his famous statement, "We were all made in God's image, and thus, we are all Godly alike." John XXIII made many passionate speeches during his pontificate, one of which was on the day that he opened the Second Vatican Council in the middle of the night to the crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square: "Dear children, returning home, you will find children: give your children a hug and say: This is a hug from the Pope!"

Pope John XXIII did not live to see the Vatican Council to completion. He died of stomach cancer on 3 June 1963, four and a half years after his election and two months after the completion of his final and famed encyclical, Pacem in terris. He was buried in the Vatican grottoes beneath Saint Peter's Basilica on 6 June 1963 and his cause for canonization was opened on 18 November 1965 by his successor, Pope Paul VI, who declared him a Servant of God. In addition to being named Venerable on 20 December 1999, he was beatified on 3 September 2000 by Pope John Paul II alongside Pope Pius IX and three others. Following his beatification, his body was moved on 3 June 2001 from its original place to the altar of Saint Jerome where it could be seen by the faithful. On 5 July 2013, Pope Francis – bypassing the traditionally required second miracle – declared John XXIII a saint, after unanimous agreement by a consistory, or meeting, of the College of Cardinals, based on the fact that he was considered to have lived a virtuous, model lifestyle, and because of the good for the Church which had come from his having opened the Second Vatican Council. He was canonised alongside Pope Saint John Paul II on 27 April 2014. John XXIII today is affectionately known as the "Good Pope" and in Italian, "il Papa buono".

The Roman Catholic Church celebrates his feast day not on the date of his death, 3 June, as is usual, nor even on the day of his papal inauguration (as is sometimes done with popes who are saints, such as with John Paul II) but on 11 October, the day of the first session of the Second Vatican Council. This is understandable, since he was the one who had had the idea for it and had convened it. On Thursday, 11 September 2014, Pope Francis added his optional memorial to the worldwide General Roman Calendar of saints' feast days, in response to global requests. He is commemorated on the date of his death, 3 June, by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and on the following day, 4 June, by the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church (United States).

On 23 September 1962, Pope John XXIII was first diagnosed with stomach cancer. The diagnosis, which was kept from the public, followed nearly eight months of occasional stomach hemorrhages, and reduced the pontiff's appearances. Looking pale and drawn during these events, he gave a hint to his ultimate fate in April 1963, when he said to visitors, "That which happens to all men perhaps will happen soon to the Pope who speaks to you today."

Pope John XXIII offered to mediate between US President John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. Both men applauded the pope for his deep commitment to peace. Khrushchev would later send a message via Norman Cousins and the letter expressed his best wishes for the pontiff's ailing health. John XXIII personally typed and sent a message back to him, thanking him for his letter. Cousins, meanwhile, travelled to New York City and ensured that John would become Time magazine's 'Man of the Year'. John XXIII became the first Pope to receive the title, followed by John Paul II in 1994 and Francis in 2013.

On 10 February 1963, John XXIII officially opened the process of beatification for the late Cardinal Andrea Carlo Ferrari, formerly the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan. This conferred upon him the title of Servant of God.

On 7 March 1963, the feast of the University's patron Saint Thomas Aquinas, Pope John XXIII visited the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum and with the motu proprio Dominicanus Ordo,  raised the Angelicum to the rank of Pontifical University. Thereafter it would be known as the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in the City.

On 10 May 1963, John XXIII received the Balzan Prize in private at the Vatican but deflected achievements of himself to the five popes of his lifetime, Pope Leo XIII to Pius XII. On 11 May, the Italian President Antonio Segni officially awarded Pope John XXIII with the Balzan Prize for his engagement for peace. While in the car en route to the official ceremony, he suffered great stomach pains but insisted on meeting with Segni to receive the award in the Quirinal Palace, refusing to do so within the Vatican. He stated that it would have been an insult to honour a pontiff on the remains of the crucified Saint Peter. It was the pope's last public appearance.

On 25 May 1963, the pope suffered another haemorrhage and required several blood transfusions, but the cancer had perforated the stomach wall and peritonitis soon set in. The doctors conferred in a decision regarding this matter and John XXIII's aide Loris F. Capovilla broke the news to him saying that the cancer had done its work and nothing could be done for him. Around this time, his remaining siblings arrived to be with him. By 31 May, it had become clear that the cancer had overcome the resistance of John XXIII – it had left him confined to his bed.

"At 11 am Petrus Canisius Van Lierde as Papal Sacristan was at the bedside of the dying pope, ready to anoint him. The pope began to speak for the very last time: "I had the great grace to be born into a Christian family, modest and poor, but with the fear of the Lord. My time on earth is drawing to a close. But Christ lives on and continues his work in the Church. Souls, souls, ut omnes unum sint." Van Lierde then anointed his eyes, ears, mouth, hands and feet. Overcome by emotion, Van Lierde forgot the right order of anointing. John XXIII gently helped him before bidding those present a last farewell.

John XXIII died of peritonitis caused by a perforated stomach at 19:49 local time on 3 June 1963 at the age of 81, ending a historic pontificate of four years and seven months. He died just as a Mass for him finished in Saint Peter's Square below, celebrated by Luigi Traglia. After he died, his brow was ritually tapped to see if he was dead, and those with him in the room said prayers. Then the room was illuminated, thus informing the people of what had happened. He was buried on 6 June in the Vatican grottos. Two wreaths, placed on the two sides of his tomb, were donated by the prisoners of the Regina Coeli prison and the Mantova jail in Verona. On 22 June 1963, one day after his friend and successor Pope Paul VI was elected, the latter prayed at his tomb.

On 3 December 1963, US President Lyndon B. Johnson posthumously awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian award, in recognition of the good relationship between Pope John XXIII and the United States of America. In his speech on 6 December 1963, Johnson said: "I have also determined to confer the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously on another noble man whose death we mourned 6 months ago: His Holiness, Pope John XXIII. He was a man of simple origins, of simple faith, of simple charity. In this exalted office he was still the gentle pastor. He believed in discussion and persuasion. He profoundly respected the dignity of man. He gave the world immortal statements of the rights of man, of the obligations of men to each other, of their duty to strive for a world community in which all can live in peace and fraternal friendship. His goodness reached across temporal boundaries to warm the hearts of men of all nations and of all faiths".


 

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