Bookmark and Share

Pope Saint John XXIII - Papa Roncalli

Born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli on 25 November 1881 in Sotto il Monte, Bergamo, Italy. 4th of 14 children born to a family of sharecroppers
Ordained priest on 10 August 1904; papal nuncio in France, delegate to Bulgaria, Greece & Turkey. On 12 January 1953 Pope Pius XII made Roncalli Cardinal-Priest of Santa Prisca & named Patriarch of Venice.
Elected pope on 28 October 1958. Called the Second Vatican Council, which opened on 11 October 1962. He died of stomach cancer on 3 June 1963.
His cause for canonization was opened on 18 November 1965 by Paul VI, who declared him a Servant of God.
Beatified on 3 September 2000 by St John Paul II.
Canonized on Divine Mercy Sunday (27 April) 2014 with JPII by Pope Francis, who declared John XXIII a saint based on his merits of opening Vatican II.
Feast day - 11 October

Catechesis by St John Paul II      
General Audience, Wednesday 25 November 1981 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dearest brothers and sisters in Christ!
1. Exactly 100 years ago – Friday 25 November 1881 – in Sotto il Monte, the little Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli opened his eyes to life. During his long life singularly rich in grace, the baby boy who would become a priest, bishop and finally successor to Peter, was baptised towards evening on that same day.

In this audience, which through happy coincidence, albeit by chance, finds us gathered here on this very significant date, I cannot but remember in a particular way my great predecessor, whose memory blesses our hearts and is in the conscience of all the peoples of the world. One hundred years ago a man was born who, following the golden thread of "good Providence" - as he often liked to call it -, would leave an indelible mark on the history of the Church in our time. Together with you I would like to focus attention on the meaning, the importance, the greatness, that this man's presence in our midst had for the Church and for the world. In doing this, I recollect the visit I made on 26th April this year to his hometown, now well known throughout the world. This was my personal tribute of affection and veneration, in this centenary year, to the man who, on going up to the seat of Peter, took the prophetic name of John - the name that my immediate predecessor and I myself have conserved beside the name of Paul, as a sign of love and gratitude to this great Pope. "There came a man sent by God, and his name was John" (Jn 1, 6): these words, which were universally applied to him and certainly showed as a sign of divine predilection, are still emblematic of his pontifical mission.

2. Pope John was a great gift of God to the Church. Not only because – and this would have been enough to make his memory imperishable - he linked his name to the greatest and most transforming event of our century: the convening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, intuited by him, as he had to confess, as through a mysterious and irresistible inspiration of the Holy Spirit; not only because it celebrated the Roman Synod, and wanted to start the revision of the Code of Canon Law. He was a great gift of God because he made the Church feel alive to the man of today. He was, like the Baptist, a Precursor. He indicated the ways of renewal in the great wake of Tradition, as I fully developed in my speeches in Sotto il Monte and Bergamo. He wanted "to be the voice" (Jn 1, 23) so as to prepare for Christ a new advent in the Church and in the world. In his Easter message of 1962 he had wished to say: "It is still Peter, in his most recent, humble successor who, surrounded by an immense crown of bishops, with trepidation but confidence, addresses the multitude. His word comes up from the end of twenty centuries, and it is not his: it is that of Jesus Christ, Verb of the Father and redeemer of all the peoples, and it is still he who shows to humanity the best ways that lead to coexistence in truth and justice" ((21 April 1962: Speeches, Messages, of Pope John XXIII, IV [1962] 221s)

This voice shook the world. By his simplicity and directness, by his humility and discretion, by his courage and his strength. By means of this voice the Word of Christ was clearly heard: in his call to truth, to justice, to love and to freedom, by which relations between men and between peoples were inspired, according to the lines of the great encyclical Pacem in Terris: it was heard in his underlining of both the values of the person, a unique and unrepeatable nucleus in whom the glory of the Face of God creator and redeemer is directly reflected, and also those of the family, the fundamental social nucleus for the life of society and of the Church, to whom her own children are offered as a sign of hope and of promise, especially in priestly and religious vocations; it was heard in his reproposal to men of the ways of prayer and of holiness. "There came a man, sent from God, and his name was John".

3. The dominant note of his action in the Church was his optimism. For this, the Pontiff was and still is dear to our hearts. Called to the responsibilities of the supreme government of the Church when he was only three years, or a little less, short of his eightieth birthday, he was a young man, in mind and in heart, as by a marvel of nature. He knew how to look to the future with unwavering hope; for the Church and for the world he awaited the flourishing of a new season, entrusted to the good will and the right intentions of a new humanity, more just, more upright, better. The Council was to mark a new springtime, as he often repeated; it was to be a "new Pentecost"; it was to be a "new Easter", that is "a great awakening, a resumption of the more spirited pathway" (JXXIII, 21 April 1962).

Hence the freshness and boldness of his initiatives. Hence his confidence in young people, whom he called to assume the great responsibilities of life, individual and public, without procrastination, without hesitation, without fear. Hence above all his missionary zeal, which made him embrace the world with passionate love, which was transformed into prayer: and it is known that he kept a large globe in his study, so as to follow more closely the life of the peoples of the whole earth; and that every day, in his recitation of the third joyful mystery, he entrusted "to Jesus who was born the countless number of all the children ... of all the human races who, in the last twenty-four hours, during the night and the day, had come to the light wherever on the face of the earth" (JXXIII, to the Italian Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 5 May 1962). This missionary zeal he had absorbed and lived since his years at "Propaganda Fide", and then in the contacts of the ever growing radius of his ecclesial service, all the way to the See of St Peter. He had confidence in the indigenous peoples; he wanted to give an always more incisive imprint to the presence of the sons of the land in the clergy and bishops, underlining the ecclesiological value with the various orders, both priestly and episcopal, which he himself wanted to fulfill here in Rome, so as to to put in clear evidence the primarily missionary task of the mandate of the Church and its visible head. As he said at one of the ordinations of these missionary bishops, "the humble Vicar of Christ gathers every morning around his chalice the children arranged in an immense crown from all points of the earth: with particular tenderness he turns to his co-workers in the apostolate, still countless, thank God, but always insufficient to the needs and aspirations of the masses, the workers of the Gospel, spread across all the continents "(May 8, 1960: Discourses, Messages and Talks of Pope John XXIII, II [1960] 337).

From this optimistic expectation, almost a "spes contra spem" (cf Rom 4:18), which knew how to await patiently from God the moment of grace, and to stimulate consent and collaboration among men, arose the immense sympathy with which our contemporaries accompanied the work of this Pope and mourned his death like that of an ancient Patriarch, even that of a father. Such a hope was responded to by the trust of young people - now mature men, certainly committed, as I hope, to live and implement his teachings - who saw in him one who invited them to take their place in society and in the Church. And therein lies the explanation of the extraordinary irradiation that his teaching, his word and his work had, in all social and professional categories,  even in the short arc of his most intense pontificate.

4. Finally Pope John had, in a most sensitive and extraordinary way, a longing for unity. It was a tenacious effort, interwoven with trust in God and with sympathy in human relations, of healthy realism and generous openness; it was a program continually followed in all the stages of his life, all the way to the words spoken on his deathbed: "It is particularly the ''unum sint" that Christ has entrusted as testament to his Church. The sanctification of the clergy and the people, the union of Christians, the conversion of the world are therefore the principal task of the Pope and the bishops" (Speeches, Messages and Talks of Pope John XXIII, V [1963] 618).

"Ut unum sint"! The testament of Christ in the hour of the Eucharist and of the Passion had constant resonance in the heart of Pope John: that phrase was repeated countless times by him, and tells us how he lived the drama of the division among Christians and the expectation of union in the commitment to continue - as he said on the evening of the historic day of the inauguration of the Council, taking up an expression dear to him - "to grasp that which unites, leaving aside anything that might put us in some difficulty" (11 October 1962: Discourses, Messages and Talks of Pope John XXIII, IV [1962] 592).

"Ut unum sint"! All the way to today this consignment has driven the Church on the pathway, tiring but progredient and constructive, which has been journeyed along with singularly important and promising steps and that, by the grace of God, continue tirelessly at all levels. May Pope John assist this work from heaven, as its luminous model, as an inspired propeller, as a valid intercessor!

5. Dearest brothers and sisters! I would still like to allude to the links that this great Pontiff, the precise centenary of whose birth we remember today, had with my homeland, visiting the city of Krakow in 1912, celebrating Holy Mass in the cathedral, and going various times as a pilgrim to the Shrine of Jasna Góra. And also the personal memories, united to the celebration of the Council, must be mentioned here, albeit briefly. Suffice it to have, today, before our eyes and in our hearts - so as to to continue with a clear and ardent impulse in the service of society and of the Church, to which each of us is called in our own vocation - the figure of John XXIII, who recalls to us our duties to love Christ and to serve man. As I said in Bergamo, "from the threshold of the home in Sotto il Monte, from the hills of the Bergamo region ... we see the Church as a cenacle of all peoples and continents, open to the future" (John Paul II, IV / 1 [1981] 1046). In this perspective full of promise, from that humble homeland to the neighbouring Basilica, where his mortal remains repose awaiting the resurrection, we look today to the figure of Pope John, the good Pope, the Pope of the Council, the Pope of ecumenism, of the missions, of the Church that wants to embrace the world, to ask him to still bless us all from heaven, and to encourage all of us to follow in his footsteps."

Pope John XXIII's Encyclicals:

Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia - on Saint John Mary Vianney
1 August 1959 - in English, French, Italian, Latin, Portuguese & Spanish

Grata Recordatio - on the Rosary: Prayer for the Church, Missions, International & Social Problems
26 September 1959 - in English, Italian, Latin, Portuguese & Spanish

Ad Petri Cathedram - on Truth, Unity & Peace, in a Spirit of Charity
29 June 1959 - in English, Italian, Latin, Portuguese & Spanish

Princeps Pastorum - on the Missions, Native Clergy & Lay Participation
28 November 1959 - in English, Italian, Latin, Portuguese & Spanish

Mater et Magistra - on Christianity & Social Progress
15 May 1961 - in English, French, German, Italian, Latin, Portuguese & Spanish

Aeterna Dei Sapientia - on Commemorating the 15th centennial of the death of Pope St Leo I: the See of Peter as the Center of Christian Unity
11 November 1961 - in English, Italian, Latin, Portuguese & Spanish

Paenitentiam Agere - on the Need for the Practice of Interior & Exterior Penance
1 July 1962 - in English, Italian, Latin, Portuguese & Spanish

Pacem in Terris - on Establishing Universal Peace in Truth, Justice, Charity & Liberty
11 April 1963 - in English, French, German, Italian, Latin, Portuguese & Spanish