We had an exciting announcement from the Vatican this week: Pope Francis revealed that the canonization of two beloved 20th century popes would take place on April 27th of this coming year. The world has been waiting for that date since July, when Pope Francis approved the second miracle of Pope John II and announced that he would also be canonizing Pope John XXIII.
While most of us have many memories of the life and papacy of John Paul II, the life and legacy of John XXIII may be less familiar.
Born Angelo Roncalli in a northern region of Italy in 1881 to a family of sharecroppers, he was ordained a priest in 1904. In the early days of his priesthood, Fr. Roncalli was drafted into the Royal Italian Army during World War I where he served as a chaplain to the injured and dying. During World War II he served as the Apostolic Nuncio to France, a position that allowed him to help intervene on behalf of Jewish refugees and save them from the Nazis.
He was elevated to cardinal in 1953 and became the bishop of Venice where he served for only a few years before he was elected pope in 1958. It is speculated that part of the reason for his election was his advanced age; after the long papacy of Pope Pius XII, it was assumed that he would be a short-term pope. Taking the name John XXIII, he was not the pope people expected him to be. Much like Pope Francis, John XXIII was a pope of the people, making pastoral visits to his diocese of Rome, walking about the city visiting the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned. He was also known for sneaking out of the Vatican at night to walk the streets of Rome, wanting to be near the people he served.
Then, this short-term pope shocked the world by calling the Second Vatican Council, a council that “stirred up a hornets nest” and most notably, instituted changes in the liturgy and examined anew the role of the Church – and the laity – in the modern world. Though he died before the council closed, it became John XXIII’s legacy, the council that “opened the windows to let in the fresh air.”
Pope John XXIII was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 1962 (before the council convened) and died June 3, 1963, at the age of 81. He was known as “Good Pope John” by the people and was declared “Blessed” by Pope John Paul II in 2000. Pope Francis waived the second miracle usually required for canonization.
Instead of celebrating his feast on the anniversary of his death, we celebrate Pope John XXIII on October 11th, the anniversary of his opening of the Second Vatican Council.
Pope John XXIII, pray for us!
Editor’s Note: During the month of November, as we celebrate the final days of the Year of Faith, we’d like to feature stories from YOU about the blessings and fruits you’ve experienced during this year. How did you celebrate? What did you do to grow in faith How did your relationship with Christ and His Church deepen?
Send us your stories and reflections to email@example.com along with your contact information, and your reflection could be featured here on the blog in November!
Submissions should be under 500 words; deadline for submissions is October 31st.