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The Beatifications of Pope Pius IX and Pope John XXIII

 
Pope John XXIII
 

HISTORY

Angelo Roncalli was born November 25, 1881, at Sotte il Monte, Italy.

He was educated at the seminary of the Bergamo diocese and the Pontifical Seminary in Rome, where he was ordained to the priesthood Aug. 10, 1904.

Father Roncalli spent the first nine or 10 years of his priesthood as secretary to the bishop of Bergamo and as an instructor in church history at the seminary. During World War I, he served as a medic and chaplain in the Italian army. Afterwards, he resumed duties in his own diocese until he was called to Rome in 1921, where he helped to reorganize the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.

He began diplomatic service in 1925 as titular archbishop of Areopolis and apostolic visitor to Bulgaria. A succession of offices followed: apostolic delegate to Bulgaria (1931-1935); titular archbishop of Mesembria, apostolic delegate to Turkey and Greece, administrator of the Latin vicariate apostolic of Istanbul (1935-1944); apostolic nuncio to France (1944-1953). On these missions, he was engaged in delicate negotiations involving Roman, Eastern-Rite and Orthodox relations; he played a role in rescuing Jews from Nazi-controlled Hungary; and helped fulfill the needs of people suffering from the consequences of World War II.

He was made a cardinal 12 January 1953, and three days later appointed patriarch of Venice. On 28 October 1958, at the age of 77, he was elected Pope.

John soon announced his intention of convoking the 21st ecumenical council, to renew life in the Church, to reform its structures and institutions, and to explore ways and means of promoting unity among Christians. The council ushered in a new era in the history of the Church, completing its work two and one-half years after his death. He died of stomach cancer, 3 June 1963.

John was a strong and vigorous pope whose accomplishments exceeded all expectations. 

Besides convoking Vatican II, he established a commission, in March 1963, for revision of the Code of Canon Law. The revised Code was promulgated in 1983.

He canonized 10 saints and beatified Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first native of the U.S. to be so honored.

He created 52 cardinals, including the first from the Philippines, Japan, and Africa, making the College more international, and raising the traditional number above 70.

He promoted the Church's missionary activity and established native hierarchies in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Korea.

Of his eight encyclicals, two outstanding were Mater et Magistra  ("Christianity and Social Progress") and Pacem in Terris ("Peace on Earth"), addressed to all men of good will, on natural-law principles of peace.

John continued liturgical reforms begun by Pius XII, authorized use of the vernacular in the administration of Sacraments, and selected the liturgy as the first major topic of discussion by the Council.

He used his moral influence for peace in 1961 when cold war tensions developed over Berlin, in 1962 during the Algerian revolt from France, and later the same year in the Cuban missile crisis. In 1963, he was posthumously awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Though he was a highly cultured man—his writings include a five-volume study of St. Charles Borromeo—he was proud of his peasant origins. He had a common touch that endeared him to millions, and a sublime humility that showed the depth of his spirituality. His influence on the Church and on the world was far out of proportion to the shortness of his reign.