Saint of the Day – 11 October – St Pope John XXIII (1881-1963) “Good Pope John” – Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli became the 261st successor of St Peter, choosing the name John, the first to take that name in more than 500 years but this choice was inspired by his own Father and the 2 Patrons of his Papal Seat, St John Lateran – St John the Baptist and St John Apostle and Evangelist. He reigned from 28 October 1958 until his death on 3 June 1963. His Motto was: “Oboedientia et Pax” – Obedience and Peace (Taken In 1925 when Pius XI named him Apostolic Visitator in Bulgaria). His body is incorrupt.
“Let the winds of change blow into the Church!” said His Holiness, Pope John XXIII, symbolically opening a window at the commencement of Vatican II, today in 1962. Ever since, neither have the winds of change stopped blowing, nor have any of St Pope John’s successors, closed the window. Indeed, the Church Universal, continues to take a scrutinising look, both at herself and at the world outside that window, to enable her to continue preaching the Gospel she practises.
St John was a man with a keenness all his own. A man totally encapsulating the definitions of this word ‘keen’ – ardent, passionate, fervent, zealous, committed, conscientious, earnest, industrious, diligent, assiduous, dedicated; he had a a keen foresight that led him to call the Council whose discussions, decisions and directives have had far-reaching implications; a keen sense of duty and loyalty that ensured he maintained a busy schedule whether as a priest, a Bishop, as Archbishop, Diplomat, Nuncio, Cardinal or Pope, that was both exacting and productive; a keen sense of judgement that helped him save the Church in France many problems and heartbreak, during the priest-workers’ strife in that country; a keen sense of humanity that saw him save an estimated 25000 Jews from extermination; a keen sense of humour that saw him steer clear of controversy through many a possible crises; a keen sense of God’s providence that made him the ideal person to promote a new dialogue with Orthodox and Protestants, Jews and Muslims too and, above all, a keen sense of Christian unity that had made him own the priestly prayer of Jesus, “Ut unum sint”, “that they may be one” (Jn 17:22).
Born into a simple peasant family of Sotto il Monte near Bergamo, Northern Italy on 25 November 1881, Angelo was ordained a Priest in 1904. He was drafted into the army as a stretcher-bearer during World War I. In 1921 he was appointed national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith and in 1925, consecrated Bishop. He was then Archbishop and appointed Papal diplomat firs to Bulgaria, then to Turkey and, finally, from 1944-1953, to France.
During World War II, he became familiar with several Orthodox Church leaders, establishing a rapport between the two Churches that continues to grow to this day.
In 1953, he was created Cardinal and appointed Patriarch to Venice by Pope Pius XII. Pope Pius dies on 9 October 1958 and on the 28th St John was elected Pope.
His most famous encyclicals were Mother and Teacher (1961) and Peace on Earth (1963). St John enlarged the membership in the College of Cardinals and made it more international. He set a tone for the Council when he said, “The Church has always opposed… errors. Nowadays, however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity.”
On his deathbed, Pope John said: “It is not that the gospel has changed; it is that we have begun to understand it better. Those who have lived as long as I have…and have been enabled to compare different cultures and traditions … know that the moment has come to discern the signs of the times, to seize the opportunity and to look far ahead.”
This many-sided, humble, kind and holy man, had deep reserves to draw upon. His intuitive tact and gracious courtesy, his open-mindedness and uncomplicated generous approach, always succeeded in extracting the best from all who worked with him and with those he met, from every walk of life. In keeping with his Episcopal Motto “Obedience and Peace, he was truly a man of obedience all his priestly life – obedience to the will of God in all things and a man of great depths of inner peace that transmitted itself to others. As a journalist once said, “one experiences a sense of release in speaking to him.”
This beloved “Good Pope John” and “Pope of the Council”, who had become one of the most admired popes, by Catholics and non-Catholics alike, was Beatified on 3 September 2000 by St Pope John Paul and Canonised, together with the man who had Beatified him, St Pope John Paul, on 27 April 2014 by Pope Francis. His feast day today marks the Opening Day of the First Session of the Second Vatican Council.
Full biography with Patronages, etc here: https://anastpaul.wordpress.com/2017/10/11/saint-of-the-day-11-october-st-pope-john-xxiii-1881-1963/