The feast day of St Pope John XXIII was on 11 October. A former Missio National Director and the architect of the Second Vatican Council, the ‘Good Pope’ has a special place in our hearts.
Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was born into a family of poor farmers in Italy in 1881. He had 12 brothers and sisters.
At school he was known as a hardworking student with a strong faith. So it was no surprise when after finishing school he joined the local seminary, and was ordained a Priest in 1904, at the age of 23.
At the start of the First World War, Angelo enlisted in the army, first as a field hospital assistant then a military chaplain. Fr Angelo’s time at war encouraged his pursuit of peace and unity, and after the war he was asked to become Italy’s Director of Missio; a post he stayed in for four years.
An advocate for all in need
Fr Angelo went on to be the Pope’s Nuncio, serving as a delegate in various posts across Europe. During the Second World War he used this role to save many refugees, mostly Jewish people, from the Nazis.
He was made a Cardinal in 1952. But despite his successes, Cardinal Angelo continued to live a humble, simple life. He showed great love for all the people in his care, especially those living in poverty.
Just before his 78th birthday, to everyone’s surprise, Cardinal Angelo was elected Pope. He adopted the name John XXIII.
But far from being the ‘caretaker Pope’ many expected, Pope John XXIII will be remembered as the revolutionary Holy Father who called the Second Vatican Council. He was a passionate advocate for equality, stating:
‘We were all made in God’s image, and thus, we are all Godly alike’.
Taking the Church to the ends of the Earth
Pope John was instrumental in modernising the Church, and placing pastoral care at the heart of the Church’s mission. He welcomed dialogue and collaboration with leaders of other Christian churches and other faiths, and was the first Pope to name cardinals from Africa, Japan and the Philippines. Through unity and understanding, Pope John XXIII sought to bring the world closer to the Kingdom Jesus asks us to create.
Pope John XXIII died in 1963. He was made a saint by Pope Francis in 2014 and is buried in a simple tomb in St Peter’s Basilica, Rome.
His efforts to foster world peace and his love and respect for all people means that he was admired around the world and given the nickname ‘the Good Pope’. He reminds us all that we are part of ‘a great, an immense family’, and of our mission to share the light and love of Christ with all our sisters and brothers across the world.
An unending mission
As World Mission Sunday approaches, we’re all reminded of our call to speak of what we have seen and heard. As we each examine our personal call to mission, we bring to mind the words of the Good Pope:
‘Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential.
Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.’