Pope Saint John XXIII was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was born in Sotto il Monte, in the Diocese and Province of Bergamo, on 25 November 1881. The fourth of thirteen children, he was baptized that same day. Under the guidance of an outstanding parish priest, Father Francesco Rebuzzini, he received a profound ecclesiastical formation which would sustain him in difficulty and inspire him in the works of the apostolate.

He received Confirmation and First Communion in 1889 and entered the Seminary of Bergamo in 1892, where he remained for studies in classics and theology until his second year of theology. As a fourteen-year-old boy, he began drawing up the spiritual notes which he would keep in various ways until his death, and would later be collected in the Journal of a Soul. It was there that he began the practice of regular spiritual direction. On 1 March 1896, the spiritual director of the Seminary of Bergamo, Father Luigi lsacchi, enrolled him in the Secular Franciscan Order, whose Rule he professed on 23 May 1897.

From 1901 to 1905 he studied at the Pontifical Roman Seminary, where he benefited from a scholarship of the Diocese of Bergamo for qualified seminarians. In the meantime he completed a year of military service. He was ordained a priest in Rome on 10 August 1904 in the Church of Santa Maria in Monte Santo in Piazza del Popolo. In 1905, he was named secretary to the new Bishop of Bergamo, the Most Reverend Giacomo Maria Radini Tedeschi.

He served as secretary until 1914, accompanying the Bishop on his pastoral visits and taking part in his numerous pastoral initiatives, including a Synod, the editorship of the monthly journal La Vita Diocesana. pilgrimages and various social works. He also taught history, patrology and apologetics in the Seminary. In 1910, when the statutes of Catholic Action were revised, the Bishop entrusted him with the pastoral care of Catholic women (section V). He wrote for Bergamo’s daily Catholic newspaper, and he was a diligent, profound and effective preacher.

These were the years of his profound contact with sainted Bishops: Saint Charles Borromeo (whose Atti della Visita Apostolica, completed in Bergamo in 1575 he would later publish), Saint Francis de Sales and Blessed Gregorio Barbarigo. They were also years of great pastoral activity at the side of Bishop Radini Tedeschi. When the latter died in 1914, Father Roncalli continued his priestly ministry as a seminary professor and a spiritual assistant to various ecclesiastical associations.

When Italy entered the war in 1915, he was called to military service as a sergeant medic. A year later, he became a military chaplain serving military hospitals behind the lines, and coordinated the spiritual and moral care of soldiers. At the end of the war he opened a “Home for Students” and served as a chaplain for students. In 1919, he was appointed spiritual director of the Seminary.

1921 marked the beginning of the second phase of his life: his service to the Holy See. Called to Rome by Pope Benedict XV to be the President for Italy of the central council of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, he visited many Italian dioceses and organized missionary circles. In 1925 Pope Pius XI named him Apostolic Visitor to Bulgaria, elevating him to the episcopal dignity with the titular see of Areopolis. He chose as his episcopal motto Obtedientia et Pax, which served as the programme of his Iife.

Ordained bishop in Rome on 19 March 1925, he arrived in Sophia on 25 April. Subsequently named the first Apostolic Delegate to Bulgaria, Archbishop Roncalli remained there until1934, visiting the Catholic communities and fostering respectful relations with other Christian communities. He was present and offered ready charitable assistance during the earthquake of 1928. He quietly endured misunderstandings and the difficulties of a ministry marked by halting progress. He grew in self-knowledge and confidence, and in abandonment to Christ crucified.

On 27 November 1934, he was named Apostolic Delegate in Turkey and Greece. His new assignment covered a vast area. The Catholic Church was present in many ways throughout the young Turkish Republic which was in the process of renewing and organizing itself. His ministry to Catholics was demanding and he became known for his respectful manner and dialogue with the Orthodox and Muslims. At the outbreak of the Second World War he was in Greece, which was devastated by fighting. He sought to gain information about prisoners of war and he helped to save many Jews by giving them transit visas issued by the Apostolic Delegation. On 6 December 1944, he was appointed Apostolic Nuncio in Paris by Pope Pius XII.

During the final months of the war and the first months of peace, Archbishop Roncalli assisted prisoners of war and worked to restore stability to the life of the Church in France. He visited the French shrines and participated in popular feasts and more significant religious events. He was attentive, prudent and trusting in his approach to the new pastoral initiatives undertaken by bishops and priests in France. He constantly sought to embody evangelical simplicity, even in dealing with the most complex diplomatic issues. His pastoral desire to be a priest in every situation sustained him. His deep piety found daily expression in prolonged moments of prayer and meditation.

On 12 January 1953 he was created Cardinal and on 25 January he was named Patriarch of Venice. He was delighted to devote himself in the last years of his life to a directly pastoral ministry, an aspiration he had always cherished as a priest. He was a wise and resourceful pastor, following in the footsteps of the holy Bishops whom he had always venerated: Saint Lawrence Giustiniani, the First Patriarch of Venice, and Saint Pius X. As he grew older, his trust in the Lord increased, within the context of an active, enterprising and joyful ministry.

Following the death of Pius XII, he was elected Pope on 28 October 1958, taking the name John XXIII. In the five years of his pontificate he appeared to the world as an authentic image of the Good Shepherd. Meek and gentle, resourceful and courageous, simple and ever active, he undertook various corporal and spiritual works of mercy, visiting prisoners and the sick, welcoming people of all nations and religions, demonstrating an exquisite sense of fatherhood to everyone. His social magisterium was contained in the Encyc1icals Mater et Magistra (1961) and Pacem in Terris (1963).

He convoked the Synod of Rome, instituted the Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law, and convened the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. As Bishop of Rome, he visited parishes and churches in the historical centre and in the outskirts. People saw in him a reflection of benignitas evangelica and called him the “good Pope”. A profound spirit of prayer sustained him. He embodied, as the driving force behind a movement of renewal of the Church, the peace of one who trusts completely in the Lord. He advanced resolutely along the paths of evangelization, ecumenism and dialogue, and showed a paternal concern to reach out to those of his children most in need.

He died the evening of 3 June 1963, the day after Pentecost, in a profound spirit of abandonment to Jesus, of longing for his embrace, and surrounded by the prayers of the entire world, which seemed to gathered at his bedside to breathe with him the love of the Father.

John XXIII was declared Blessed by Pope John Paul II on 3 September 2000 in Saint Peter’s Square, during the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. He was canonized by Pope Francis on April 27, 2014.

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  1. @ Marc, not an anti-pope. He was validly elected and validly conferred Holy Orders. His aim was not to destroy the Church but to build it up through education and reverence for the Gospel in the Church. If you read the Vatican II documents and if everyone else had actually put into effect the true spirit of Vatican II then the Church would be even stronger today than it was at the time the council was called. The fact is The Devil used ignorance and pride to enact misinterpretations of what was allowed in the Mass and what was not allowed, and spread rumors as fact. That so many actually made changes not authorized by his HOLINESS or his successor was the main destructive force. Ignorance was the key to the hate, the spread of lies, and that is the work of the devil to Divide the Church. Yes… mistakes were made and with John’s untimely death, his vision of strengthening to laity and the Church was unfulfilled. Because of ignorance like yours schisms occurred. You have to see that Benedict is now enacting the true Spirit of Vatican II with proper interpretation and discernment of those documents, the Catechism, and the Gospel and this will transform the Church on Earth into the strongest and most true to the Gospel state that it has ever been. So don’t buy into your own hype and mockery of the pontiffs since Vatican II. Jesus and the Holy Spirit unifies, the devil scatters. And it was not the Pope who was the agent of the devil, but pastors, nuns, and administrators of parishes who didn’t understand, were poorly catechized and poorly taught about the true essence of the Vatican II Council. I can see the damage reversing. But it’s an arduous task with people out there still sowing the seeds of divisiveness. You are not educated enough to be calling John XXIII anti-pope, and if you knew the Church as I know it, you would owe him and the Successors of Peter a huge apology. I am praying for you to stop the lies and the hate of the papacy. You are a discredit to the good Catholic Church and our holy father.

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  3. Dear Pope John,

    Your simplicity and meekness carried the scent of God and sparked in people’s hearts the desire for goodness. You spoke often of the beauty of the family gathered around the table to share bread and faith: pray for us that once again true families would live in our homes. With outstretched hands you sowed hope, and you taught us to listen for God’s footsteps as he prepares a new humanity: help us have a healthy optimism of defeating evil with good.

    You loved the world with its light and darkness, and you believed that peace is possible: help us be instruments of peace at home and in our communities.

    With paternal gentleness you gave all children a caress: you moved the world and reminded us that hands have been given to us not for striking, but for embracing and drying tears.

    Pray for us so that we do not limit ourselves to cursing the darkness but that we bring the light, bringing Jesus everywhere and always praying to Mary. Amen.St. John Paul, from the window of heaven, grant us your blessing! Bless the church that you loved and served and guided, courageously leading it along the paths of the world in order to bring Jesus to everyone and everyone to Jesus. Bless the young, who were your great passion. Help them dream again, help them look up high again to find the light that illuminates the paths of life here on earth.

    May you bless families, bless each family! You warned of Satan’s assault against this precious and indispensable divine spark that God lit on earth. St. John Paul, with your prayer, may you protect the family and every life that blossoms from the family.

    Pray for the whole world, which is still marked by tensions, wars and injustice. You tackled war by invoking dialogue and planting the seeds of love: pray for us so that we may be tireless sowers of peace.

    Oh St. John Paul, from heaven’s window, where we see you next to Mary, send God’s blessing down upon us all. Amen.

  4. J23, I offer you my diocese. Please transform its 2 million people to grow in faith hope charity. Currently 1/4 are baptized Catholics spread over 100 parishes, so revitalize souls suffering from a decreased interest in religion. If every parish priest is tending to 5000 souls, led by only one bishop, none can afford to be lost to the unrelenting diabolical forces manipulating society and government through possession, obsession, oppression, vexation, temptation. Double the number of Faithful through your heroic virtue and intercession. Convert town church members from; Anglican, Baptist, Dutch Reform, Highway Pentecostal. Presbyterian, Salvation Army, Trinity United. Close down the masonic hall permanently. With no need for ecumenism, collected strays can restore credibility and influence of the One True Church under Christ Crucified. Not me, not we, Him.
    Lord God the Father Almighty, hallowed be Thy Name, Thy will be done. Amen.


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