XXIII, John 
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Time Period
11/25/1881  - 6/3/1963
The future Pope John XXIII was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli into a family of tenant farmers in Italy in 1881. He entered seminary at the age of 12 and was ordained a priest in 1904. Roncalli was elevated to cardinal in 1953 and elected pope five years later. Almost immediately, Pope John signaled plans to call for a Second Vatican Council, the first since 1870. Vatican II opened in 1962 and even though he died two years before its conclusion, the historic council would become his lasting legacy for its momentous moves toward openness and ecumenism in the Roman Catholic Church. Pope John XXIII was canonized a saint in 2014.
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Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII, was born into a family of tenant farmers in Italy’s Lombardy region on November 25, 1881. In 1893, at the age of 12, Roncalli entered the seminary at Bergamo to train for the priesthood. Seven years later, he traveled to Rome for additional study. While in Rome, Roncalli was called to serve in the Italian military, eventually attaining the rank of sergeant.

After his ordination in 1904, he became secretary to the Bishop of Bergamo. During the pontificate of Benedict XV, Roncalli became a member of the Vatican’s Curia. Benedict’s successor, Pius XI, appointed Roncalli in 1925 as apostolic visitor to Bulgaria, and Roncalli was consecrated as Titular Archbishop of Areopolis. Roncalli served for 10 years in Bulgaria, after which he performed similar duties ministering to both Eastern and Western Catholics in Istanbul, which was followed by a stint in Paris.

In 1953, Pope Pius XII named Roncalli the new Patriarch of Venice and was elevated to the cardinalate. Following Pius’s death in 1958, the Catholic Church’s cardinals gathered to elect his successor. Roncalli was considered papabile, or a frontrunner, for the position. He was elected pope on the 11th ballot of voting on October 28, 1958, after which he chose the papal name John XXIII. His initial public appearances immediately signaled a break with the more formal, distant papacy of the past.

From the earliest days of his papacy, Pope John signaled his intention to call an ecumenical council, the first since 1870; the First Vatican Council (1869-1870) ended prematurely with the collapse of the Papal States. On January 25, 1959, he formally called for the church’s bishops to gather for the Second Vatican Council, also known as Vatican II. John announced two principal aims for the council: first, bringing about "the enlightenment, edification, and joy of the entire Christian people;" and second, offering "a renewed cordial invitation to the faithful of the separated communities to participate with us in this quest for unity and grace, for which so many souls long in all parts of the world."

Vatican II, which opened officially in 1962, would go on to act as a watershed moment in the history the Catholic Church. It served to open the church more fully to modernity and to introduce Catholics more fully to their non-Catholic counterparts. Although John died of stomach cancer on June 3, 1963, two years before the council’s conclusion, it is still often seen as his most important, lasting legacy. Vatican II brought Pope John widespread fame; for instance, he was named Time magazine’s Man of the Year for 1962. Aside from the Second Vatican Council, John’s accomplishments include his attempts to reach out to the Soviet Union to establish more cordial relations between East and West and his encyclicals. Mater et Magistra (1961) argued for the church to intervene on social justice issues and served as a follow-up to Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum. Pacem in Terris (1963) was written not just to Catholics but to the whole of humanity on the subject of world peace. John, along with his successor, John Paul II, was canonized as a saint by Pope Francis on April 27, 2014.
Religious Groups
Catholicism (Western Liturgical Family): Other ARDA Links

Second Vatican Council (Vatican II)

Pope John XXIII portrait- Wikimedia Commons

Pope John XXIII portrait- National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Time Magazine

Pope John XXIII statue- Flickr- photo by Jason Raia (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Pope John XXIII stained glass- Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Lamb Studios Archive

Pope John XXIII body- photo by Diana at the German language Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Book/Journal Source(s)
Hebblethwaite, Peter, 1987. Pope John XXIII: Shepherd of the Modern World. Garden City, NY: Image Books.
John XXIII, Pope, 1965. Journal of a Soul. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company.Notes: Translated by Dorothy White.)
O'Malley, John W., 2008. What Happened at Vatican II. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Web Source(s)
This website, maintained by the Vatican, contains a collection of John XXIII's writings as pope.
Web Page Contributor
William S. Cossen
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in History

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