He was a father figure for the world, described as a man with a wonderful sense of humour, being open-hearted, loving, caring, even funny at times. This was Pope John XXlll, remembered as “Il Papa Buono,” the Good Pope, an ‘authentic image of the Good Shepherd.’
Pope John was born poor, the 4th of 14 children, in a tiny village, Sotto il Monte, near Bergamo, Northern Italy, on the 25th November 1881. He was baptized Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli. His father was a farmer, working for a wealthy landowner.
Angelo was 11 years old when he left home to study for the priesthood at the Seminary in Bergamo, where he eventually professed vows as a Secular Franciscan. The passage of his life from his ordination to the priesthood (August 1904) to his election as Pope (October 1958) was marked with various roles he was asked to fulfil, which he did, in full obedience without question, with an openness of heart to all men.
During the First World War he served as a sergeant in the Italian Military and later as a Military Chaplain. * In 1925 he was anointed Bishop. Between 1931 and 1944, he was appointed as an Apostolic Delegate (Nunzio Apostolico) to Bulgaria and later to Turkey, Greece and France. It was at this time that he was instrumental in helping thousands of Jews, who were being persecuted by the Nazis, to flee from Europe. *In 1953 he was elevated to Cardinal and given Venice as his diocese.* Five years later, 28th October 1958, he was elected Pope, taking the name John, becoming Pope John XXlll. He was one month short of turning 77. The general feeling of the Faithful was that this ‘grandfather figure’ was an interim Pope until another younger Pope would be elected to lead the Church.
His Pontificate lasted 5 years, after having left an imprint on the Catholic Church to the present day and beyond!
He will be remembered for:
Pope John XXlll will continue to leave a significant mark in Church History when he called all the Church’s bishops and Cardinals to Rome to convene for the Second Vatican Council that lasted from 1962 to 1965. The aim of the Pope was to modernize the Church according to the changing needs of society.
Pope John XXlll died on the 3rd June 1963 of stomach cancer. The continuation and closure of the Second Vatican Council was left in the hands of Pope Paul Vl who succeeded him.