Pope John XXIII

11th October

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:

  • being the first Pope to leave the Vatican since 1870, presenting a father-figure to the world, visiting prisoners, orphanages, schools, hospitals,
  • starting a new dialogue with Protestants, Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims,
  • his two encyclicals ( formal teaching documents), Mater et Magistra ( Mother and Teacher), and Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth), promoting social issues stressing the importance that all nations should hold truth and justice, love and freedom as ‘pillars of social justice,’
  • his ‘key role in the Cuban Missile Crisis between Kennedy and Kruschev when a nuclear war seemed imminent until a message from Pope John halted the conflict and both powers stepped back from their political stance and war was avoided.

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.

The pontificate of Pope John XXlll is characterized by his belief that God had called him to serve His people not to act as royalty among them. His fatherly approach included everyone, irrespective of beliefs, culture, status.

Seek instances when you can tell the children that God created everybody unique , so that each person brings something special to our world, everybody has something to offer, because there is good in everyone.

Now that school has started, ( going physically to school or online!) children could be encouraged to make contact or seek out the child who stays alone, or is new to class or who is already being shunned by others in class or online.

Listen to the children’s ideas as to how they can be instrumental in ‘bringing in the child from the cold.’

Bring up a conversation and listen to the children’s feelings if they have ever felt excluded. Do not dismiss or minimize their feelings. Feeling excluded renders a child feeling worthless, ‘a loser’. Explore positive ways to remedy.

Pope John remains known for his prudence in his actions. Prudence is a virtue that involves decision-making, after assessing all facts and consequences and then doing what is necessary, not what is easiest but what is wisest.

  • Training children in the virtue of prudence is a challenge because children are prone to decide quickly, basing on what they feel is right
  • Without freezing them into inaction, lead them in a positive way to assess outcomes of their decisions.

Discuss situations from their life where they need to stop and assess outcomes before deciding. ( These do not have to be great decisions and will vary according to their age.)

How to use this space

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Saints of the Church. Here you will find useful background and activities to better understand the holy life, helping you to connect the saints to daily life in a meaningful way.