Saint of the day
Blessed John XXIII
Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was born in northern Italy in 1881. He was one of thirteen children born to a hardworking farming family. He entered the seminary in Rome and began preparing for the priesthood. He studied theology, and after some time he earned a degree in canon law.
During World War I, Father Roncalli was drafted into the Italian army, and he served as a medic and chaplain in the front lines. After the war, he became a Vatican diplomat and visited Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey. In Turkey, during World War II, he helped people who had fled from Nazi Germany. In 1944 he was chosen to be the papal nuncio to France. Because of his success in carrying out his difficult tasks, he was made a cardinal by Pope Pius XII, and later he was named patriarch of Venice at the age of seventy-one. It seemed, due to his age, that this would be the last appointment he would be entrusted with. But six years later, in 1958, after the death of Pius XII, Cardinal Roncalli was elected pope. He took the name John XXIII.
Then it was his turn to surprise the world by calling for an ecumenical Council. Vatican Council II, the first Council in almost 100 years, had the goal of renewing and updating the Catholic Church. In opening the Council, Pope John spoke with hope and optimism about the Church’s role in the modern world. He reached out not only to Catholics, but also to all humanity with warmth and honesty. People of all faiths and from all around the world saw him as a man of goodness and truth, devoted to peace and understanding between peoples and nations. He broke with tradition and left the “prison of the Vatican” to travel outside Rome. In his encyclicals Mater et Magister and Pacem in Terris, he stressed the importance of upholding human rights and working together for peace.
Vatican Council II brought about important changes in the Church, but Pope John was not to see its conclusion. He died on June 3, 1963, one of the best-loved popes in recent centuries. Pope John XXIII was declared a blessed by Pope John Paul II on September 3, 2000.
From this beloved pope we can learn to get along with others whose beliefs and opinions differ from ours. It’s easy to be at peace with those who agree with us. Pope John XXIII challenges us to be open and respectful toward people who disagree with us.