THEY CALLED HIM GOOD POPE JOHN
THE Bei-gamo farmer's son who became His Holiness
Pope John XXIII, spiritual head of the world's 550,000,000 Catholics, and who will go down in history as the Pope of the Second Vatican Council, and the Pope who strove for unity among Christians will also be remembered by many millions as the friendly Pope, the Pope of compassion, ii papa simpatico.
Pope John's vigour in promoting the affairs of the Church, in fanning the winds of the aggiornamento, amazed those who regarded him on his election to the papacy at the age of 77 as a "compromise" Pope or a pope of "transition". He has brought to the agelessness of the Church the stamina of youth and at the same time captured th !tit d with hi i it d
e mu u es s s mp c y an warm . th
At an age when most men retire from public life Pope John convoked the Second Vatican Council (the first since 1870); increased the total membership of the Sacred College of Cardinals to 87. the highest in history; canonised 10 saints; issued eight encyclicals: named the first Negro. the first Japanese and the first Filipino Cardinals; and appointed a Vatican Secretary of State for the first time in 14 years.
At least two of the Encyclicals Mater et Magistra, and Pacem in Terris received worldwide approbation from heads of Churches and States alike.
But thousands, perhaps not so interested in statistics, will remember his friendliness; h is ability to smile-when the joke was on him; his surprise visits to the sick, the imprisoned, his surprising and sometimes disconcerting trips outside Vatican City, his engaging manner of breaking papal protocol; and his readiness to substitute praise for censure.
When Mgr. (now Cardinal) Bacci, Secretary of Briefs to Princes, delivered the traditional address to Cardinals shortly before they entered the Conclave on October 25, 1958, he made a remark which was so soon to fit like a cap on the head of Angelo Roncalli:
Mgr. Bacci said: He should he a bridge between the social classes, a bridge between nations, even between those who reject, cast away and persecute the Christian religion. He will have to be a teacher to all, ready to uncover and condemn errors from wherever they come. He will have to be a pastor of souk . . He will also have to be a father. When One is called to the supreme pontificate he no longer belongs to a single people but to all peoples."
Pope John had a dual nature in which the simplicity of a peasant was combined with the dynamic drive of an administrator. He has worked as a farmer and as a diplomat and is as much at home among rural people as with heads of state.
At home in Bergamo
ANGELO GIUSEPPE RONCALLI was born on November 25, 1881, in Sotto il Monte, Italy. He was the third of 13 children and the first son of Giovanni Battista Roncalli, a poor farmer, and of Maria Anna Mazzola.
At the age of six he received his first /schooling from the parish priest of nearby Cervico. Five years later he entered the minor seminary at Bergamo.
He was in his early years a normal but undistinguished student, but noted for his amiable disposition and common sense. At 16 he became dormitory prefect of his class, a distinction reserved for atudents of scholastic merit.
In 1998 he received minor orders and by 1900 his preuniversity training was complete. By this time Roncalli had developed into a brilliant student winninga scholarship to Rome's major seminary. In 1901 his studies were interrupted for a year of military duty. He then returned to Rome where he was ordained on August 10, 1904.
Fr. Roncalli had earned his doctorate in theology, and had jnet started to earn a doctorate in Canon Law when Bishop RadiniTedeschi of Bergamo called him to be his personal secretary, a position he held for the next 10 years. He also taught church history and apologetics at the Bergamo seminary
Scholar and soldier
TT was during this time that
he found a set of old documents pertaining to the diocesan visitation of St. Charles BorroMe°, Archbishop of Milan (15951631), and decided to edit and publish them. He persisted in this work on arid off until he was elevated to the papacy. The fifth volume of the project was, in fact. published after he became Pope, hut with no indication of the revised status of the author. On the outbreak of World War I, Fr. Roncalli was recalled to military service. He served first as sergeant-major with the medical corps of the Italian army, then as a hospital chaplain. Years later he wrote that his military eervice had given him great insight "in the understanding ot life and the priestly apostolate."
After the war came e further period at the Bergamo seminary. He organised the first students' house in Italy at Bergamo which provided free assistance to middle class children entering public schools. He also founded the first organisation of young Catholic women in the diocese.
In 1921, when be wag 40, Fr. Roncalli was called to Rome by Pope Benedict XV to he president of the Italian Society for the Propagation of the Faith and to work for the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.
One day Fr. Roncalli decided to spend a short holiday at the slimmer villa of the seminarians attending the Pontifical Urban College for the Propagation of the Faith. When he was ready to go to bed, the seminarians handed him a key and assured him that his room was cool and comfortable.
Fr. Roncalli opened the door and found himself in a broom cupboard that had a small bed in it. He decided to go along with the joke, settled down on the bed and went quickly to sleep.
Fr. Roncalli's task in the propaganda congregation wa.s to help co-ordinate the activities of the national missionary societies throughout the world. During this time he travelled extensively in Italy, France, Belgium and Holland.
Administrator and diplomat
FR. RONCALLI became a
monsignor on May 7, 1921. He demonstrated his administrative ability in the tasks assigned to him and his intellectual talents by working as a professor of patristics at the Roman Seminary. He was the chief organiser of the mission exhibition held in Rome in the 1925 Holy Year.
On the feast of St. Joseph, 1925, he was consecrated titular bishop of Areopolis with the personal title of Archbishop and named Apostolic Visitor to Bulgaria. It was the first time the Church had sent an official representative to that country since the 13th century.
In his first sermon in Bulgaria. Archbishop Roncalli evinced that long view towards Christian unity which was to become familiar in the writings and discourses of Pope John XXIII. His role in Bulgaria was to protect the interests of the nation's 50,000 Catholics, to encourage the growth and development of the Church there and to represent the Holy See on e diplomatic level.
When he was tranaferred from Bulgaria to Turkey 10 years later, he had visited every part of the country. The success of his mission in Bulgaria is shown by the fact that in 1912 Pope Pius XI was able to raise the Sofia office to the rank of an apostolic delegation.
Archbishop Roncalli was reassigned as Apostolle Delegate to Greece and Turkey in November 1934. At the same time he was transferred from the titular diocese of Areopolis to the titular diocese of Mesembria. He was appointed also as Apostolic Administrator of. the Latin Rite Vicariate Apostolic of Constantinople.
His period in Greece and Turkey was distinguished by his zeal in assisting the underftnanced Catholic schools and by hi a ability to create cordial relations between Church and government circles.
With the outbreak of World War II a great part of Archbishop Roncalli's duties consisted hi directing works of charity made necessary because of the tragedies of war. The Apostolic Delegation hummed with activity, much of it dealing with receiving and sending of information in collaboration with the Vatican's Information Bureau on Prisoners of War and Refugees.
The Archbishop was so active in hiding Jewish families fleeing from Hitler's Germany that his efforts were recalled years later by the Grand Rabbi of Israel, Dr. Isaac Herzog. When the Cardinal was elected Pope. the Rabbi sent a message in which he stated: "I am persuaded that your noble faith in the highest values as shown during the lime of the Nazi atrocities. will guide you in your new and important tasks ."
Unity through charity
ARCHBISHOP RONCALLI'S efforts in Greece in this same period created a climate in which the Catholics and Orthodox put aside their differences to work together in a humane effort directed against the threat of large-scale starvation.
It was through Archbishop Roncalli's co-operation with Orthodox Archbishop Damaskinos that arrangements were made with the Vatican to bring in a shipment of 350,000 tons of wheat, thereby saving thousands from hunger. The project was accomplished through the combined efforts of the British Government, U.S. Catholics and Greeks living in exile..
By 1944 Archbishop Roncalli's time in the ancient cradle of Christianity had run out. Rome decided that the post for the 61year-old Archbishop, now recognised for his knack of getting along welt in difficult assignments, was in troubled Europe. He was appointed Nuncio to Paris and arrived there on December 31, 1944.
France had just been liberated and there was strong resentment among the nation's new leaders that the Vatican repreeentation and some members of the hierarchy had supported or at least tolerated the Vichy Government. With superb tact the new Nuncio corrected what errors had been committed. He moved with ease among the nation's leaders and diplomats. and also visited 85 of France's 87 dioceses.
But his busy programme sometimes made him forget his social obligations. Such as when Francieque Gay, the post war deputy prime minister, arrived at the nunciature and expressed his pleasure at being invited to dinner along with other VIPs. "Mon Dieu!" exclaimed Archbishop Roncalli. "1 had forgotten." He quickly talked the Frenchman into helping him make preparations for dinner. "Here. put on this apron." he said. "You have to help me make palenta fa thick porridge of broth and meal).
Prudence and tact NVHILE in France the Archbishop was confronted with the problem of worker priests, clergy who had gone into the working man's world to labour and five alongside him in an effort to reduce the Church's wholesale loss of souls.
The .Nuncio advised the Vatican to watt and move carefully in seeking a solution to the problem. Eventually, it became necessary for the French Bishops to issue orders for the modification of the movement, but it was largely through the Nuncio's tact and prudence that what could have been a tragic episode in the history of. the Church in France was avoided.
Later, after Archbishop Roncalli had become Pope, the priest worker movement was stopped by official order of the Congregation of the Holy °thee on July 3, 1959.
During his stay in France, Archbishop Roncalli was appointed by Pope Pius X11 in 1951 as the Holy See's first permanent observer at the United Nation's Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
On November 29, 1952, Archbishop Roncalli was named to become a member of the Sacred College of Cardinals.
The French Government decorated him as a Commander of the Legion of Honour. At 71, with a full career behind him, the Archbishop prepared to leave Paris for Rome and new work in the Church's central administration.
Patriarch of Venice II,didn't turn out quite like that. A few days after the publication of the list of new Cardinals Archbishop Agostini, Patriarch of Venice, who was also to receive the Red Hat, died. Cardinal Roncalli was named to succeed him on January 15, 1953. He received the appointment to Venice on the same day that France's President Auriol presented him with the red biretta of a cardinal.
Venice, a magnificent welcome, then with his usual energy the new Patriarch set to wcrrk. He renovated the ancient basilica and the Archbishop's residence. He personally visited every parish in the diocese, organised instruction in Christian doctrine on every level, convoked a synod and began construction of a new seminary.
He was happy in Venice. He visited prisoners in jail, patients in hospital, old people in their homes. When an old lady, called "The Grandmother of Venice" reached her 100th birthday, Cardinal Romani went to say Mass in her room on a makeshift altar as a birthday gift.
When he was created Patriarch of Venice he remarked with a smile: "Here : have a new chance to be entirely It pastor. I am convinced that the ministry of the pastor is the most fascinating that a man can be offered in his life will try to carry it out with the deepest humility."
But the Cardinal's tolerance and geniality was no sign of weakDees. When the Christian Democrats of Venice started talking hack in 1956 of forming a city government with the pro-Communist Nenni Socialists, the usually mild cardinal came out with a pastoral letter which did not mince words condemning the proposed "opening to the 1-eft", criticising as erroneous the attitude of Catholics, who in the political field, desire complete freedom from episcopal authority.
"The mistake." he said, "is that of practically sharing the Marxist ideology which is the negation of Christianity."
All during this activity, he was a stickler for details. This characteristic was evident even outside his administrative functions.
One of his nephews, now a chaplain in a parish in Italy, tells this story: "When he was patriarch of Venice, after 1 had served his Mass, he told me he wanted to serve mine, and when I protested. said to me. 'No. no, I want to serve you myself because I want to see whether you know how to celebrate it'," Although he was now in a pastoral role, Cardinal Roncalli continued to be called upon to represent the Holy See. In October 1454, he went as Papal Legate to the Marian Year Congress held in Beirut, Lebanon. In March, 1958, he was sent by Pope Pius XII to consecrate the new underground basilica of St. Pius X at Lourdes. And at that latter ceremony we got a glimpse of that initiative which was to become so evident in Pope John XXIII: he blessed the Basilica while riding round the outside in a red sports car.
After the death of Pope Pius XII. on October 9, 1958. Cardinal Roncalli left for Rome stating that he expected to return to Venice within 15 days. On October 25 he entered the Conclave along with 50 other Cardinals. Little did he guess that he was following the same path as a previous Patriarch of Venice, now Pope St. Pius X.
Pope John XXIII
ON October 28, 1958. Angelo Roncalli appeared on the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica to be presented to the world as the new Pope, taking the name of John.
The day after his election, the world's press, radio and TV still focused upon him, Pope John XXIII filled the office of Vatican
Secretary of State, naming Mgr. Domenico Tardini to the posl which had been vacant for 14 years.
Within a month he announced his intention of creating 23 new Cardinals, breaking a 400 year old tradition which had limited their number to 70 and raising the total membership of the College to 75. The late Cardinal Tardini and the late Cardinal Godfrey were among them.
Hardly three months of his pontificate had passed when he electrified the world by announcing his intention of summoning an ecumenical council. He also summoned a Roman Synod.
Pope John gave immediate evidence that he would not be reigning from an ivory tower. Soon after his election he made a surprise visit to Vatican Radio Station. After taking possession of his Cathedral of St. John Lateran, he made visits to several of Rome's major universities,
On Christmas day he captured the hearts of the people by visiting several of the city's hospitals and on the following day the jail. A few days later police were taken aback when, without informing them, Pope John visited a home for retired and infirm priests accompanied by only two members of his household.
Before the first year of his pontificate was ended he gave Communion to the streetsweepers of Rome, and left the Vatican to go to the tough area of Trastever to give Communion to working boys.
On many occasions he ha shown his personal humility and concern for other people's feeljngs. Once he admitted before 100,000 people that he didn't like sitting on the sedia or portable throne. "I would be most happy to walk on foot like everybody else," he stated. "Then T think that if I went on foot no one would be able to see me, and therefore I use it as an exercise of mortification". When the Vatican Council opened on October Ii. 1962, Pope John did in fact walk in the procession until he reached St, Peter's Square.
The announcement of the Council was made on January 26, 1959, to 17 Cardinals who attended the ceremonies commemorating the conversion of St. Paul. Pope John at the same time announced his intention to hold a synod for the diocese of Rome, to bring the Code of Canon Law up to date and to complete promulgation of the Code for the Oriental Church.
Problems of the Church
FOOPE JOHN has stressed in addresses that the main problems facing the Church are persecution, the Communist danger, the spread of atheism, the tepid attitude of many Catholics, the reunion of the Eastern Churches with Rome and the reorganisation of the Church to meet modern conditions.
In the first speech of his pontificate he appealed to the leadels (Sr nations to work for peace. Early in the first year of his reign, Pope John ruled, through an "admonition" issued by the Holy Office. that it would be sinful for Catholics to vote for any political candidate, Communist or not. known to support Communise, or their activities. The ruling complemented and stiffened the Holy Office ruling of 1949 which excommunicated Communists and those who support Communism.
The Pope's first Encyclical. Ad Petri Cathedrum (to the Chair of Peter), was issued on June 29, 1959. It invited separated Christians to return to the Catholic Church. and appealed for renewed efforts for peace io the world.
On August 1 of the same year came the second EncyclicalSacerdorri Nostri Primordia (From the Beginning of Our Priesthood). It commemorated the centenary of
the death of the Cur6 of Ars. St. the preparatory commissions while John Vianney, and dealt with the they were in session and wrote iestly life.
The third, Grata Recordatio (Grateful memory), was published on September 26. 1959. It urged Catholica to pray the Rosary in October for five intentions: Guidance of the Pope, the success of missionaries and the Christian apostolate, peace among nations. the success of the Roman synod, and the success of the Second Vatican Council.
Almost as if he were hurrying to lay the foundations of his pontificate, Pope John issued still another encyclical in 1959. Princeps Pastorum (Prince of Shepherds). It urged increased recruiting and training of priests and lay missionaries, and called on Catholics in mission areas to play an active part in public life.
The Pope's own vital interest in the missions was demonstrated in two ways: On Holy Thursday, 1959, he got down on his knees in performing the Holy Thursday Liturgy to wash the feet of 13 missionary priests, and in May 1960, he consecrated 14 missionary bishops in St. Peter's Basilica with representatives of five African governments present.
The first African-horn Metropolitan Archbishop had been appointed a few weeks before Cardinal Rugarrthwa's elevation was announced. This was to the See of Cotonou. in Dahomey; the second was appointed ia March to Cape Coast in Ghana, and more followed from year to year with suffragen sees being increasingly fined with African prelates locally born.
Pope John continued above all to develop in regard for Africa the lines of thought developed by his predecessor in his encyclical Fidei donum; praying above all for a strong home-grown church.
So it was that when the Pope entered his 80th year a fitting gift from the laity of the world was a centre in Rome for the use of African and Asian students.
October 3, 1959, Pope John described as one of the happiest days in his life: In St. Peter's on that day he had given crucifixes to some 400 young, newlyordained priests who were about to leave for foreign mission fields.
On October 11, 1959, Pope John presided at centenary celebrations of the North American College in Rome. There, in his first address in English a language he found extremely difficult he made the first announcement of the future beatification of Mother Elizabeth Seton who would eventually become the first American-born Saint.
Increase in cardinals
ON December 14, 1959, he added eight more members to the College of Cardinals, continuing the policy of Pope Pius XII in internationalising the College. At that date, the College consisted of 31 Italian Cardinals, 12 English-speaking, 11 Spanish-speaking, eight Frenchspeaking, and five each for the German and Portuguese language groups. Seven other languages were represented by one Cardinal each: Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Croatian, Flemish, Hungarian and Polish.
The Pope called the third Consistory for March 28. 1960, when he raised the number of Cardinals to 85. Among the seven named were the first Cardinals for Japan and the Philippines, and the first Negro Cardinal. Four more Cardinale were named at the Pope's fourth Consistory which opened on January 16, 1961
Pope John canonised 10 saints: Charles of Sezze and Joaquina de Vedruna de Mas on April 12, 1959; Gregory Barbarigo May 27, 960; John de Ribera, June 12, 1960; Bettina Boscardin, May I!, 1961; Martin de Porres, May 2. 1962; Peter Eymard. Antonio Pucci and Francisco de Camporesa, on December 9. 1962; Vincent Pallotti, on January 20, 1963. Pope John has beatified three servants of God.
With a background of 28 years in the diplomatic service of the Holy See, and with official representatives of more than 50 nations accredited to the Vatican. Pope John was probably the most informed sovereign of his day. As Pope he received in audience more than 100 other reigning sovereigns or heads of state.
Among the most outstanding audiences will be listed the state reception of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1961; the visit of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1961; that of Archbishop Fisher of Canterbury in December 1960-the first time in over 400 years that a spiritual leader of the Anglican Church and a Pope had met. Britain's Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Macmillan spent half an hour with Pope John early in 1963.
Mater et Magtstra
AHIGHLIGHT of 1961 was the encyclical Mater et Magistra (Mother and Teacher), issued on July 14 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII's Encyclical Rerum Novarum. Its 25,000 words set forth four social problems confronting modern man and offers solutions to them. The problems are: The depressed state of agriculture in an increasingly technological world, the vast difference between underdeveloped and the technologically advanced nations, the lack of trust among nations and the relation of the world population increase to economic development.
Pope John's tremendous interest in preparations for the Second Vatican Council are seen in the fact that by August 1961 he had made eight major discourses on the suteeci and referred to it at leneth in at least 16 other speeches. He made many personal visits to Towards Vatican 11 HISTORY will remember the reign of Pope John for Isis decision to convoke the Second Vatican Council, the first in nearly a century, and only the 21st in the history of the Church.
The surprise announcement, within three months of Pope John's election to the See of Peter, came during the observance of the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, January 25, 1459, in the
Basilica edeocfisiSotn startled the Church throughout the world and in a short time became of intense interest to other Christians, and to many non-Christians, Called to cinognsitdheer Cthheurinehanyttschoalpleennignegs fa e.
sion, on October 11, 1962, brought to Rome near 3,000 Cardinals, archbishops, bishops, abbots, and other Council Fathers in what was the most representative world-wide gathering of Church leaders in history. The eyes and ears of the World were tuned in through press, TV and radio,
At Christmas, 1961, the papal bull Humanae Safaris, had officially convoked the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. However, the actual opening date was not announced until Pope John's mom propria of February 2, 1962. As early as June 1460, he had appointed a dozen preparatory COITIMSS10116 and three secretariats to lay the groundwork for the Council. The late Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster and a number of other Bishops and priests from Britain were among the many prelates who travelled frequently to Rome during these months. Pope John personally attended some of the meetings.
In his bull of covocation, Pope John reviewed "the complex and delicate work of preparation," which he said was "supported by heavenly help".
"Before deciding the questions that had to be studied in view of the forthcoming Council," he wrote, "We wished to hear beforehand the wise and enlightened opinions of the College of Cardinals, of the episcopate of the whale world, of the sacred congregations of the Roman curia, of the general superiors of Orders and religious congregations, of Catholic universities and of ecclesiastical faculties.
"This work of consultation was carried out within a year and there emerged clearly from this the points that had to be submitted to a thorough study. "We then instituted the different wpreparatory commissions
e dt heard u
drawing up the doctrinaousatnotdawsdkhisicicohfplinary projects, among which we will choose those we intend to submit to the Council."
The experts consulted
Cardinals, bishops, theologians, canonists and other experts from all over the world were consulted in this process. The faithful were urged to continual prayer for the success of this historic project, which Pope John dedicated to Our Lady and St. Joseph.
In setting October 11, feast of the Divine Maternity as the opening date for the Council, Pope John said: "We have especially chosen this date because it links us with the memory of the great Council of Ephesus, which was of extreme importance in the history of the Church". The decisions of that Council in 431 upheld belief in the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God.
The Pope said his main hopes from the Vatican Council are principally "that the Church . . . may strengthen still more her divine energies and extend her beneficial influence in still greater measure to the minds of men."
He expressed the "hope that all people-especially those who we so sorrowfully see suffering because of misfortunes, discords and mournful conflicts, turning their eyes more trustfully towards Christ may finally achieve true peace in respect for mutual rights and duties."
To seek ways and means of promoting unity among Christians, who have been separated for hundreds of years by differences of many kinds, was one of the tasks discussed in the preparatory work for the Council and non-Catholic groups were invited to send observers, as was also done in the First Vatican Council of 1869-70.
In October 1961, a year before the Council opened, Pope John stressed the need for accurate press coverage. To help journalists before and during the Council meetings, he ordered a special press office to be set tip with Mgr. Valiainc, Italian priest-journalist. in charge.
On the eve of the Council Pope John made yet another of those surprise trips away from Vatican City when be travelled 300 miles by train to Anisi and Loreto, the longest journey taken by a reigning pontiff since the days of Pius IX, Pope of the first Vatican Council and the last to rule beyond the confines of Vatican City, On October 11. 1962, the Second Vatican Council was opened by Pope John in St. Peter's Basilica in the presence of nearly 3.000 Cardinals, Archbishops, Patriarchs, Bishops, other prelates and visiting observers of other faiths and watched by TV millions the world over,
On December 8, feast of the Immaculate Conception. the Council was adjourned and September 8, 1963 set as the reconvening date.
On May 10 this year he became the first Pope, and in fact the firat individual. to receive the Balzan Peace Prize. A ceremony in the Vatican was followed by another in St. Peter's Basilica and then by an almost unprecedented visit by the Pope to the Quirinal Palace to be received by President Segni.
With the death of Pope John XXIII, the Council is suspended. There is no obligation on his successor to reconvene it, If reconvened the Second Vatican Council will almost certainly.have the same name: work so well begun will surely be successfully concluded,
xnoxt Pope to fu 01 fif 1 tthh wish ee Second o John XXIII. Vati