Today is the Feast Day of Saint Pope John XXIII. He was unexpectedly elected pope on 28 October 1958 at age 76 after 11 ballots. Pope John then surprised those who expected him to be a caretaker pope when he called the historic Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), the first session opening on 11 October 1962.
Pope John XXIII was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli in the Bergamo area of Italy on 25 November 1881. He became pope in 1958, just before his 77th birthday.
John XXIII's relatively short time in office is remembered chiefly for convening the Second Vatican Council, which transformed the Roman Catholic Church. The move, three months into his papacy caused surprise and in some cases shock.
He was expected by many to be a 'caretaker pontiff', but instead became a hero for may Catholics when he convened Vatican II.
Admirers say his papacy was characterised by his unstinting devotion to Christian duties including visiting prisoners and the sick.
But he is also remembered for his disdain of papal pomposity - insisting that he should only be referred to as "the Pope" and reorganising the College of Cardinals so that it became far more international in its outlook. Pope John appointed the college's first members from Japan, Africa and the Philippines.
The Second Vatican Council - informally called Vatican II - comprised up to 2,500 bishops and thousands of observers and laypeople. During four sessions between 1962 and 1965, it produced 16 documents that are considered the foundation for the Roman Catholic Church as it is known today. Experts say Vatican II's proclamations were so groundbreaking because of their emphasis on reconciliation - an important theme in post-war Europe.
John XXII is also remembered for introducing the vernacular to replace Latin in church masses and for creating warmer ties between the Catholic Church and the Jewish faith. He has a big following in Italy, where he is known as Il Papa Buono, the good pope.
He died from complications of stomach cancer in June 1963 after a papacy lasting less than five years. He is credited with only performing one miracle - the healing of a nun - which meant Pope Francis had to waive customary rules requiring a second miracle after beatification.
Let us pray...
Lord Jesus Christ,
who are called the Prince of Peace,
who are yourself our peace and reconciliation,
who so often said, “Peace to you,”
grant us peace.
Make all men and women witnesses of
truth, justice, and brotherly love.
Banish from their hearts whatever might endanger peace.
Enlighten our rulers that they may guarantee
and defend the great gift of peace.
May all peoples of the earth becomes as brothers and sisters.
May longed-for peace blossom forth
and reign always over us all.
– by Saint Pope John XXIII
Saint Pope John XXIII, pray for us.
Photo: statue of Saint John XXIII, St. Anthony of Padua Church in Istanbul; Credit:istanbulimage (I Stock Photo.com)