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“Good Pope John” changed the landscape of twentieth century Christianity.
Born in Northern Italy in 1881, Angelo Roncalli was trained in Roman Catholic schools from an early age. After military service, Roncalli was ordained a priest in 1904. His passion for social justice for working people and for the poor was formed early and remained an important commitment of his ministry.
Roncalli often received complicated assignments. He was made an archbishop in 1925 and sent as the papal envoy to Bulgaria where he was responsible for reducing the tensions between Eastern Rite and Latin Rite Catholics during a difﬁcult period.
Some years later, he was the papal representative to Greece and Turkey when anti-religious sentiments were running high. His leadership in Turkey anticipated on a local scale some of the developments of later decades on a universal scale: putting the liturgy and the ofﬁcial documents of the church in the language of the people, and opening conversations with the Eastern Orthodox and those of other faiths. Near the end of the Second World War, he was made the papal nuncio to Paris with the task of trying to heal the divisions caused by the war. In 1953, at the age of 72, he was made a cardinal and appointed patriarch of Venice, the ﬁrst time he had ever been the bishop ordinary of a diocese.
In 1958, Cardinal Roncalli was elected Pope and took the name John XXIII. After the long pontiﬁcate of Pius XII, it was widely
assumed that John XXIII would be a brief “placeholder” pope of minor consequence. During the ﬁrst year of his pontiﬁcate, he called the Second Vatican Council for the purpose of renewing and revitalizing the church. The work of the Council transformed the church of the twentieth century, not only for Roman Catholics, but for all Christians. With its emphasis on liturgical renewal, ecumenism, world peace, and social justice, the legacy of the Council continues to inspire the mission of the church among Christians of all traditions.
I Lord of all truth and peace, who didst raise up thy bishop John to be servant of the servants of God and bestowed on him wisdom to call for the work of renewing your Church: Grant that, following his example, we may reach out to other Christians to clasp them with the love of your Son, and labor throughout the nations of the world to kindle a desire for justice and peace; through Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
II Lord of all truth and peace, you raised up your bishop John to be servant of the servants of God and gave him wisdom to call for the work of renewing your Church: Grant that, following his example, we may reach out to other Christians to clasp them with the love of your Son, and labor throughout the nations of the world to kindle a desire for justice and peace; through Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
1 Peter 5:1–4
Preface of a Saint (1)
From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.