Pope John XXIII (1881-1963) was an Italian, born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli; his papacy lasted for four and a half years from 1958 until his death June 3, 1963. He is one of the most influential church figures of the 20th century because he called for the Second Vatican Council, believing that the Church must engage with the modern world in order to effectively spread the Gospel. During World War II he was named Apostolic Nuncio to France and was instrumental in saving the lives of many Jewish refugees during the Holocaust. As pope, he was known for his humility and ordinariness and for defying the expectations of those who thought his papacy would be merely a stopgap. John XXIII, “Good Pope John,” was much loved and is officially honored by the church October 11, the date of the opening of Vatican II. His feast day is June 3.
“It is not that the Gospel has changed; it is that we have begun to understand it better. Those who have lived as long as I have…were enabled to compare different cultures and traditions, and know that the moment has come to discern the signs of the times, to seize the opportunity and to look far ahead.” Pope John XXIII
Questions for Reflection
Pope John XXIII is important for moving the church in the modern world from a siege mentality to a mission mentality. When in your life have you opened up the windows, let go of fear, and allowed God’s grace to flow in? When have you gotten outside the box of the way things have always been and opened yourself up to the vision of how things could become?