ANGELO GIUSEPPE RONCALLI was born in Sotto il Monte, in the
Diocese and Province of Bergamo, on 25 November 1881. The
fourth of thirteen children, he was baptized that same day. Under
the guidance of an outstanding parish priest, Father Francesco
Rebuzzini, he received a profound ecclesiastical formation which
would sustain him in difficulty and inspire him in the works of
He received Confirmation and First Communion in 1889 and
entered the Seminary of Bergamo in 1892, where he remained for
studies in classics and theology until his second year of theology.
As a fourteen-year-old boy, he began drawing up the spiritual notes
which he would keep in various ways until his death, and would
later be collected in the Journal of a Soul. It was there that he began
the practice of regular spiritual direction. On 1 March 1896, the
spiritual director of the Seminary of Bergamo, Father Luigi lsacchi,
enrolled him in the Secular Franciscan Order, whose Rule he
professed on 23 May 1897.
From 1901 to 1905 he studied at the Pontifical Roman Seminary,
where he benefited from a scholarship of the Diocese of Bergamo
for qualified seminarians. In the meantime he completed a year
of military service. He was ordained a priest in Rome on 10 August
1904 in the Church of Santa Maria in Monte Santo in Piazza
del Popolo. In 1905, he was named secretary to the new Bishop
of Bergamo, the Most Reverend Giacomo Maria Radini Tedeschi.
He served as secretary until 1914, accompanying the Bishop on his
pastoral visits and taking part in his numerous pastoral initiatives,
including a Synod, the editorship of the monthly journal La Vita
Diocesana. pilgrimages and various social works. He also taught
history, patrology and apologetics in the Seminary. In 1910, when
the statutes of Catholic Action were revised, the Bishop entrusted
him with the pastoral care of Catholic women (section V). He
wrote for Bergamo's daily Catholic newspaper, and he was a diligent,
profound and effective preacher.
These were the years of his profound contact with sainted Bishops:
Saint Charles Borromeo (whose Atti della Visita Apostolica, completed
in Bergamo in 1575 he would later publish), Saint Francis de
Sales and Blessed Gregorio Barbarigo. They were also years of great
pastoral activity at the side of Bishop Radini Tedeschi. When the
latter died in 1914, Father Roncalli continued his priestly ministry
as a seminary professor and a spiritual assistant to various ecclesiastical
When Italy entered the war in 1915, he was called to military service
as a sergeant medic. A year later, he became a military chaplain
serving military hospitals behind the lines, and coordinated
the spiritual and moral care of soldiers. At the end of the war he
opened a "Home for Students" and served as a chaplain for students.
In 1919, he was appointed spiritual director of the Seminary.
1921 marked the beginning of the second phase of his life: his service
to the Holy See. Called to Rome by Pope Benedict XV to be
the President for Italy of the central council of the Society for the
Propagation of the Faith, he visited many Italian dioceses and organized
missionary circles. In 1925 Pope Pius XI named him Apostolic Visitor
to Bulgaria, elevating him to the episcopal dignity
with the titular see
of Areopolis. He chose as his episcopal motto Obtedientia et Pax,
which served as the programme of his Iife.
Ordained bishop in Rome on 19 March 1925, he arrived in Sophia
on 25 April. Subsequently named the first Apostolic Delegate to
Bulgaria, Archbishop Roncalli remained there until1934, visiting
the Catholic communities and fostering respectful relations with
other Christian communities. He was present and offered ready
charitable assistance during the earthquake of 1928. He quietly
endured misunderstandings and the difficulties of a ministry marked
by halting progress. He grew in self-knowledge and confidence,
and in abandonment to Christ crucified.
On 27 November 1934, he was named Apostolic Delegate in Turkey
and Greece. His new assignment covered a vast area. The Catholic
Church was present in many ways throughout the young Turkish
Republic which was in the process of renewing and organizing
itself. His ministry to Catholics was demanding and he became
known for his respectful manner and dialogue with the Orthodox
and Muslims. At the outbreak of the Second World War he was in
Greece, which was devastated by fighting. He sought to gain information
about prisoners of war and he helped to save many Jews by
giving them transit visas issued by the Apostolic Delegation. On
6 December 1944, he was appointed Apostolic Nuncio in Paris by
Pope Pius XII.
During the final months of the war and the first months of peace,
Archbishop Roncalli assisted prisoners of war and worked to restore
stability to the life of the Church in France. He visited the
shrines and participated in popular feasts and more significant
religious events. He was attentive, prudent and trusting in
his approach to the new pastoral initiatives undertaken by bishops
and priests in France. He constantly sought to embody evangelical
simplicity, even in dealing with the most complex diplomatic issues.
His pastoral desire to be a priest in every situation sustained him.
His deep piety found daily expression in prolonged moments
of prayer and meditation.
On 12 January 1953 he was created Cardinal and on 25 January he
was named Patriarch of Venice. He was delighted to devote himself
in the last years of his life to a directly pastoral ministry, an
aspiration he had always cherished as a priest. He was a wise and
resourceful pastor, following in the footsteps of the holy Bishops
whom he had always venerated: Saint Lawrence Giustiniani, the
first Patriarch of Venice, and Saint Pius X. As he grew older, his
trust in the Lord increased, within the context of an active,
enterprising and joyful ministry.
Following the death of Pius XII, he was elected Pope on 28 October
1958, taking the name John XXIII. In the five years of his pontificate
he appeared to the world as an authentic image of the Good Shepherd.
Meek and gentle, resourceful and courageous, simple
active, he undertook various corporal and spiritual works
of mercy, visiting prisoners and the sick, welcoming people of all
nations and religions, demonstrating an exquisite sense of fatherhood
to everyone. His social magisterium was contained in the Encyc1icals
Mater et Magistra (1961) and Pacem in Terris
He convoked the Synod of Rome, instituted the Commission for
the Revision of the Code of Canon Law, and convened the Second
Vatican Ecumenical Council. As Bishop of Rome, he visited parishes
and churches in the historical centre and in the outskirts.
People saw in him a reflection of benignitas evangelica and called
him the "good Pope". A profound spirit of prayer sustained him.
He embodied, as the driving force behind a movement of renewal
of the Church, the peace of one who trusts completely in the Lord.
He advanced resolutely along the paths of evangelization,
ecumenism and dialogue, and showed a paternal concern to reach
out to those of his children most in need.
He died the evening of 3 June 1963, the day after Pentecost, in a
profound spirit of abandonment to Jesus, of longing for his embrace,
and surrounded by the prayers of the entire world, which
to gathered at his bedside to breathe with him the love of
John XXIII was declared Blessed by Pope John Paul II on 3 September
2000 in Saint Peter's Square, during the celebration of the Great Jubilee
of the Year 2000.
Booklet for the Celebration of the Canonization of
Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II, 27 April 2014