Spring 2014 Magazine - Immaculata University - page 15

to France (1944). In each of these posts, Father
Roncalli faced the challenge of anti-religious
attitudes and political divisions. He succeeded in
becoming a friend to opposing parties by his gen-
uine respect for their traditions and his humble
sense of humor. He was able to be a peace-maker
without surrendering any part of the Catholic
position that he represented. Where no car was
available to the Apostolic delegation, he traveled
on foot or by bus. Where he was barely tolerated
by the government, he responded with courtesy.
The future pope’s move to France presented a
different need for reconciliation. Here the ques-
tion was not cooperation with eastern churches
or anti-religious governments, but the post-war
challenge of finding a way to peace between
former collaborators and the Resistance. In all of
these diplomatic posts, Father Roncalli achieved
some success because he was essentially a man of
peace. His ability to reconcile was not merely a
human talent; it was an expression of his own in-
ward peace. In Paris, as in his other assignments,
Father Roncalli often walked the streets speaking
to passersby and tradesmen. His attention to the
common touch was also evident in his learning
the languages of the countries; always, his agenda
was to try to unite rather than to divide. His
life of prayer was not simply devotion; it was an
essential attitude, an integral part of his whole
Early in 1953, the Patriarch of Venice died
and Pope Pius XII appointed Father Roncalli to
the vacant see. As Cardinal Patriarch, he told his
first audience that they should think of him as
their pastor, not as a diplomat. He was happy to
be in the diocese, formerly the See of St. Pius X,
and in his home region of Italy; however, his time
in Venice was short because he succeeded Pope
Pius XII as pope on October 28, 1958. He chose
to be called John in honor of his father and the
parish where he was baptized.
Behind the pomp and ceremony of the
papacy, John XXIII remained a simple par-
ish priest. He was no prisoner of the Vatican,
but moved beyond the walls to visit seminaries,
orphanages and parishes. He often surprised the
people of Rome by strolling through the streets;
however, he surprised the faithful most by his
announcement of an ecumenical council. The
Second Vatican Council grew, in part, from the
pope’s priestly experience as a minister of peace
to various religious traditions and cultures. He
recognized the need for opening the Church to
the realities of the 20th century and the need
for every member to become an instrument of
Christ’s peace.
The first session of the Council began on
October 11, 1962. Unfortunately, the Holy Father
did not live to see its completion. During his
final months, he remained active in his commit-
ment to peace by offering to mediate between
President Kennedy and Nikita Khruschev during
the Cuban Missile Crisis. His death, on June 3,
1963, occurred just four and a half years after his
election and two months after the completion of
his famed encyclical
Pacem in Terris
His road to sainthood began in Bergamo;
the official route was solemnized in 2000, when
he was declared “Blessed” by Pope John Paul
II. Shortly after the 50th anniversary of John
XXIII’s death, Pope Francis approved his cause
for canonization without the second miracle, not-
ing instead the merits of his predecessor’s vision
for Vatican II. Good Pope John will be canonized
on April 27, 2014. His feast is celebrated, not
on the anniversary of his death but on October
11, the anniversary of the opening of the Second
Vatican Council.
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