POPE JOHN XXIII

When on October 20, 1958 the cardinals, assembled in conclave, elected Angelo Roncalli as pope many regarded him, because of his age and ambiguous reputation, as a transitional pope, little realizing that the pontificate of this man of 76 years would mark a turning point in history and initiate a new age for the Church. He took the name of John in honor of the precursor and the beloved disciple—but also because it was the name of a long line of popes whose pontificates had been short.

In his first public address Pope John expressed hisconcern for reunion with separated Christians and for world peace. In his coronation address he asserted “vigorously and sincerely” that it was his intention to be a pastoral pope since “all other human
gifts and accomplishments—learning, practical experience, diplomatic finesse—can broaden and enrich pastoral work but hey cannot replace it.” One of his first acts was to annul the regulation of Sixtus IV limiting the membership of the College of  ardinals to 70; within the next four years he enlarged it to 87 with the largest international representation in history. Less than three months after his election he announced that he would hold a diocesan synod for Rome, convoke an ecumenical council for the universal Church, and revise the Code of Canon Law.The synod, the first in the history of Rome, was held in 1960;Vatican Council II was convoked in 1962; and the Pontifical Commission for the Revision of the Code was appointed in 1963. His progressive encyclical, Mater et Magistra, was issued in 1961 to commemorate the anniversary of Leo XIII’s Rerum novarum. Pacem in terris, advocating human freedom and dignity as the basis for world order and peace, came out in 1963. He elevated the Pontifical Commission for Cinema, Radio, and Television to curial status, approved a new code of rubrics for the Breviary and Missal, made notable advances in ecumenical relations by creating a new Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity and
by appointing the first representative to the Assembly of the World Council of Churches held in New Delhi (1961).In 1960
he consecrated fourteen bishops for Asia, Africa, and Oceania.
The International Balzan Foundation awarded him itsPeace Prize in 1962.
Since his death on June 3, 1963, much has been written and spoken about the warmth and holiness of the beloved Pope John.
Perhaps the testimony of the world was best expressed by a newspaper drawing of the earth shrouded in mourningwith the
simple caption, “A Death in the Family.”