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Cossa, Baldassare

Baldassare Cossa (bäldäs-sä´rā kôs´sä), c.1370–1419, Neapolitan churchman, antipope (1410–15; see Schism, Great) with the name John XXIII. He had a military career before entering the service of the church. He was made a cardinal by Boniface IX (1402) and proved himself able, especially in financial matters. In 1408 he deserted Gregory XII and helped to bring about the Council of Pisa to end the schism between the Roman and the Avignon popes. The council, declaring both Gregory XII and Benedict XIII deposed, set up a third claimant, Alexander V. On Alexander's death a year later, Cardinal Cossa was elected. Of the three rival "popes," John had by far the greatest following. He immediately sought the aid of Sigismund and helped elect Sigismund Holy Roman emperor. John allied himself with Louis II of Anjou (later king of Naples) to make war on Lancelot of Naples and his ally Gregory XII. An ineffective council at Rome (1412–13) was followed by the Council of Constance (see Constance, Council of), which John convened under pressure from Sigismund. At the opening of the council he reluctantly promised (1415) to abdicate if his rivals would do so. Then, surreptitiously, he fled to the lands of his ally Frederick of Hapsburg. He was forced to return. The council formally deposed him, and he submitted. He was held prisoner in Germany until released by Martin V in 1418; he returned to Italy. He died cardinal bishop of Tusculum. In his lifetime he had a reputation for unscrupulousness and self-aggrandizement.

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John XXIII

John XXIII (1370–1419) Antipope (1410–15), b. Baldassare Cossa. He convoked the Council of Constance (1414) to end the Great Schism. The Council called for his resignation along with the other papal contenders, Gregory XII (Rome) and Benedict XIII (Avignon). He fled but was brought back and forced to resign. He was imprisoned until 1418, when he acknowledged Martin V as Pope.

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John XXIII

John XXIII (1881–1963). Pope from 1958. Because of his advanced age, he was expected to be only a stop-gap pope, but in fact he proved to be the most revolutionary pope of modern times. He announced the calling of the Second Vatican Council in 1959, and presided over its first session in 1962–3. He established the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity in 1960. His encyclicals included Mater et Magistra and Pacem in Terris (addressed to all people of good will). His Journey of a Soul illuminates the underlying quest of his whole life.

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John XXIII

JOHN XXIII

JOHN XXIII (Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, 18811963) was a pope of the Roman Catholic church (19581963). Born in Sotto il Monte, near Bergamo in northern Italy, on November 25, 1881, to a family of sharecroppers, Roncalli attended the local grammar school, was taught Latin by the parish priest, and entered the minor seminary at age eleven. Given a scholarship to the Roman seminary (the Apollinare), he was ordained a priest on August 10, 1904, after completing a year of military service. The following year he obtained a doctorate in theology (with Don Eugenio Pacelli, the future pope Pius XII, on his examining board) and became secretary to the bishop of Bergamo, Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi, an ecclesiastical activist in the social, economic, and political movements of the area. Roncalli accompanied the bishop on his visitations in the diocese and on frequent visits to France, Milan, and Rome, and so became acquainted with influential ecclesiastics, including Archbishop Giacomo della Chiesa (the future Benedict XV) and Monsignor Achille Ratti (the future Pius XI). Despite these contacts, both the bishop and his secretary came under suspicion during the heresy hunt that was occasioned by Pope Pius X's condemnation of modernism in 1907. Gravely affected by the accusation, as pope Roncalli corrected the record of the incident in the Vatican archives. His own attitudes were revealed in his granting of total freedom of theological expression to the Second Vatican Council.

At the outbreak of World War I, Roncalli was inducted into the Italian army as a sergeant in the medical corps and served on the front at Piave and as a chaplain in the nearby military hospitals. On his return to Bergamo he was engaged in diocesan education until 1921, when he was called to Rome by Pope Benedict XV and instructed to coordinate the activities of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, a funding organ for foreign missions. After visiting the dioceses of Italy, he was persuaded to transfer the organization's headquarters from Lyons, France, to Rome.

Consecrated a titular archbishop of Aeropolis, Palestine, in March 1925, Roncalli was sent to Bulgaria as apostolic visitor to confront the problems of the Latin and other Eastern Christian Catholics in conflict with the Orthodox church and the local government. Settling in Sofia, he visited Catholic centers, brought relief to political and religious refugees from Thrace and Macedonia, organized a congress of Bulgarian Catholics in Yambol in 1928, and in 1930 arranged the canonical dispensation for the marriage of King Boris of Bulgaria, an Eastern Orthodox, to Princess Giovanna of Savoy, a Roman Catholic. Despite guarantees to the contrary, the marriage was repeated in the Orthodox cathedral in Sofia and so put the papal envoy "in a most difficult position." Nevertheless, in 1931 he regularized his position as apostolic delegate, encouraged the use of Bulgarian in the Catholic schools and liturgy, and became a welcome guest at cultural, social, and political events in the nation's capital.

In 1934, as titular archbishop of Mesembria (Thrace), Roncalli was appointed apostolic delegate to Turkey and Greece with residence in Istanbul, a difficult assignment. He had to contend with the secularization policies of the Turkish president Kemal Atatürk (r. 19231938), adopting civilian garb in public, and with the anti-Catholicism of the Orthodox clergy in Greece. While serving as parish priest for the small Catholic community in the Turkish metropolis, he visited the minute clusters of Catholics scattered throughout the country, called on the Orthodox patriarch Benjamin in the Phanar, the patriarchal residence in Istanbul, and introduced the use of Turkish in church publications and liturgy.

With the outbreak of World War II, Turkey became a center of political intrigue, and Roncalli, an intimate of the German ambassador Franz von Papen as well as of other diplomats, found himself a frequently consulted confidant, dispatching intelligence information to the Vatican. Aiding countless Jews and others fleeing persecution in central and eastern Europe, he established a unit of the Holy See's bureau for tracing missing persons, refugees, and prisoners of war. In 1942 he flew to Rome to urge Pius XII to persuade the British government to modify the blockade of Greece by allowing the import of food and medical supplies.

In December 1944 Roncalli was dispatched to France to replace Archbishop Valerio Valeri, the papal nuncio. On New Year's Day, as dean (ex officio) of the corps of ambassadors, he presented the ambassadorial body to the new French government of Charles de Gaulle. Together with reconciling the Catholic factions split by the resistance movement, he helped prevent the deposition of six or seven bishops accused of collaborating with the Pétain regime and initiated a renewal of the French episcopate, supporting Cardinal Suhard of Paris in his attempt to re-Christianize the country with his Mission de France. He inaugurated a seminary for training German prisoners of war for the priesthood and did his best to mitigate the Vatican's condemnation of the worker-priest movement. Through Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini in the Vatican, Roncalli persuaded the Holy See to establish a permanent observer to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). He smoothed over the displacements caused by the publication of Pius XII's encyclical Humani generis (Of the human race; 1950), which was used to censure such theologians as Yves Congar, Jean Daniélou, M.-J. Chenu, and Henri de Lubac, all of whom, as pope, John was to welcome as experts to the Second Vatican Council.

Roncalli was created a cardinal in January 1953 and, following an ancient custom, received the red hat from the ruler of France, the Socialist president Vincent Auriol, before taking possession of the See of Venice as its patriarch. On his arrival in the City of the Doges, he assured the faithful that he had always wanted to function as a parish priest and would end his days among them. Visiting the parishes of the archdiocese, he frequently wrote exhortatory letters in support of the vigorous religious, social, and labor movements then in vogue. He downgraded the left-wing faction of the Christian Democratic party and its weekly publication, Il popolo Veneto, and in an episcopal letter of 1955 he opposed the party's policy of "opening to the left." Changing precedents set by his predecessor, however, he accepted the Biennial Arts Festival of 1956 and welcomed the Italian Socialist party's congress in 1957. That same year he had organized a diocesan synod and was correcting the proofs of its ordinances when he was called to Rome on October 9, 1958, upon the death of Pius XII.

On October 28, the third day of the conclave, he was elected pope and supreme pastor of the Roman Catholic church. On accepting the election, he said that he would be called John XXIII and intended to imitate John the Baptist in making straight the path of the Lord. Within a month he created twenty-three cardinals, including Archbishop Montini of Milan and Monsignor Domenico Tardini; the latter he appointed his secretary of state. In January, to the consternation of the cardinals of the papal Curia, he announced plans for convening an ecumenical council aimed at updating the church's image and achieving Christian unity. By way of preparation he held a synod in Rome in 1960 and appointed a commission for the revision of canon law and a committee to deal with the moral aspects of birth control.

In outlining plans for the ecumenical council, John declared that it would be the work of the bishops and would not be under the control of the Curia. Nevertheless he appointed Cardinal Tardini as coordinator of the preparatory commissions and allowed Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani of the Holy Office to dominate their activities. Under their aegis, prelates and professors from the Roman ecclesiastical institutions prepared seventy-two schemata, or topics for discussion, bulging with textbook theology as an agenda for an assembly of more than two thousand prelates that was to meet for one or two months. While saddened by the opposition of his curial advisers, John pushed ahead and in so doing gained the support of cardinals and prelates from the outside world, who at the council's start had reduced the number of schemata to seventeen.

In his opening address to the Second Vatican Council, on October 11, 1962, the pope said that the council had not been called to discuss the basic doctrines of the church; those were well known and defined. Instead, the assembly was aimed at restoring unity, first among Christians and then in the world. To do this the church would have to take a leap ahead (balzo in avanti) in penetrating the consciousness of contemporary men and women. While in the past, he asserted, the church had used severity in confronting error, now it was called upon to apply the medicine of mercy. Dismissing his opposition as "prophets of doom," John said that they knew no history. He insisted that "the truths of the deposit of faith are one thing; how they are expressed is another," and he said that the church had to restate its teaching in a medium that would employ the tools of modern scholarship and technology. Many of the prelatial listeners felt that the pope was close to heresy.

The council quickly took on a Johannine contour as it concentrated on updating the liturgy by introducing the vernacular languages for the celebration of the Mass and the sacraments; discussed the relationship between the Bible and tradition in formulating the church's teachings; and discussed the structure of the church itself and the way priests, the laity, nuns, and prelates were to conduct themselves in the contemporary world. Listening to the discussions on closed-circuit television, John seldom intervened, and then did so only to resolve a knotty impasse.

In preparing for the council, John invited Orthodox and Protestant churches to send observers. He presented these observers with the documents relating to the council, gave them permission to attend the debates, and provided informal settings where prelates, theologians, and observers got to know one another intimately. While concerned with the organized opposition to his liberalizing aims by a group of 250 prelates, John felt, as the first session drew to a close on December 8, that the intended updating (aggiornamento ) had been initiated. Expressing his satisfaction that the "opening of the church's window" had been accomplished, he announced that the council's second session would begin in September 1963.

By early November suspicions were aroused regarding the pope's fatal cancer. John nevertheless continued his busy schedule, visiting parishes, receiving diplomats, and giving general audiences to pilgrims and visitors. During the Cuban missile crisis, he made a radio broadcast in which he admonished President Kennedy and Chairman Khrushchev to achieve a peaceful solution, thus enabling the two leaders to back off gracefully. On receiving telegrams of recognition for his efforts, he decided to leave the world a legacy in his noted encyclical Pacem in terris (Peace on earth), which was honored by a symposium at the United Nations in New York. His previous encyclical, Mater et magistra (Mother and Teacher), dealing with the world's social and economic needs, had caused some problems for conservative Catholics. And when the pope received the son-in-law of Khrushchev, Aleksei Adzhubei, in a private audience, there was talk of papal indiscretion. These incidents were compounded by John's reception of the Balzan Peace Prize, awarded by an international committee that included four Soviet members, in the spring of 1963, which was his last public appearance.

Throughout his career John proved a facile writer. As a young priest he produced a noted essay on the seventeenth-century church historian Cardinal Baronius. He also wrote a history of the practice of public charity in the diocese of Bergamo as well as a biography of Bishop Radini-Tedeschi. During the course of his diplomatic career he edited a five-volume, documented history of the effects of the Council of Trent on the diocese of Bergamo as it was administered by Cardinal Carlo Borromeo, one of John's favorite saints. From the journal of his seminary days he produced Journal of a Soul (New York, 1965), a spiritual diary that is the key to understanding his intimate relation with God and the placidity with which he accepted the ups and downs of everyday life, in keeping with his heraldic motto, "Peace and Obedience."

In the course of his pontificate, John named fifty-five cardinals; he did not hesitate to break with the tradition of holding the college of cardinals to seventy members. He canonized ten saints and beatified five holy men and women, including Elizabeth Seton of Baltimore. Labeled a transitional pope on his election at age seventy-six, John accepted the designation as a challenge and, as the most innovative pontiff in over five centuries, proceeded to revolutionize the church. When John died on June 3, 1963, he was mourned by the whole world; one newspaper carried the headline "A Death in the Family of Mankind."

See Also

Vatican Councils.

Bibliography

Aradi, Zsolt, et al. Pope John XXIII: An Authoritative Biography. New York, 1959.

Fesquet, Henri, ed. Wit and Wisdom of Good Pope John. Translated by Salvator Attanasio. New York, 1964.

Hales, E. E. Y. Pope John and His Revolution. Garden City, N.Y., 1956.

Hebblethwaite, Peter. John XXIII, Pope of the Council. New York, 1985.

John XXIII. Scritti e discorsi, 19531958. 4 vols. Rome, 19591964.

John XXIII. Discorsi, messagi, colloqui del Santo Padre Giovanni XXIII. 5 vols. Vatican City, 19611964.

John XXIII. Souvenirs d'un nonce: Cahiers de France, 19441953. Rome, 1963.

John XXIII. Journal of a Soul. Translated by Dorothy White. New York, 1965.

Murphy, Francis X. Pope John XXIII Comes to the Vatican. New York, 1959.

Murphy, Francis X. The Papacy Today. New York, 1981.

Trisco, Robert. "John XXIII, Pope." In New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 7. New York, 1967.

Zizola, Giancarlo. The Utopia of Pope John XXIII. Translated by Helen Barolini. Maryknoll, N.Y., 1978.

Francis X. Murphy (1987)

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John XXIII

John XXIII

John XXIII (1881-1963) was pope from 1958 to 1963. He convoked the Second Vatican Council, thus launching a renewal in the Roman Catholic Church and inaugurating a new era in its history.

The future pope was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli at Sotto il Monte (Bergamo), Italy, on Nov. 25, 1881, the third child and eldest son in the family of 13 born to Giovanni Battista and Marianna Giulia (Mazzola) Roncalli. The boy's forebears for several generations had been tenant farmers on an estate, and even when he reigned in the Vatican, his brothers were still engaged in eking a plain livelihood out of the hard and unfriendly Bergamo soil.

The simple piety of Italian peasants was the most important element in the life of the Roncallis and led Angelo, following elementary education, to enter the diocesan minor seminary in Bergamo at the age of 12. His studies for the priesthood continued at the Seminario Romano ("Apollinare") in Rome but were interrupted for a year of volunteer service in the Italian army. He was ordained on Aug. 10, 1904, and shortly thereafter was named secretary to the new bishop of Bergamo, Count Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi.

The latter was an extremely vigorous, farseeing prelate deeply concerned about social reforms, and the young Father Roncalli, during the 9 years that he served him, gained invaluable knowledge and experience in the problems of the working class and the poor. Simultaneously he taught patrology and Church history in the Bergamo seminary. Radini-Tedeschi died in August 1914, just as World War I was breaking out, and since his successor was a man of quite different temperament, Roncalli decided to enlist. He served first in the medical corps and later as a lieutenant in the chaplains' corps.

At the war's end Pope Benedict XV, who as a close friend of Radini-Tedeschi had come to know Roncalli, asked him to handle the arrangements for the 1920 Eucharistic Congress in Bergamo; and it was undoubtedly as a result of the way in which he organized this event that a year later he was made director of the Italian Society for the Propagation of the Faith. This was a delicate assignment since it involved not only modernizing the society but detaching responsibility from numerous regional directors and centralizing administration in Rome. He remained in this post for 4 years, until Pius XI appointed him apostolic visitor to Bulgaria. For this it was desirable that he hold a higher ecclesiastical rank, and he was named titular archbishop of Areopolis and consecrated to the episcopate on March 19, 1925.

Diplomatic Career

This was the beginning of a diplomatic career which was to last for almost 30 years and take Roncalli to many European countries. In Bulgaria, since the state religion was Orthodox, his presence was resented by both government and Orthodox Church authorities. Yet he managed to provide spiritual leadership for the 40,000 Latin-rite and 4,000 Eastern-rite Catholics scattered thinly among the population. In 1934 he was named apostolic delegate to Turkey and Greece, where his position was, if possible, even more precarious. The Turkish government of Kemal Atatük was aggressively antireligious, but Roncalli, by personal charm and diplomatic finesse, managed to be on friendly terms with authorities.

During World War II, Istanbul, as the capital of a neutral power, was a hotbed of intrigue and espionage, and Roncalli provided the Holy See with much valuable information gleaned from personal contacts as well as official connections. He was instrumental in helping many Jewish refugees fleeing from central Europe through his friendship with the German ambassador to Turkey, Franz von Papen. In Greece his efforts were less successful, since he was of the same nationality as the occupying troops; but here, too, he worked hard to provide food, shelter, and safety for many thousands of refugees.

In 1944, following the liberation of France, Pius XII named Roncalli papal nuncio to that country. The position was even more difficult and challenging than his earlier ones, since the nation was split by many bitter political and religious divisions resulting from the period of occupation and resistance. Roncalli labored patiently and skillfully to repair them, maintaining cordial relations with the governments that came and went in rapid succession. Among other things he was instrumental in securing government subsidies for pupils in private schools, and he viewed with sympathy the "workerpriest" movement.

On Jan. 12, 1953, Pius XII elevated Roncalli to the Sacred College of Cardinals, and on Jan. 15, in accordance with long-standing tradition, he received his red hat from President Vincent Auriol in the Élysée Palace. On that same day he was named patriarch of Venice and took possession of his new see on March 15. This enabled him to be at last what he had always wanted to be, a "shepherd of souls" and during his years in Venice he was a vigorous and much-loved prelate, visiting all the parishes in his diocese and creating 30 new ones. He erected a new minor seminary, initiated various forms of Catholic Action, and showed special concern for the poor.

Pius XII died on Oct. 9, 1958, and on Oct. 25 Roncalli entered the conclave which was to choose a successor. He was himself elected 3 days later and took the name John XXIII, the first pope to bear this name since 1334.

His Pontificate

John XXIII was 76 years old when he came to the papal throne, and his age—plus the fact that he was not widely known—led many persons to assume that he would simply be a transitional or "caretaker" pope. Inevitably his reign was brief, but in terms of its significance and its effects upon religious and world history it was perhaps the most important pontificate since the Middle Ages.

Much of this significance stemmed, naturally, from the train of events which he set in motion during the 5 years of his reign, but much of it also lay in his unique personality. Previous popes had usually been remote and austere figures; from the very outset John endeared himself to the whole world by his warmth, humor, and easy approachability. He had an impatience with empty traditionalism and often astonished his aides by the forthright way in which he cut through meaningless formalities.

For example, it had always been customary for the pope to dine alone; within a week after his election John announced that he could find nothing in either Revelation or canon law that required such a thing and that henceforth, when the mood was upon him, he would have guests in to dinner. He became the first pope in 200 years to attend the theater by having T. S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral performed before him in the papal apartments. He literally horrified Vatican officials and the Italian government by having his chauffeur drive him unannounced and un-escorted through the streets of Rome. He visited— sometimes at very short notice-hospitals, nursing homes, and even prisons. (It is said that when he declared his intention of paying a Christmas visit to Rome's Regina Coeli prison, one of his aides protested that there was simply no protocol for such a thing, and the Pope replied," Well, then, make some!")

The conclave that had elected Pope John had been reduced to 52 cardinals, of whom 12 were more than 80 years old; one of his first acts was a consistory (Dec. 15, 1958) at which he elevated 23 prelates to the Sacred College, including many younger and more vigorous men. By so doing he broke the rule, established in 1586 by Sixtus V, limiting the number of cardinals to 70 and also gave the College much wider geographical representation than it had known until that time. In three subsequent consistories he expanded the membership to 87, its highest figure to that date.

But the most momentous act of his pontificate was, of course, his decision to call an ecumenical council of the Universal Church, the first since 1870 and only the twenty-first in the Church's 2,000-year history.

Following the definition of papal infallibility at Vatican I, it had been assumed in many quarters that there would never again be need for a council. Pope John's motive in calling one was, as he said, to bring about a renewal—a "new Pentecost"—in the life of the Church, to adapt its organization and teaching to the needs of the modern world, and to have as its more far-reaching goal the eventual unity of all Christians. The term which he used to describe what he had in mind—and which was to become a kind of keynote for the Council in the years that followed—was aggiornamento, an Italian word literally meaning "bringing up to date."

In addition to the frequent and demanding general audiences, Pope John met with many outstanding world figures. Among those received at the Vatican during his reign were Queen Elizabeth II of England, U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy, the Shah of Iran, and—in a move which surprised many—Alexei Adzhubei, son-in-law of Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev and editor of the Russian newspaper Izvestia. This last reception appeared part of a gradual relaxation of the hitherto implacable hostility between the Church and communism, at least one practical result of which was the release of the Ukrainian archbishop Josyf Slipyi, who had been imprisoned for years in Siberia by Soviet authorities.

International tensions and the crises generated by "hot" and "cold" wars also greatly preoccupied the Pontiff. In September 1961 he issued an urgent appeal to the heads of the governments involved in the threatening Berlin crisis. He endeavored to mediate between the French government and the revolutionaries in the Algerian crisis of June 1962. He made an especially fervent appeal to President John F. Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev during the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962. It was undoubtedly in recognition of his untiring efforts to bring about world peace that the International Balzan Committee awarded him its Peace Prize in 1962.

Second Vatican Council

After 3 1/2 years of intensive preparation, the Second Vatican Council convened in St. Peter's on Oct. 11, 1962. In his memorable opening address Pope John declared that its purpose, unlike that of many previous councils, was not to condemn error but rather to study more deeply the truths of Catholic teaching and to offer those truths to the modern world in a language that would be meaningful and relevant to it. "The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith," he said," is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another." And he emphatically disagreed with the "prophets of gloom" who saw the modern world as heading toward disaster. During the Council's first session, which lasted from Oct. 11 to Dec. 8, 1962, Pope John took care that its members should work in an atmosphere of complete freedom.

But Pope John was not destined to see the end of the Council which he had started. Even while the first session was in progress, it became evident that he was not in good health, but only those closest to him were aware—as he himself was—that he was suffering from a gastric cancer which, because of his great age, was considered by the doctors to be inoperable. During the following months his condition gradually worsened, and much of the time he was in great pain. He appeared at his window overlooking St. Peter's Square for the last time on May 23, 1963. Shortly thereafter he was confined to bed, and during the next few days he sank rapidly. At one point he did rally enough to talk to members of his family and to tell his physician, "My bags are packed and I am ready, very ready, to go." He passed quietly away on June 3, 1963, mourned as perhaps no other figure in world history had been and was interred in the crypt of St. Peter's 4 days later. On Nov. 18, 1965, his successor, Paul VI, announced that beatification procedures had been initiated for him as well as for Pius XII.

Pope John and Christian Unity

One of the most notable features of Pope John's reign was the great advance in ecumenical relations between the Catholic Church and other religious bodies. He envisioned Christian unity as one of the ultimate goals of the Council, and one of the bodies that he set up for the Council's work was the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, under the chairmanship of the Jesuit cardinal Augustinus Bea. This body was subsequently raised to the dignity of a full commission. Large numbers of Protestant and Orthodox clergy were invited as observers to the Council. Pope John met with them on a number of occasions and—as with everyone else—completely won them over by his warmth, simplicity, and openness of manner. In December 1960 he received at the Vatican the archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Francis Fisher—the first meeting ever held between a Roman pope and an Anglican primate. A year later, in November 1961, history was made again when for the first time the Catholic Church was represented at a meeting of the World Council of Churches: Bea's office sent five official priestobservers to the Third General Assembly in New Delhi.

Pope John's ecumenical efforts, however, were not confined to Protestantism. Catholic theologians met with members of the Orthodox Church for discussions at Rhodes in August 1959, and the Holy See sent envoys to Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople in June 1961. And he showed equal consideration to those of the Jewish faith: one of his acts, seemingly trivial but actually bearing immense significance, was his directive to remove from the centuries-old Good Friday liturgy its reference to the "perfidious Jews."

His Encyclicals

Pope John issued eight encyclicals during his reign, and at lest two deserve to be ranked with the most important documents of Church history. These are Mater et Magistra (Mother and Teacher), issued May 15, 1961, and Pacem in terris (Peace on Earth), dated April 11, 1963.

Mater et Magistra restated the social teaching of the Church as set forth in Leo XIII's Rerum novarum and Pius XI's Quadragesimo anno but greatly amplified it in the light of later developments and problems. Among other things, the Pontiff pointed out the right that all classes have to benefit from technological advances and stressed the obligation of large and wealthy nations to assist underdeveloped ones. It was perhaps natural that the son of a poor farming family should lay special emphasis on the necessity for improved agricultural methods in still backward countries.

Pacem in terris was unique among papal encyclicals in being the first one ever addressed not just to Catholics but " to all men of good will." Pope John enumerated the rights of the human person—to life, to respect, to freedom, to an education, to be informed, and numerous others—and dwelt at length on the obligations of the citizen to the state and of states to their citizens and to each other. He pleaded for the banning of nuclear weapons and an end to the arms race. Pointing out that the problems of modern times could not be solved unilaterally, he expressed hope that the United Nations would prove an ever more effective instrument for mutual cooperation among nations and for the preservation of world peace.

His Importance

John XXIII, the son of simple Italian peasants, never lost either the simplicity or the humility that were part of his origins. It was precisely these qualities, indeed, that made him so unique in his times. Unlike his predecessor and successor, he was not a scholar or a theologian (though he was a highly cultured man with a profound knowledge of history, a love for literature, art, and music, and a fluency in many languages); but he had an intuitive understanding of people and problems that enabled him to deal with them in way that scholars perhaps could not have done. It is no exaggeration but a literal truth to say that he loved everyone, and that this in turn caused everyone to love him.

In an age largely given over to secularism, he not only increased the prestige of the papacy but also restored the importance and relevance of religion to a degree that few would have thought possible. By concentrating on what unites men rather than on what divides them, he took the first steps toward the eventual unity of all Christians. When he was elected, many thought that his pontificate would be a transitional one, and in a sense this was true. The transition, however, was not merely from one pope to another, but also and especially from an old to a new era of religious history.

Further Reading

A primary source is Pope John's own The Journal of a Soul (1965; trans. 1965). Among the biographies of Pope John are Paul Christopher Perrotta, Pope John XXIII: His Life and Character (1959); Aradi Zsolt, Pope John XXIII (1959); and Alden Hatch, A Man Named John (1963). Other works on him are Francis X. Murphy, Pope John XXIII Comes to the Vatican (1959), and E. E. Y. Hales, Pope John and His Revolution (1965).

Additional Sources

Bonnot, Bernard R., Pope John XXIII: an astute, pastoral leader, New York: Alba House, 1979.

Hebblethwaite, Peter, John XXIII, pope of the council, London: G. Chapman, 1984.

Hebblethwaite, Peter, Pope John XXIII, shepherd of the modern world, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1985.

John XXIII, Pope, Journal of a soul, Garden City, N.Y.: Image Books, 1980.

Johnson, Paul, Pope John XXII, Boston, Little, Brown 1974.

Zizola, Giancarlo, The utopia of Pope John XXIII, Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1978. □

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