After his election to the papacy, John XXIII quickly became known as the "Good Pope” by Christians who worked closely with him and knew him personally. Largely recognized for convoking the Second Vatican Council, John XXIII was also known for his simple charity that endured throughout his papacy and had a lasting impact on the Church.
A NEW HISTORY
The Good Pope made simple but important changes. He established the tradition of publicly reciting the Angelus from the window of the Apostolic Palace on Sundays and offering pilgrims a short catechesis.
As Pope and bishop, John XXIII always wanted to be near to the faithful. He was the first Pope to leave the walls of the Vatican to visit parishes, hospitals and prisons around Rome. At times he would even sneak past the Swiss Guard to walk around the city alone.
John XXIII courageously chose the name of an anti-pope from the fifteenth century and by doing so, redeemed it. Cardinal Roncalli had no fear to take the name of an imposter, that had been avoided for 500 years.
During his pontificate, John XXIII witnessed two world wars that divided the world into two opposing political regimes. He recognized the need to build bridges of peace and even exchanged letters with world leaders like Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union.
For the first time in history, John XXIII addressed, not only Catholics, but "all men of good will” in his encyclical letter, "Pacem in terris.” The encyclical strongly argued against the use of armed conflict as a means to obtain justice.
Only a few months after his election to the papacy, John XXIII announced a consistory to elect nine new cardinals, more than half of which were not Italian. He appointed cardinals from Japan, Africa, the Philippines, and Venezuela, offering also greater representation within the Curia.
Undoubtedly, the major work of John XXIII was convening the Second Vatican Council, a meeting of all the bishops from around the world to study and discuss the situation of the Church. An elderly pontiff, considered to be a transitional pope, carried out one of the most profound changes in the Church in modern time.
John XXIII worked to increase dialogue between Christians and all other denominations, even inviting Muslims, American Indians, and members of various Christian denominations as observers to the Second Vatican Council. He also established the first Vatican department to promote unity amongst Christians.
At his death, crowds chanted "sainthood now” as they paid their last respects, a gesture that would be seen again years later at the death of John Paul II. Both of these popes will continue their common history as they are elevated to sainthood together this Sunday.