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Signature of John XXIII.
Coat of arms of John XXIII.

John XXIII (Born November 25, 1881 in Sotto il Monte , Bergamo province , Lombardy ; † June 3, 1963 in Vatican City ) - real name Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli  - was succeeded Pius XII on October 28, 1958 . Elected the 261st  Pope of the Roman Catholic Church . He is also known as the “Council Pope” or, because of his modesty and closeness to the people, popularly known as il Papa buono (“the good Pope”). He was beatified on September 3, 2000 by Pope John Paul II . Pope Francis spoke to John XXIII. Holy on April 27, 2014 . His feast day in the Roman Catholic Church is October 11, the day on which the Second Vatican Council was opened in 1962 . The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America commemorates him on June 3rd, the anniversary of his death.



Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was born as the son of Giovanni Battista and Marianna Roncalli in poor circumstances on the edge of the Alps. His father was a mezzadro ( half-tenant ), a farmer who had to deliver half of his harvest to the landlord . Angelo grew up with twelve siblings in an extended rural family. The young Angelo had a special relationship with his great-uncle Zaverio, who set the trend for his religious life. The boy's talent was recognized and promoted by the parish priest Don Rebuzzini. The pastor encouraged his pupil with private Latin lessons . But Angelo's father was against it because he couldn't do without his labor. He was skeptical of the prospect of his son becoming a priest. The father could only be convinced with difficulty. In 1892 Angelo was accepted into the preparatory seminar in Bergamo . Then he was able to attend the theological seminary. In 1901 he did his one year military service in the Italian army. He then studied in Rome , where he was ordained a deacon on December 18, 1903 . A year later he completed his studies with a doctorate to become a Dr. theol. from.

Priest, professor and military chaplain

On August 10, 1904, Roncalli was ordained a priest in the Church of Santa Maria in Montesanto . On the occasion of the ordination he was the then Pope Pius X presented. He got to know the future Popes Achille Ratti and Eugenio Pacelli early on . From 1905 to 1914 Roncalli worked as secretary to Count Radini Tedeschi, Bishop of Bergamo , whom he admired all his life. Roncalli went on many trips abroad with the bishop. a. 1906 into the Ottoman Empire belonging Palestine . He remained committed to his seminary in Bergamo as a professor and taught church history there . With the death of his sponsor, Roncalli lost his office as secretary.

When Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary on May 23, 1915, Roncalli was drafted like all his four brothers. He first served as a medical soldier , later he became a military chaplain . In 1916 Roncalli was promoted to lieutenant and transferred to the front, in October 1917 he was deployed as a field chaplain at the Battle of Caporetto in the "Ricovero Nuovo" reserve hospital in Bergamo. He was only released from military service in the spring of 1919.

After the war he worked as a youth and student pastor . From Pope Benedict XV. Transferred to Rome in 1921, he was promoted to President of the Central Council of the Pontifical Missionary Organization in Italy and Monsignor . In this capacity he visited on 23 December 1921 Francis Xavier Club in Aachen , and then Cologne, where he in on December 27, 1921 Cathedral the Holy Mass celebrated.

Vatican diplomat

On March 3, 1925, Roncalli was appointed Apostolic Visitator for Bulgaria , where he paved the way for regional dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, and Titular Archbishop of Areopolis . This task required the episcopal ordination, which he received on March 19, 1925 by Giovanni Tacci Porcelli , secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Church. Co- consecrators were Giuseppe Palica , Vice President of the Diocese of Rome, and Francesco Marchetti Selvaggiani , Secretary of the Congregation for the Dissemination of the Faith . His motto was: Oboedientia et pax ("Obedience and Peace"). In 1931 he was raised to the position of Apostolic Delegate of Bulgaria.

On November 30, 1934, Roncalli was appointed apostolic delegate and vicar for Turkey and Greece. At the same time he was assigned the titular Archdiocese of Mesembria . In Ataturk's Turkey , Roncalli was the bishop of Constantinople and worked as a pastor for the small Christian communities. Ataturk abolished Islam as the state religion . It was forbidden to wear religious clothing in public. Here Roncalli was surprised by the Second World War . During the war he helped Jews to escape from Hungary, which was occupied by the German Wehrmacht (since March 1944) . Roncalli tried to liberate a larger group of Jewish refugees who had been detained in Turkey without food. When diplomatic negotiations with Franz von Papen were unsuccessful, he asked the German bishops to write a letter stating that the group were German Catholics who came to the birthplace of St. Paul wanted to make a pilgrimage of Tarsus . This letter was recognized as genuine and paved the way for the supposed Catholics.

On December 22, 1944 he was by Pope Pius XII. transferred to France as apostolic nuncio . This task was not easy and required diplomatic skill, as his predecessor with the regime under Philippe Petain had worked. Thanks to his friendly manner, Roncalli was able to win over the French quickly, and he also managed to keep in office a large number of the bishops who were not acceptable to the new French government (under Charles de Gaulle ).

Cardinal and papal election

Roncalli as Patriarch of Venice

On January 12, 1953 he was by Pope Pius XII. appointed cardinal (titular church of S. Prisca ) and patriarch of Venice . The relatively good agreement with the French government was shown by the fact that the President of the French Republic, Vincent Auriol , donned the cardinal's hat according to an old custom in accordance with the newly appointed cardinal. Pius XII. sent him in September 1954 as a papal legate to the National Eucharistic Congress of Lebanon in Beirut .

After the death of Pius XII. Roncalli was elected Pope on October 28, 1958, the fourth day of the conclave , in the 11th ballot by the 51 members of the College of Cardinals; According to reports, Roncalli received 38 votes, the second most votes therefore went to Cardinal Grégoire-Pierre Agagianian .

The coronation of the new Pope on November 4, 1958, the feast of St. Karl Borromeo impressed the world public when the Pope introduced himself with reference to his baptismal name Giuseppe with "I am Joseph, your brother" ( Gen 45.4  EU ).

Name choice

Up until 1415, John was the most popular name for the Pope - there were 25 popes and counter-popes of this name.

The valid count was controversial. There were typographical errors and other glitches. Erroneously, when counting John XX. skipped. In 1415, the Council of Constance deposed two antipopes to end the schism , one of whom was named John XXIII. Had led. No pope had taken the name John since then. With his choice of name, Roncalli helped the last recognized counting method to become official.


Audience in 1962
John XXIII at the Olympic Games in Rome 1960

John XXIII put his pontificate a. a. under the protection of St. Francis de Sales . After his election, Roncalli was referred to in the press as a transitional pope and compromise solution because of his old age and conservative piety, but soon proved to be one who had the courage to make historical changes. On January 25, 1959, in front of numerous cardinals in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, he unexpectedly announced the convening of the Second Vatican Council , which was ceremoniously opened on October 11, 1962. His predecessor Pius XI. and Pius XII. had thought about reopening the canceled First Vatican Council , but ultimately decided against it.

In addition, Johannes reorganized the curia . In 1958, he appointed Domenico Tardini for the first time since the death of Luigi Maglione in 1944 as a cardinal secretary of state . Since 1952, Tardini and his later successor Giovanni Battista Montini (until 1954) had shared the tasks as pro-state secretaries without cardinal rank. He also re-occupied the office of camerlengos , vacant since Lorenzo Lauri's death in 1941. To strengthen ecumenism, the Pope founded the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity on June 5, 1960 and named Augustine Bea as its first president. In addition, under John XXIII. the consideration of the United Nations : in contrast to his predecessor Pius XII. John saw in the United Nations a “God-given sign of the times”. In his encyclical Pacem in terris , published in 1963, he highlighted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948, as important . According to the encyclical, it “solemnly recognizes the dignity of the person for all human beings, and gives every human being the rights to freely seek the truth, to follow the norms of morality, to exercise the duties of justice, to lead a dignified existence . "(PT 75). Nonetheless, John recognized that some “rightly” objected to some chapters of the Declaration of Human Rights (PT 75). He also remarks in Pacem in Terris that peace can only be secured in a society in which freedom, justice, love and recognition of human rights prevail. Historical merits earned John XXIII. about overcoming the Cuban Missile Crisis when he mediated by means of a letter between the Catholic John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev .

To the French philosopher Jean Guitton , whom the Pope invited to the council as the first lay observer, he confessed to this for a very long time, since Leo XIII. 1902 of the separated brothers spoke of having thought about ecumenism . The council was supposed to introduce and symbolize the “ aggiornamento ” (= “actualization”) of the Catholic Church in the 20th century.

In everyday life as Pope he made historically valid changes. He got rid of the kiss on the feet and the three knees that were previously required in private audiences and, in one of his first official acts, increased the salaries of employees. His only trip took him to Loreto and Assisi a week before the Council opened in October 1962 to pray for its success. He was the first Pope since Pius IX. who, apart from the summer residence Castel Gandolfo , had left Rome for a trip, which is why the Romans called him Giovanni fuori le mura , alluding to the churches in front of the Roman walls .

The conclusion of the council in 1965 saw John XXIII. no longer, because on Whit Monday, June 3, 1963, he succumbed to cancer. He died at 7:45 p.m. in the Apostolic Palace. After his body was preserved under the direction of the famous Roman taxidermist family Signoracci, he was solemnly buried in the Vatican Grottoes .

His successor was Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini (1897–1978), who had already shaped the course of the Second Vatican Council and the Pope name Paul VI. assumed. He brought the council to an end in 1965.


Reliquary in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome
Relics of John XXIII in Bergamo Cathedral

Pope Paul VI opened the process of beatification for his predecessor in 1970 . Pope John Paul II. John XXIII. Beatified on September 3, 2000 , together with the Council Pope of Vatican 1 (1869/70) Pius IX. Since his beatification, his relics have rested in a glass reliquary in St. Peter's Basilica under the altar of St. Jerome . On April 8, 2005, John Paul II was buried in the vacated grave.

On July 5, 2013, the Holy See announced that Pope Francis wanted to convene the consistory required for a canonization . The process of canonization would normally require the recognition of a miracle which the person to be canonized is said to have performed, or which occurred after his invocation in prayer on his intercession. In the consistory of September 30, 2013, Pope Francis issued a dispensation for this , so that in this case the canonization was made possible even without recognized miracles.

On April 27, 2014, White Sunday (Mercy Sunday ), John XXIII was born. Canonized together with John Paul II by Pope Francis. In addition to many cardinals, bishops and priests, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI took part in the solemn ceremony on St. Peter's Square in the presence of around a million people . part.

On June 17, 2017, John XXIII. proclaimed the patron saint of the Italian army .


  • On May 11, 1963, the Pope was awarded the Balzan Prize for Humanity, Peace and Fraternity among the Nations in the Quirinal Palace in Rome.


John XXIII wrote eight encyclicals . The most important of these is the encyclical Pacem in Terris . It deals with the turmoil of the two world wars and calls for international cooperation for peace and justice in the context of the Cold War . For the first time, the Pope addressed an encyclical not only to his episcopate and Catholics, but “to all people of good will”. These encyclicals are in chronological order:


  • Spiritual diary and other spiritual writings. Herder publishing house, Freiburg u. a. 1964, 4th edition 1964.
  • Breviary of the heart , Geistl. Guide through the year, with a foreword by Julius Cardinal Döpfner, 1967.
  • In his Decalogue of Serenity , John XXIII. ten commandments in which he offered a simple philosophy of life in an undogmatic way .

See also


  • Andrea Lazzarini: John XXIII. The life of the new Pope . Herder, Freiburg / Basel / Vienna 1959.
  • Heinrich A. Mertens: I am Joseph, your brother. Chronicle - Documents - Perspectives. On the life and work of Pope John XXIII . Paulus Verlag, Recklinghausen 1959.
  • John XXIII The rosary prayer. Herold Verlag, Vienna / Munich 1962.
  • Hannah Arendt : The Christian Pope. Comments on the “Spiritual Diary” John XXIII. In: Merkur 20. 1966, pp. 362-372.
  • Lawrence Elliot: I will be called John. New York 1973 (German: Johannes XXIII, The life of a great Pope. Herder, Freiburg 1974).
  • JR Grigulevic: The Popes of the XX. Century . Urania, Leipzig / Jena / Berlin 1984.
  • Helmuth Nürnberger : Johannes XXIII. With personal reports (=  Rowohlt's monographs, volume 340), Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1985, ISBN 3-499-50340-9 .
  • Luitpold A. Dorn : Johannes XXIII. Everyone appeals to him . Verlag Styria, Graz, Vienna, Cologne 1986, ISBN 3-222-11671-7 .
  • Giuseppe Alberigo : Johannes XXIII., Life and Work of the Council Pope , Matthias-Grünewald-Verlag, Mainz 2000, ISBN 3-7867-2288-9 .
  • Robert Rothmann: I am Josef, your brother . St. Benno, Leipzig 2000, ISBN 3-7462-1356-8 .
  • Alexandra von Teuffenbach : Pope Johannes XXIII. encounter . St. Ulrich-Verlag, Augsburg 2003, ISBN 3-936484-47-3 .
  • Freddy Derwahl : Johannes XXIII. A life for peace . Pattloch, Munich 2004.
  • Horst Fuhrmann: The Popes, From Petrus to Johannes Paul II. CH Beck, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-406-51097-3 , pp. 213-220.
  • Christian Feldmann: Johannes XXIII. The benevolent prophet. Herder-Verlag, Freiburg / Basel / Vienna 2006, ISBN 978-3-451-29243-9 .
  • Renzo Allegri: John XXIII. “Anyone can become Pope. I am the best proof. ”A picture of life. Changed new edition. Neue Stadt, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-87996-761-2 .
  • Michael Hanst:  Johannes XXIII. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 3, Bautz, Herzberg 1992, ISBN 3-88309-035-2 , Sp. 237-248.

Film adaptations


Web links

Commons : John XXIII.  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Ioannes XXIII  - Sources and full texts (Latin)

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Liturgical Holidays for Two Popes Holy. In: Vatican Radio, accessed September 13, 2014.
  2. a b John XXIII. in the Ecumenical Lexicon of Saints
  3. Lawrence Elliott: John XXIII. The life of a great Pope . Herder, Freiburg 1974, p. 33.
  4. Pope at war - you don't kneel in front of a sergeant! In: SPON one day, April 25, 2014.
  5. On Sunday canonized Pope John XXIII. visited missio headquarters in Aachen in 1921. In: missio Aachen, April 28, 2014.
  6. Poschenker: Obituary for Johannes XXIII. By Cardinal Joseph Frings, Cologne, 1963. In: February 26, 2015, accessed January 13, 2017.
  7. ^ Wilhelm Baum: Turkey and its Christian minorities , Kitab-Verlag, Klagenfurt, 2006.
  8. ^ German text of the encyclical Pacem in terris on the official website of the Vatican
  9. Cf. Giuseppe Alberigo: Johannes XXIII., Life and Work of the Council Pope , Mainz 2000, 220.
  10. Barbara Hartl: Beautiful for eternity. ( Memento from March 13, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) In: PM Magazine , accessed November 4, 2012.
  11. ^ Concistoro per il voto sulle cause di canonizzazione dei beati Giovanni XXIII e Giovanni Paolo II. In: September 30, 2013, accessed September 30, 2013 (Italian).
  12. The Pope from Poland: John Paul II is canonized in the spring., September 30, 2013, accessed September 30, 2013 .
  13. "Two brave men". In: Retrieved February 25, 2015.
  14. ^ San Giovanni XXIII, Papa, patronum presso Dio dell'Esercito Italiano., September 12, 2017, accessed on July 13, 2020 .
  15. ^ The International Balzan Prize Foundation ( Memento from October 29, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  16. The Holy See: John XXIII. Encyclicals. Retrieved March 4, 2017 .
  17. Pacem in Terris. Retrieved March 4, 2017 . In:
  18. The 10 Commandments of Serenity. ( Memento from February 16, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  19. For a world in peace, film ( Memento from February 16, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  20. Dead Federal Councilor, wrong pilot. In:
predecessor Office successor
Pius XII. John 23 coa.svg Pope
Paul VI
Carlo Agostini Patriarch of Venice
Giovanni Cardinal Urbani