Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the third of thirteen children, was born on November 25, 1881 at Sotto il Monte (Bergamo) of a family of sharecroppers. At the age of twelve entered the seminary at Bergamo and latter in Rome where he studied the Church historian. He ordained in 1904. Continuing his studies in canon law he was appointed secretary to the new bishop of Bergamo, Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi. Angelo served this social-minded prelate for nine years, acquiring first-hand experience and a broad understanding of the problems of the working class. He also taught apologetics, church history, and patrology.
With the entry of Italy into World War I in 1915 he was recalled to military service as a chaplain. On leaving the service in 1918 he was appointed spiritual director of the seminary, but found time to open a hostel for students in Bergamo.
In 1921 he was called to Rome to reorganize the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. Nominated titular archbishop of Areopolis and apostolic visitator to Bulgaria (1925), he immediately concerned himself with the problems of the Eastern Churches. Transferred in 1934 to Turkey and Greece as apostolic delegate, he set up an office in Istanbul for locating prisoners of war. In 1944 he was appointed nuncio to Paris. In 1953 he became cardinal-patriarch of Venice. He was correcting proofs of the synodal Acts of his first diocesan Synod (1958) when he was called to Rome to participate in the conclave that elected him pope.
In his first public address Pope John expressed his concern for reunion with separated Christians and for world peace. One of his first acts was to annul the regulation of Sixtus IV limiting the membership of the College of Cardinals to 70. He held a diocesan synod for Rome, convoked an ecumenical council for the universal Church, and revised the Code of Canon Law.
His 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. 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). The International Balzan Foundation awarded him its Peace Prize in 1962. He died on June 3, 1963 and was canonized on April 27, 2014 by Pope Francis.
PRAYER: Almighty and eternal God, who in the Pope St. John, gave to the whole world the shining example of a good shepherd, grant that, through his intercession, we may with joy spread abroad the fullness of Christian charity. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.