Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was born November 25, 1881 and reigned as Pope John XXIII from 1958-63. Though Angelo was born into a poor family, he did not show them any preferment during his papacy, but rather encouraged humility.
During his years in the seminary and early priesthood, Angelo served in the Italian military a couple of times. While in the seminary, he worked as a hospital aide and, during his priesthood, he served as a military chaplain.
At one point, the young priest was asked by Pope Pius X to assist in the consecration of a new bishop, who was to preside over the place of Angelo’s birth. This new bishop took a liking to the future Pope and made Angelo his secretary, which would later aid the youth on his path to the papacy.
After the death of the bishop whom Don Angelo served, Roncalli wrote a biography of the late bishop’s life. This biography brought future Pope John XXIII to the attention of Pope Benedict XV, who decided to appoint him as “a director of the Italian organization for the support of foreign missions.” Again, Pius XI remembered Angelo from his historical writing on St. Charles Borromeo and placed him in the Vatican’s diplomatic service, where Don Angelo Roncalli gained experience in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox relations in Bulgaria.
At the end of World War II, Pope John XXIII was recalled to Europe to serve as papal nuncio in France. Angelo was assigned to France to “cool the atmosphere” between the French and the Germans. Upon his success in this position, Roncalli was made a cardinal, which made him an eligible candidate for the papacy.
Soon after his papal coronation in 1958, Pope John XXIII called for the Second Vatican Council, which held its first session in 1962.
As pope, John XXIII was welcoming and “became a kind of father figure to the world.”
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