On April 27, Pope John XXIII will be canonized as a saint, along with Pope John Paul II. Pope John XXIII was a pope of peace, proclaiming God is at the center of all right conduct—in the opening line of his encyclical Pacem in Terris, he wrote, “Peace on earth . . . which man throughout the ages has so longed for and sought after . . . can never be established, never guaranteed, except by the diligent observance of the divinely established order.” Affectionately known as “Good Pope John,” John XXIII worked tirelessly to establish peace and good will, especially in the aftermath of World War II.
Here are four things to know and share about this great Pope:
1) Pope John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council
In 1962, John XXIII called the historic Second Vatican Council. Though he didn’t live to see its completion in 1963, he began a process that would produce four Constitutions, three Declarations, and nine Decrees—all creating major changes for Catholic life and worship worldwide.
2) Pope John XXIII wrote the first papal encyclical addressed not only to the Catholic faithful, but to “All men of goodwill”
In his landmark encyclical Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth), John XXIII addresses all who are willing to work toward peace, laying out the requirements for basic human rights by saying, “Man has the right to live. He has the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life . . .” This encyclical, perhaps more than any other pre–Vatican II papal writing, has provided the foundation for modern Catholic teaching on human rights, freedoms, and responsibilities.
3) Pope John XXIII gave the famous “Speech of the Moon”
On the night following the conclusion of the first Vatican II session, the crowds in Saint Peter’s Square chanted and yelled to get John XXIII to appear at the window and address them. It worked, and when he came to them he delivered an impromptu speech, finishing with the admonition to return home and hug their children, telling them that it came from the pope. This was especially endearing at the time, given the total formality of most—if not all—papal addresses.
4) Pope John XXIII worked as nuncio to save refugees from the Nazis in World War II
Before he was pope, John XXIII made many efforts to save refugees, including Jewish refugees who arrived to Istanbul, Slovakian children, Jews held at the Jasenovac concentration camp, Bulgarian, Romanian, Italian, and Hungarian Jews all across the globe, and many more. His efforts for peace were tireless, and his compassion for the disenfranchised saved lives and inspired love in the hearts of many.