John XXIII—Pope

Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005

Astro-Rayological Interpretation & Charts
Images and Physiognomic Interpretation

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John XXIII—Pope

November 25, 1881, Sotto il Monte, Italy, 10:15 AM, LMT. (Source: Recorded. According to LMR, Fagan in American Astrology, November, 1963 quotes a photostat copy of the B.C.) Died, June 3, 1963, Vatican City, Rome.

(Ascendant Capricorn with Moon in Capricorn rising; Sun in Sagittarius; Venus conjunct Mercury in Scorpio with both conjunct the MC; Mars in Cancer retrograde and conjunct the DC; Neptune, Chiron and Jupiter all conjunct in Taurus, with Saturn and Pluto also in Taurus; the IC is midway between Neptune and Saturn)           

The name of John XXIII is associated with liberalism and ecumenism in the Catholic Church. While the sixth ray must necessarily strong in a Sagittarian Pope, the second ray of Love-Wisdom coming through second ray Jupiter in Taurus, the sign of enlightenment, created that opening of the heart and mind which modernized the Catholic church and introduced the ray of the Christ (rather than the ray of the Master Jesus) in greater power. It can be seen, through the conjunction of Neptune, Chiron and Jupiter (all of them, in part, second ray planets) in the second sign (of light), that John would institute a great healing initiative “at home”—i.e., within the Church itself. The mind would be liberated (Mercury conjunct Venus) and the influence of the soul (Mercury/Venus) would be powerfully felt, transforming old negative attitudes. Pluto opposing the Sun in Sagittarius is another way of seeing this transformation at work.        

The progress of John XXIII was from aspiration (Sagittarius) to institution (Capricorn). One senses that it was John’s responsibility (Capricorn) to anchor (four planets surrounding the IC in Taurus) the energy of the heart and of love in an often crystallized organization—the Church. With so many planets of love and the soul on the MC/IC axis, he succeeded brilliantly.

Noteworthy Astro-Rayological Factors for Further Contemplation

1.      The great heart, personal warmth, humility, refreshing openness, friendliness, joviality and genuine inclusiveness of Pope John XXIII clearly mark him as a second ray soul. At his death he was considered one of the most loved men on Earth; he received what he gave.

2.      He considered himself a “reconciler”, and long before he became Pope, was often called upon to ease a variety of tensions both within the Church and concerning Church relations with temporal powers. He had a natural ability to relate constructively and harmoniously to a great diversity of people and institutions. These qualities point to the strong presence of fourth ray in his character—especially as Libra is not represented.

3.      Astrologically, the fourth ray is especially strong, as all three signs/constellations which transmit it have planets: there is a six-planet stellium in fourth ray Taurus (Saturn, Neptune, Jupiter, Pluto, along with Chiron and Vesta; two planets are placed in fourth ray Scorpio; and the important Sun in fourth ray Sagittarius. This makes nine factors found in fourth ray signs, seven of which are the usual planets.

4.      The sixth ray is present (at least astrologically, if not in the ray chart) as Sagittarius, the Sun Sign, is the strongest of the sixth ray signs. Further, the two major sixth ray planets (Mars and Neptune) are both angular—Mars at the Descendant and Neptune near the IC.     

His steadiness, loyalty and devotion are further indications of the sixth ray, perhaps on the personality level. The sixth ray demonstration was not fanatical or fiery; the water element was at least as strong. There is only one major planet (the Sun—a “Light”) in fire, and three planets in water.

5.      Pope John XXIII’s Sagittarian Sun is placed in the potentially progressive eleventh house where a vision of the ideal (conferred by Sagittarius) is reinforced by an inclination toward reform.

6.      The Sun is opposing Pluto, indicating that John XIII could be far more radical than he appeared. No doubt he formed in silence many opinions about a better direction for the Church, never imagining that he would one day be placed in a position to enact his thoughts.

7.      The Sun is conjunct the North Node, indicating the importance of the function of guide, leading the Church in a new direction.

8.      The Capricorn Moon conferred humility, with the help of which he obediently accepted some rather unspectacular assignments, fulfilling them conscientiously. It would contribute to self-control and restraint.

9.      The Capricorn Ascendant is of course more important spiritually. Externally, it would add to the appearance of conservatism or at least non-radicalism; it would make John seem politically “safe”, and yet it would induce a determination toward high yet definitely practical achievement—the will to manifest the ideals he had long contemplated when patiently fulfilling the quite ordinary positions to which he had been assigned for many years of his life.

The Sabian Symbol assigned to the thirteenth degree of Capricorn is suggestive (though because of the possibly rounded off time it cannot be relied upon completely)—“A Fire Worshipper” and “A Fire Worshiper Meditations on the Ultimate Realities of Existence”; “The subjective quest for the ultimates beyond the interplay of life and death processes”; “Will To Transcendence”. It is surely the most apt of the symbols for the several preceding and succeeding degrees. In this case, we must remember that “God is a Consuming Fire” and “God is Love”.

10.  That the ruling planet of the Ascendant (Saturn) is placed in the down-to-earth sign Taurus, further emphasizes the will toward tangible achievement. Saturn is in the third house conjunct Vesta, representing his attitude of committed, responsible labor, and also the environmental restrictions entailed in a number of his assignments.

But Saturn is also conjunct the IC, emphasizing the wish to anchor in a practical manner that which has been conceived.

11.  As both Sagittarius and Capricorn are signs of initiation (Sagittarius being, usually, a  ruler of  the first two initiations, and Capricorn, of the first five, but especially the third) the potentials for the expansion of consciousness far beyond the possible rigidity of the Capricorn Moon is clearly apparent.

12.  One of the most important positions in the chart is the conjunction of Venus in Scorpio to the Scorpio MC. Whether the MC is precisely accurate (or the Ascendant for that matter is questionable, as the birth time appears to be rounded off to the quarter hour, but it is close). Pope John was a Pope who made major contributions in the world to the spirit of peace and to right human relations. He was instrumental in creating the psychological atmosphere which helped defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis, and his major encyclical, Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) was warmly and appreciatively received throughout the world.       

We recognize that Venus is the planet more related to the influence of the Solar Angel; it is the planet of the light and love of the soul, and impulses the redemptive process within the lower human nature. Its healing, magnetic energies contributed greatly to the spirit of reconciliation and warmth which characterized Pope John’s papacy. It is fittingly placed in Scorpio, the sign of its detriment where it could do much good, for Scorpio represents the theatre of human stress and conflict (representing as it does especially the conflict aspect of the fourth ray). So, at especially tense moments, John XXIII was called in to bring more harmonious relations. This position represents, in a way, a ‘descent into Hell’ by one who carries the lighted, loving influence of the soul. Venus is hierarchically related to the Capricorn Ascendant. Its position in Scorpio can be understood as ‘mounting by descending’. The first great ‘spiritual destination’ of Venus is Capricorn, where it displayed the light upon the mountain top of transfiguration. There is shines with blazing loving light for all to see. In Scorpio it is “on its way”—shedding the light below before it is displayed above. It cannot be lost on the analyst that Venus is place in the most elevated position in the chart and within the house generically associated with Capricorn, the fifth. The Sabian Symbol for Venus, “An Inventor Inventing”, is particularly apt considering the ingenious methods used by Pope John to bring out the reconciliations he envisioned. He was clearly an exponent of the “intelligence of the heart”.  

13.  Venus is conjoined by Mercury about a degree away. Mercury and Venus together again represent the soul—the “Divine Hermaphrodite”. Mercury is Hermes and Venus is Aphrodite. Through John XXIII, the soul is communicating to the world, and in depth, attempting to bring resolution to age-long grievances. Mercury is powerful in Scorpio, its hierarchical position. There it is perceptively shrewd and knows how to work psychologically. Though apparently simple in his approach, John XXIII was perceived as one who could communicate in depth (Scorpio)

The Sabian Symbol of Mercury is also very revealing—“Telephone Linemen At Work”. His remarkable ecumenical efforts were meant to reestablish true communication, both within the fragmented Church (with its catholic, protestant, and Eastern Orthodox divisions—divided, even within themselves), and between the Church and an often-distrustful world. The meaning of the symbolism is clear—he was repairing the lines of communication.      

14.  The aspects of the Venus/Mercury conjunction are significant, powerful and harmonious. They are sextile the Capricorn Ascendant, demonstrating their energetic cooperation with soul purpose. There is also a septile of the MC with his very important Uranus, thus, by translations of light, Venus and Mercury are involved. Also, there is an opposition to the conjunction of Jupiter, Chiron and Neptune, and Saturn also is involved. Three of the planets of the heart (Venus, Jupiter and Neptune) are involved in this conjunction. Note that these three are the three especially active in the second initiation, to which Sagittarius also is related. The indications for the second degree are clearly present, and potentials for the third degree can also be found.         

15.  Mars (trine to Venus, Mercury and the MC) plays an important and interesting role in the whole. In some ways, it is both prominent, thus strong, but weak in by sign and position—for it is in Cancer, the sign of its “fall” (where is stirs up the emotional life and creates defensiveness) and in the seventh house, which is the house of its detriment (Libra and the seventh house being related to peace, and Mars being the “god of War”. Further Mars is retrograde, so its normally outgoing expression is subdued and more inwardly directed. 

It is clearly a powerful psychological position—thwarted three time (by sign, house and retrogradation) and yet prominent  (on an angle) and the exoteric and esoteric ruler of the Scorpio Midheaven. It’s meaning is clear—quiet, deeply-felt resistance to many abuses. Angelo Roncalli may have appeared to go along, to obey, to do what he was told (quietly and cooperatively), but in his mind (and, more importantly, perhaps, in his emotional nature ruled by Mars) was the rejection of many conditions within the Church.          

Mars remained retrograde for most of Pope John’s life, but in March of 1951, it turned direct (doing so in Gemini, not Cancer, its natal sign) A subtle re-orientation must have occurred, and a far more direct willingness to communicate the thoughts upon which he had long meditated. Seven years later, he became Pope; his Mars was ready for action.

16.  Uranus, very well aspected in the eighth house of sacrifice, regeneration and  transformation, is very important. John XXIII was responsible for surprisingly sweeping reforms. He “opened up” the Church. He was as a “breath of fresh air” when compared with the normally guarded and power-conscious popes who preceded him. The Catholic Church (according to the Tibetan’s ray assignments) has a first ray soul, a manipulative, materially-engaged third ray personality, a sixth ray mind and astral body, and a seventh ray physical form. The inclusive warmth of Pope John’s second ray was at variance with the Church and in harmony with the Spirit of the Christ.

Uranus, with its spontaneity and revolutionary spirit, assisted him to change its structure. He said the idea for an Ecumenical Council came to him as “a sudden inspiration” (Uranus, of course).
His purpose was to “bring the church up to date” (aggiornamento) and to work for its spiritual regeneration.          

Uranus’ aspects reveal its inspiring effects: it is trine the Moon (spontaneity) and also trine expansive Jupiter, wise Chiron and mystical Neptune. Uranus is also in wide sextile to action-oriented Mars. Jupiter/Uranus confer “beneficent organization”. Together, they are the most progressive combination possible and they opened the doors. Uranus Chiron conceived of new, ingenious methods of healing long-standing cleavages. Uranus Neptune combined effectiveness in form with the transcendental spirit. Students of the Tibetan would say it unifies the mystic and the occultist, or buddhi with atma/manas, or the heart and the mind.    

We see that Uranus is involved in a powerful (and practical—because earth signs are involved) grand trine, which suddenly swept through the Church, changing everything. It is probably a good thing that Angelo Roncalli’s Capricorn energies were so strong, allowing him to keep his reformist tendencies ‘under wraps”, otherwise he would never have been promoted to the position in which they could b exercised.

17.  The triple conjunction of Jupiter, Chiron and Neptune (all in Taurus—the sign of the “light of wisdom”) is indispensable in understanding Pope John XXIII. Saturn is involved as well. All the planets involved in this conjunction are retrograde, which can be interpreted as attention to ‘unfinished business’. Pope John undertook the correction of a number of abuses which clung to the Church as part of its karma.        

John was a Jupiterian (and Uranian) pope. If the soul ray was the second (as it surely appears to be), Jupiter would be a major conduit for its expression. Jupiter is also the planet ruling his Sagittarian Sun, and is, therefore, doubly important. Further, it is placed in the house of its exaltation (the fourth)          .

Jupiter is the planet of the open heart, and it is conjuncted to the Chiron, the “Wounded Healer” (also a largely second ray planetoid) and Neptune (the planet linking solar plexus to the heart and ruling the “Solar Flames” of the “Heart of the Sun”.

This triple conjunction, therefore, is clearly a love-wisdom conjunction (three planets of love and healing in Taurus, the sign of the light of wisdom) and all in the house of the ashram. The healing was applied, to a great extent, “at home” (fourth house)—i.e., within the Catholic Church, itself. The Church was set on a new course of action (Sagittarius, ruled by Jupiter) and established on a new and more spiritually authentic foundation (fourth house). A great healing was in process.    

The Tibetan told us that by 1980 the Master Jesus would be experimenting with the overshadowing of the pope. “From the chair of the Pope of Rome, the Master Jesus will attempt to swing that great branch of the religious beliefs of the world again into a position of spiritual power and away from its present authoritative and temporary political potency”.
(DON 59) Perhaps the opportunity arose earlier than expected, and John XXIII was overshadowed. “By their fruits ye shall know them”.

18.  Even the position of the asteroid Ceres (rising) is significant. Ceres is the asteroid of nurturance, and its glyph displays the “shepherd’s crook”—the perfect symbol for the “Good Shepherd” in ever-responsible Capricorn.

19.  The conjunction by parallel of declination of Chiron, Neptune and the Vertex, tells of the fated (Vertex) appointment with spiritual (Neptune) healing (Chiron).

20.  The soul is the “quality of life”, and it was the quality of Pope John XXIII’s presence and heart energy which effected the dramatic changes. Love is the great transformer.

21.  A few of the fixed star positions are unusually significant. The elevated Mercury (expressing in relation to a symbol expressing the repair of disrupted communications) is conjunct within on minute of arc Zuben Elgenubi, the star of positive social reform. Expansive, open and inclusive second ray Jupiter is parallel, also within one minute of arc, Alhena which characterizes those who have a mission. It was clearly a Jupiterian mission demanding the wise spreading of loving understanding. Progressive Uranus is closely parallel Procyon, the star of eager advancement into new projects and, hence, rapid (if often unstable) progress. But Pope John’s Taurus and Scorpio planets (fixed signs) stabilized his ideas and saw them well-instituted (Capricorn). The MC is conjunct both Acrux (the Southern Cross—an appropriate symbol for a pope) and exactly conjunct Alphecca (which represents the crown of quiet achievements). Note that Nero, also significant for his infamous relationship to the early Christians, had Acrux on the MC (at least in the proposed chart). Alcyone, the central star of our little cosmo-system) is closely conjunct Pluto (as it was for so many born at that time), but in the chart of a pope who radically changed the inner and outer structure of the Catholic Church, this alignment of the central star with radical Pluto must be considered important. He went deeper (Pluto) in his changes than any pope in recent history.

22.  Pope John XXIII, through the sheer force of his humanity, was responsible for the infusion of a major flow of Love-Wisdom into the Catholic Church. The beneficent changes (Jupiter/Uranus) were extraordinarily welcome and long overdue. His entire papacy was a surprise—a breath of soul which carried the Church closer to its inspiration—the Christ. We therefore, must view Angelo Roncalli (Pope John XXIII) as true disciple of the Lord, Maitreya with a significant role to play during the period of the Forerunner which prepares the way for the Externalization of the Hierarchy and the Reappearance of the Christ.


Anybody can be Pope; the proof of this is that I have become one.

Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.
(Sagittarius Sun, Capricorn Moon)

Italians come to ruin most generally in three ways, women, gambling, and farming. My family chose the slowest one.

Men are like wine - some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.

See everything, overlook a great deal, correct a little.
(Mars in Cancer in 7th house. Venus conjunct Mercury in Scorpio on MC.)

The council now beginning rises in the Church like the daybreak, a forerunner of most splendid light.

The true and solid peace of nations consists not in equality of arms, but in mutual trust alone.

It often happens that I wake at night and begin to think about a serious problem and decide I must tell the pope about it. Then I wake up completely and remember that I am the pope!

Nevertheless, in order to imbue civilization with sound principles and enliven it with the spirit of the gospel, it is not enough to be illumined with the gift of faith and enkindled with the desire of forwarding a good cause. For this end it is necessary to take an active part in the various organizations and influence them from within. And since our present age is one of outstanding scientific and technical progress and excellence, one will not be able to enter these organizations and work effectively from within unless he is scientifically competent, technically capable and skilled in the practice of his own profession.

Here I am at the end of the road and at the top of the heap.

I am made to tremble and I fear!

We ardently desire their return to the house of the common Father … they will not enter a strange house but their own.

I have looked into your eyes with my eyes. I have put my heart near your heart.

The council now beginning rises in the Church like the daybreak, a forerunner of most splendid light.

I have been able to follow my death step by step and now my life goes gently to its end.

It is now for the Catholic Church to bend herself to her work with calmness and generosity. It is for you to observe her with renewed and friendly attention.

The feelings of my smallness and my nothingness always kept me good company.

Born poor, but of honored and humble people, I am particularly proud to die poor.

Every man has the right to life, to bodily integrity.

The family [is] the first essential cell of human society.

When I eat alone I feel like a seminarian being punished…. I tried it for one week and I was not comfortable. Then I searched through Sacred Scripture for something saying I had to eat alone. I found nothing, so I gave it up and it’s much better now.
ATTRIBUTION: On breaking the papal precedent of dining alone, recalled on his death 3 Jun 63

“If God created shadows it was to better emphasize the light”
(Stellium in Taurus)

“A peaceful man does more good than a learned one.”

“It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.”

We exercise on earth the power of our Lord and seek with all our might to bring those sheep of His flock who are outside into the fold committed to our charge.”

Prudent is he who can keep silent that part of truth which may be untimely, and by not speaking it, does not spoil the truth of what he said.

We must solemnly proclaim that human life is transmitted by means of the family, the family founded on marriage, one and indissoluble, raised for Christians to the dignity of a Sacrament. The transmission of human life is entrusted by nature to a personal and conscious act, and, as such, subject to the all-wise laws of God: laws inviolable and immutable that are to be recognized and observed. Therefore, it is not permissible to use means and follow methods that can be licit for the transmission of plant or animal life.

Human life is sacred: from its very inception, the creative action of God is directly operative. By violating His laws, the Divine Majesty is offended, the individuals themselves and humanity degraded, and likewise the community itself of which they are members is enfeebled.

Differences of opinion in the application of principles can sometimes arise even among sincere Catholics. When this happens, they should be careful not to lose their respect and esteem for each other. Instead, they should strive to find points of agreement for effective and suitable action, and not wear themselves out in interminable arguments, and, under pretext of the better or the best, omit to do the good that is possible and therefore obligatory.

At his address at the opening of the Second Vatican Council, he criticized the “prophets of doom” who “in these modern times see nothing but prevarication and ruin.”

Pope John XXIII set a tone for the Council when he said, “The Church has always opposed... errors. Nowadays, however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity.”

On his deathbed he said: “It is not that the gospel has changed; it is that we have begun to understand it better. Those who have lived as long as I have…were enabled to compare different cultures and traditions, and know that the moment has come to discern the signs of the times, to seize the opportunity and to look far ahead.”

"I want to throw open the windows of the Church so that we can see out and the people can see in."


Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli
Papacy began October 28, 1958
Papacy ended June 3, 1963, age 81
Predecessor Pius XII
Successor Paul VI
Born November 25, 1881
Sotto il Monte, Italy
Died June 3, 1963
Apostolic Palace, Vatican City
Other Popes named John

Blessed Pope John XXIII (Latin: Ioannes PP. XXIII), (Italian: Giovanni XXIII), born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (November 25, 1881 – June 3, 1963), was elected as the 261st Pope of the Catholic Church and sovereign of Vatican City on October 28, 1958. He called the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) but did not live to see it to completion, dying on June 3, 1963 two months after the completion of his final encyclical, Pacem in Terris. He was beatified on September 3, 2000, along with Pope Pius IX, the first popes since Pope St. Pius X to receive this honor. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest Popes of all time.

Earlier life
Angelo Roncalli was born on November 25, 1881, in Sotto il Monte, a small town in the Province of Bergamo, Italy. He was the son of Giovanni Battista Roncalli and his wife Marianna Giulia Mazzolla. The fourth in a family of 14, his family worked as sharecroppers, a striking contrast to his predecessor, Eugenio Pacelli, who came from an ancient aristocratic family, long connected to the Papacy. In 1904, Roncalli was ordained a priest in the Roman Church of Santa Maria in Monte Santo.

In 1905, Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi, the new bishop of Bergamo, appointed Roncalli as his secretary. Roncalli worked for Radini-Tedeschi until the bishop's death in 1914. During this period Roncalli was also a teacher in the diocesan seminary.

During World War I, Roncalli was drafted into the Royal Italian Army as a sergeant, serving in the medical corps and as a chaplain. In 1921, Pope Benedict XV appointed him as the Italian president of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. In 1925 Pope Pius XI appointed him as Apostolic Visitor to Bulgaria, also naming him for consecration as titular bishop of Areopolis. He chose as his episcopal motto Obedientia et Pax ("Obedience and Peace"), which became his guiding motto.

In 1935 he was made Apostolic Delegate to Turkey and Greece. Roncalli used this office to help the Jewish underground in saving thousands of refugees in Europe, leading some to consider him to be a Righteous Gentile. In 1944, during World War II, Pope Pius XII named him Apostolic Nuncio to Paris, France.

In 1953, he was named the Patriarch of Venice, and, accordingly, raised to the rank of cardinal. As a sign of his esteem, President Vincent Auriol of France claimed the ancient privilege possessed by French monarchs and bestowed the red hat on the now-Cardinal Roncalli at a ceremony in the Elysee Palace.

Election as pope
Pope John's Coat of ArmsThe 1958 papal conclave which elected Roncalli as pope was later surrounded by conspiracy theories claiming that a conservative cardinal, Giuseppe Siri, was the conclave's first choice for pope but was forced amid threats of pogroms against Roman Catholics in the Eastern Bloc to decline the papal tiara. The claim is accepted only by some separatist sedevacantist and conclavist groups.

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) allegedly claimed that Siri had indeed been elected on the third ballot of the 1958 papal conclave.[1] What is unambiguously known is that Vatican Radio did conclude, on the basis of apparently white smoke, that a pope had been elected on the third ballot and announced it as such, telling listeners "The smoke is white. . . . There is absolutely no doubt. A pope has been elected."[2] An FBI source also claimed that Siri was elected a second time on the third ballot.[3] After the 6pm 3rd ballot white smoke appeared, not only the public was confused. The Swiss Guards assembled to give the ceremonial salute to the new pontiff, only to have to withdraw again.

The white smoke often had proven a confusing symbol in the past, leading John Paul II to decree the use of ringing bells in addition to the smoke after a papal election. Allegedly, Siri had even chosen a name, "Gregory XVII", and was preparing to appear at the balcony, but was threatened somehow and forced aside, leaving the cardinals free to elect Roncalli as Pope.


John often preferred wearing the lightweight 1922 tiara of Pope Pius XI on less formal occasions.Following the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958, Roncalli was, to his own great surprise (he had arrived in the Vatican with a return train ticket to Venice), elected Pope. Many had considered that Archbishop Montini, Archbishop of Milan, was a possible candidate, but, although Archbishop of one of the most ancient and prominent Sees in Italy, Montini had not been created a cardinal.[5] As a result, he was not present at the 1958 conclave and most of the cardinals abided by the established precedent of voting only for a member of the College of Cardinals, in spite of the affirmation in Canon Law that any celibate Catholic male could be chosen. After the long pontificate of Pope Pius XII, the cardinals chose a man whom, it was presumed, because of his advanced age, would be a short-term or "stop-gap" pope. In Pope John's first consistory, Montini was raised to the rank of cardinal, and was himself elected as John's successor, Paul VI.

Pope John XXIII being carried on the sedia gestatoria for a Solemn Papal High Mass, ca. 1959.Pope John's personal warmth, good humor and kindness captured the world's affections in a way his predecessor, for all his great learning and personal holiness, had failed to do. While Pius would look slightly away and up from the camera whenever his photograph was taken, John would look directly at the camera and smile.

John's own personal papal tiara.
It was a gift of the people of Bergamo in 1959.He undertook the first official acts[citations needed] of a Pope away from Vatican territory since 1870 on 25 December 1958, when he visited children suffering from polio at the Bambin Gesù hospital and then visited Santo Spirito Hospital. The next day he visited Rome's Regina Coeli prison, where he told the prisoners: "You could not come to me, so I came to you." These acts created a sensation, and he wrote in his diary:

... great astonishment in the Roman, Italian and international press. I was hemmed in on all sides: authorities, photographers, prisoners, wardens ... [Peter Hebblethwaite, Pope John XXIII: Shepherd of the Modern World, Image Books (1987) p. 303]

Far from being a mere "stop gap" Pope, to great excitement John called an ecumenical council fewer than ninety years after the controversial Vatican Council. Cardinal Montini remarked to a friend that "this holy old boy doesn't realize what a hornet's nest he's stirring up".[6] From the Second Vatican Council, (colloquially known as Vatican II), came changes that reshaped the face of Catholicism: a comprehensively revised Liturgy, a stronger emphasis on ecumenism and a new approach to the world.

He met the Most Rev. Geoffrey Francis Fisher, the Archbishop of Canterbury, for about an hour in the Vatican on December 2, 1960. It was the first time in over 400 years, since the excommunication of Elizabeth I, that the Archbishop of Canterbury had met with the Pope.

Pope John XXIII excommunicated Fidel Castro on January 3, 1962 in line with a 1949 decree by Pope Pius XII forbidding Catholics from supporting communist governments.

Pope John and papal ceremonial
Main article: Papal coronation
Pope John XXIII was the last pope to use full papal ceremonial, much of which was abolished subsequently after Vatican II. His papal coronation ran for the traditional five hours. (Pope Paul VI opted for a shorter ceremony while later popes declined to be crowned.) However, as with his predecessor Pope Pius XII, he chose to have the coronation itself take place on the balcony of St. Peter's in view of the crowds assembled in St. Peter's Square.

As images (above) show, unlike other popes who tended to just wear one papal tiara, John, much to the delight of photographers, wore a number of tiaras from the papal collection. On formal occasions, such as giving the Urbi et Orbi blessing he wore the traditional 1877 Palatine tiara he had been crowned with. However on other occasions he wore the lighter and more comfortable 1922 tiara of Pope Pius XI, which he used so often that it became strongly associated with him.

1962 Man of the Year Pope John XXIIIAs with most other popes in the last two decades up to that point he was given an expensive silver papal tiara by the people of Bergamo. The Tiara of Pope John XXIII, the lightest in the papal collection at 2 lb (900 g), was given to him eventually in 1959. When asked about the tiara during its manufacture, John asked that the makers halve the number of jewels with which they planned to decorate it and give the financial saving to the poor.

Traditional Pontifical High Masses and most papal ceremonial, including the flabelli (ceremonial fans made of ostrich feathers) and the Palatine Guard, and the saluting of the pope on his arrival at Mass in St. Peter's Basilica by the playing of trumpets, were abolished by Pope Paul VI in phases during his reign. None of the tiaras associated with Pope John have been worn by later popes.

While maintaining the traditional papal ceremonial, Pope John continued his predecessor's policy of a gradual reform to the Roman liturgy, the last such reform of that rite before the major reform of the liturgy after Vatican II.

Pope John was also the last pope to date to have his Requiem Mass celebrated within St. Peter's Basilica, amid traditional papal pomp. His successor, Pope Paul VI abolished the traditional papal funeral and had his funeral as a simple concelebrated Mass in St. Peter's Square.

(A note on numbering: The previous Pope named John was Pope John XXII. The Pope named John before that was John XXI. But the last Pope named John before that was Pope John XIX (1024–32), who was additionally the eighteenth Pope named John. And there is no Pope John XX. This is due to John XVI having been an anti-pope, and the confusion caused by historians mistakenly believing the legend of a Pope named John between John XIV and John XV.)

Final months
Signing his encyclical Pacem in Terris.
The scale of his illness was not realized until this image, showing him gaunt after major weight loss due to his cancer, was released. He died soon afterwards.Pope John XXIII was first diagnosed with stomach cancer on September 23, 1962. The diagnosis, which was kept from the public, followed nearly eight years of occasional stomach hemorrhages, and reduced the pontiff's appearances. Looking pale and drawn during these events, he gave a hint to his ultimate fate in April 1963, when he said to visitors, "That which happens to all men perhaps will happen soon to the Pope who speaks to you today."

On May 11, 1963, the Italian president Antonio Segni awarded Pope John XXIII the Balzan Prize for his engagement for peace. It was the Pope's last public appearance.

On May 25, 1963, the Pope suffered another hemorrhage and required blood transfusions, but peritonitis soon set in, resulting in his death at 7:49 p.m. (local time) on June 3 at the age of 81. He was buried on June 6, ending a reign of four years, seven months and six days. He died from stomach cancer.

On December 6, 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson posthumously awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian award, in recognition of the good relationship between Pope John and the United States.

Pope John, posing to give a blessing, in his official photograph. Taken 1959.Sedevacantist and Conclavist groups on the right of the Catholic Church have been some of Pope John's most outspoken critics. Some groups have even made unsubstantiated claims that John was a Freemason, and as such, allegedly could not be a valid Pope since Catholics are prohibited from joining Freemasonry under pain of excommunication. On that basis one group, the U.S. Washington State-based true Catholic Church elected its only priest as "pope" in 1998, claiming that there had been no valid pope since Pope Pius XII died in 1958.

Some also make the claim that John's choice of regnal name marked him as an antipope, as the name John had lain unused since Antipope John XXIII used it in the 14th century (other Popes have similarly used names taken by anti-popes, for example Benedict XIV).

Many who subscribe to the teachings of Our Lady of Fatima also believe that Pope John deliberately withheld secret prophetic information revealed by an apparition of the Virgin Mary. [1] This is perhaps the basis for internet reports in the late 1990s about the supposed discovery of Pope John's diary where he received prophetic insight into the future, including the return of Jesus in New York in 2000. [2]

Although Pope John did have a diary there is no evidence in it to suggest that he received apocalyptic visions of the future. [3]


Solemn Pontifical High Mass Celebrated by Pope John XXIII in St. Peter's Basilica in the early 1960sKnown affectionately as "Good Pope John" and "the most loved Pope in history" to many people, in 2000 John was declared "Blessed" by Pope John Paul II, the penultimate step on the road to sainthood. Following his beatification, his body was moved from its original burial place in the grottoes below St Peter's Basilica to the altar of St. Jerome and displayed for the veneration of the faithful.

At the time, the body was observed to be extremely well-preserved—a condition which the Church ascribes to the lack of oxygen in his sealed triple coffin rather than to any miraculous event (although it was certainly seen as such by many of the faithful). When John was moved, the original vault — which was above the floor — was removed. A new vault was built beneath the ground, and Pope John Paul II was later buried in this vault.

He is honored by many Protestant organizations as a Christian reformer. Both Anglican and Lutheran denominations commemorate John XXIII as a "renewer of the church." The then fiercely anti-Catholic Belfast City Council flew the flag over city hall at half-mast in his honor after his death.

From his early teens, he maintained a diary of spiritual reflections that was subsequently published as Journal of a Soul. The collection of writings charts Roncalli's efforts as a young man to "grow in holiness" and continue after his election to the Papacy. It remains widely read.

He was appointed the secretary to the new bishop of Bergamo and with him learned forms of social action and gained an understanding of the problems of the working classes. Meanwhile he taught at the diocesan seminary.

In 1915 he was recalled to the army in World War I and served in the medical and chaplaincy corps. After the war he was made the spiritual director of the seminary. In 1921 he was called to Rome by the pope and made director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith in Italy.

He was consecrated archbishop in 1925 and sent to Bulgaria. At Sofia the capital he dealt with the problems of Eastern Rite Catholics in a troubled oriental land.

In 1934 he was sent to Turkey and Greece. There he fostered harmony among various national groups in Istanbul in a time of anti-religious fervor under Kemal Ataturk. Archbishop Roncalli introduced the use of the Turkish language in worship and in the official documents of the church and eventually won the esteem of some high Turkish statesmen. He made a series of conciliatory gestures toward the Orthodox and met with the Ecumenical Patriarch Benjamin in 1939. During World War II Istanbul was a center of intrigue and espionage, and the archbishop gathered information useful to Rome and helped Jews flee persecution. His work in Greece, which was occupied by the Nazis, was less successful.

When he was sixty-four years old (1944), an age when most men are thinking of retirement, Roncalli was chosen by Pius XII for the difficult post of nuncio to Paris, where he worked to heal the divisions caused by the war. He travelled widely.

[A nuncio, where they exist, has the rank of an ambassador. While in Paris, Roncalli once said: "You know, it's rough being a papal nuncio. I get invited to these diplomatic parties where everyone stands around with a small plate of canapes trying not to look bored. Then, in walks a shapely woman in a low-cut, revealing gown, and everyone in the whole place turns around and looks -- at me!"]
At age seventy-two he was made cardinal and Patriarch of Venice and he had charge of a large diocese for the first time in his life. He quickly won the affection of his people, visiting parishes, caring for the working classes, establishing new parishes, and developing forms of social action.

In 1958, nearly seventy-seven years old, he was elected pope upon the death of Pius XII. He was expected by many to be a caretaker and transitional pope, but he astonished the church and the world with his energy and reforming spirit.

[Before the accession of John XXIII, when the official Vatican newspaper, the Osservatore Romano, quoted any statement by the Pope, on any matter whatever, it had a standard introduction: "These are the words of the Holy Father, as we were able to gather them from his august lips:" Under Pope John, this was changed to "The Pope said:" This and similar changes, not in themselves significant, helped to set the tone for the new pontificate.]
He expanded and internationalized the college of cardinals, called the first diocesan synod of Rome in history, revised the code of canon law, and called the Second Vatican Council to revitalize the church. This council was the major achievement of his life [and undertook] to renew the life of the church and its teachings, with the ultimate goal of the reunification of Christianity.

[The council marked the beginning of a new spirit of openness on the part of Rome toward Christians not of the papal obedience. The story is told that, when it was announced that Protestant leaders would be nvited to the council as observers, the conservative Cardinal Ottaviani was horrified. He said:
"But Your Holiness, Protestants are heretics!"

"Do not say, 'heretics,' my son. Say, 'separated brethren.'"

"They are in league with the devil!"

"Do not say, 'devil,' my son. Say, 'separated angel.'"

Moreover, as Bishop of Rome, he was unremitting in his care of his diocese, visiting hospitals, prisons, and schools. When he died 3 June 1963, he had won the widespread affection of Christian and non-Christian alike.


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