Although this is the feast day of the apostles Simon and Jude, October 28, 1988 stands out as the day when Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was elected pope, taking the name John XXIII.
Angelo, as a young prieste had given good service to an important archbishop who rewarded him by putting him in the Church’ Diplomatic Corps.
Made a bishop, he was sent to nine years each in Bulgaria and Turkey, two of the church’s lowest ranking posts. At the end of World War Two, Rome was having trouble with French priests who didn’t want to go back to living in rectories, and Bishop Roncalli was sent there to sweet-talk them into obedience. And, when he had done well at that, he was rewarded by being made archbishop of Venice, with a cardinal’s hat attached to the job.
It elevated him to where, when Pope Pius XII died in 1958 Cardinal Roncalli was invited to Rome for the election of a successor. Elected, he gave his return ticket to Venice to a friend.
In all of his years as a bishop out in the sticks, Roncalli often heard the complaints of the other twenty-five hundred bishops out in the sticks. While they saw themselves as the legitimate successor of the apostles, Rome’s Curia treated them like choir boys. The Holy Roman Church had become ninety percent Roman, and only ten percent Catholic.
To remedy that imbalance, Pope John opened the Second Vatican Council at which those twenty-five hundred bishops sat on thrones in St. Peter’s where over four years, they exercised their God-given mission of identifying for every phase of our beliefs what was, and what was not, the teaching of Christ.