St. John XXIII of Rome (1881-1963)

Artist: 
Br. Robert Lentz, OFM

Artist's Narrative:
John XXIII confounded the stale prudence of Rome with holy simplicity. After the long and austere papacy of Pius XII, the aging John had been elected as an interim pope. Instead he renewed the Church by replacing patterns of worldly policies with an evangelical and pastoral commitment.

John had been a Vatican diplomat for 28 years, serving in Bulgaria, Turkey, and France. He brought Gospel truth to human politics and conducted his diplomacy openly. John’s manner was always pastoral rather than political. Because of this, members of the Vatican curia considered him incompetent. As pope, the establishment attempted to neutralize his influence by calling him "good Pope John"-- the man too saintly to be pope. On his deathbed he would say to his secretary, "We did not stop to pick up the stones that were thrown at us from all sides…"

Through the Second Vatican Council John challenged the Church to be in dialogue with the modern world. His leadership enabled Catholics and members of the other faiths to break down barriers erected by centuries of hatred and mistrust. Although he died before the council finished its work, it carried his lifelong vision of a pastoral church to the far corners of the world.

"An old world disappears," he said, "another one is being formed, and within this I am trying to conceal some good seed or other that will have it’s springtime, even if it is somewhat delayed, when I am dead."
(Turkey 1939)

The quotation on the scroll of this icon are words John said upon hearing of the death of Pius XII. The Greek inscription by his head reads: "Holy John of Rome."

His feast day is October 11.

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