‘The world wept when he died … this self-styled “peasant” from Bergamo, this beloved Pastor who regarded all mankind as his brother, and whose leadership and imagination opened the doors to new accord.’ (Karsh)
Roncalli became a priest in 1904 and had many roles in the church including work in the Vatican’s diplomatic corps. He was made a cardinal in 1953 and in 1958, at the age of 77, he was elected pope. During his short reign, John XXIII worked for Christian unity and wrote socially important encyclicals. In January 1959 he announced plans for a general or ecumenical council; it began in October 1962. By the end of the first session, John XXIII had been diagnosed with stomach cancer and he died in June 1963. His death evoked an astonishing wave of sympathy from around the world: a response to his reforming zeal and exceptionally warm and outgoing personality. Vatican II was completed under his successor, Paul VI.