John XXII. Pope of the Century
by Peter Hebblethwaite. This was really a good book on a couple of levels. First, it gives
an overview of all the Popes of the 20th Century up to John XXIII (1958-1963)
as well as mentions the Popes after him. Second, and perhaps a little too personally, I got
the sense that one of the reasons I am Roman Catholic now is because of the things this man
did during his short 5 years as Pope.
John XXIII was born Angelo Roncalli near Bergamo, Italy in 1881. He was elected Pope in 1958 after a long career in service as papal envoy to Bulgaria and Constantinople, nuncio to France after WWWII, and finally Archbishop of Venice.
Several places in the book the author refers to the Church's attitude toward the world as "scolding and lecturing from above" prior to John XXIII, to "nurturing and teaching from within" afterwards. One of his most famous encyclicals was was about the role of the Church in the world: Mater et Magistra that is, "Mother and Teacher."
Pope John called the Second Vatical Council beginning in 1962 which fundamentally changed the way the Church approached the world, Catholic and non-Catholic. He died in 1963, not seeing the completion of his work, which was carried on by his successor, Pope Paul VI (Giovanni Battista Montini). The 20th Century had two more Popes after Paul VI, both of them took the name "John Paul" to carry the work of the Council.