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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

June 03 Anniversary of the Death of Pope John XXIII

Updated: Apr 9, 2020

by Gordon Nary

When Angelo Roncalli was elected Pope in 1958, he chose the name John XXIII, a name previously chosen by a 15th-century prelate elected as an anti-Pope by the schismatic cardinals of Pisa. However, when Cardinal Roncalli chose the name of John XXIII, it proved to be the fulfillment of a prophecy by a Renaissance mystic, Joachim de Fiore, who predicted,

"The order of things will 'change, the Church of the Pope will become a Church of the Holy Spirit and Peter's primacy will be replaced by the primacy of John. The authority of the 'Pope and the bishops will have to yield to the free works of charity ... In the spirit of John the churches of the East and West would come together more easily."

Thus was a well know prophecy and probably one of the major reasons why the name John had not been chosen for over 400 years.

One of Pope John' s first symbolic acts in tearing dam the barriers between people was his unprecedented  visit to the 800 inmates in the Roman prison inappropriately named Regina Coeli (Queen of Heaven). In this single act, John XXIII struck a penetrating note with a far-sounding echo. This was a gesture directed not only to the outcasts there, but to the outcasts of the world. It was the first ripple in the flood social consciousness to be unleashed by Vatican II, a social consciousness it eventually led to the "theology of liberation", an attempted reconciliation of the ideas of Christ with the ideas of Marx.

Heroes are not born, but are created by the needs of the times in which they live. So it was with John XXIII. The world had been through two devastating  world wars.  The world had divided into East and West. Conflicting values combined with the threat of atomic annihilation demanded a change in spiritual direction and a need for world unification, a need that could only be advanced with social justice.

Some of the first words that the new Pope spoke and which were later reflected in his great encyclical Pacem in Terris, were:

"Since the early Church, the :major concern of the Apostles, teachers, bishops, and popes has been unity of 'the Church and peace on earth. War and danger of war must be banished from the world of justice. Why should it not be possible to stop the production of weapons of war and to use every intellectual and scientific means to promote the peace and welfare of all men and all nations? The solution of social problems is this: all men must be guaranteed an existence that is worthy of men. The two means of attaining this goal are justice and charity, means practical Christianity."

Angelo Roncalli was born a peasant and was proud of his heritage. The  pope still enjoyed some of the peasant specialties of his Bergamo homeland, including a traditional -pasta dish with ham, mushrooms and cheese, a dish which later became known al lover Italy as spaghetti del Papa (the Pope's  spaghetti). Enjoy it while viewing The Good Pope: Pope John XXIII (2003)

Spaghetti del Papa (The Pope's Spaghetti)


1/4 1b dried porcini mushrooms*   4 slices pancetta, diced 4 TB unsalted (sweet) butter 1 small onion, diced 1/4 1b cooked ham, diced 3 TB white glace de viande**

2 TB flour 1/ 4 cup dry white wine 1 lb spaghetti 4 egg yolks 3/4 cup grated fontina cheese


  1. Slice rnushrooms and set aside. Strain reserved water through several sheets of cheesecloth. Boil strained water over high heat until it is reduced to 1/4 cup. Set aside.

  2. Melt butter in a skillet. Cook pancetta, onions, and porcini over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add ham and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in flour and add glace de viande, reduced porcini water, and wine. Add salt and popper to taste. Simmer sauce for 15 minute

  3. While spaghetti is cooking, beat egg yolks.

  4. Drain spaghetti. Add beaten egg yolks and 1/2 of fontina cheese.

  5. Add sauce. Toss and serve on heated plates or serving dish with balance of cheese sprinkled on top.   

Serves 2

*  Porcini rnushrooms are an Italian wild rnushrooms. They have a unique flavor that cannot be duplicated by domestic mushrooms. They are available in Italian food stores and specialty food shops. The dried mushrooms should have a whitish cap and still be spongy.

**  See Appendix A

© 2011 by Gordon Nary


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