Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum!
Fifty years ago today, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was elected pope and took the unlikely name of John XXIII. (“Pius” had been the favored name for almost two centuries, and there hadn’t been a Pope John since the fourteenth century–fifteenth if you count the anti-pope with the same number as Roncalli.)
I was in my first months at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie. When the news that the white smoke had been seen, we were gathered in the refectory where we listened to the “Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum” on the radio (no transmissions of TV by satellite yet). When we heard the news, we went immediately to an issue of Life magazine which had a spread on the papabili, and there we found a photo of a cardinal who looked like nothing more than a fat, self-indulgent Renaissance prelate. We wondered what we were getting.
We found out soon enough. Fewer than a hundred days after his election, he announced that he intended to convoke an ecumenical council, and thereby became “a transitional pope” in senses not dreamed of by those who elected him to fulfil that role.