Throwback Thursday: Pope in the Tree

Pope (and Saint) John XXIII

My genealogical research has turned up something interesting in my family tree. All my life I’ve heard family rumors that I’m related to a Pope (no, not a direct descendant) but I never knew for sure. And I had no details about which Pope or how I might be related, if it was true at all. This week, I figured it out. Pope John XXIII – the one who called the Vatican 2 conference that reformed the Roman Catholic Church — is a relative, however distant, on my mother’s side.

He was born in 1881 as Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, one of 13 children in a family of poor sharecroppers in the Lombardy region of Italy. He was Pope from 1958 until his death in 1963. He has been recognized by the Wallenberg Foundation for saving the lives of many Jews during World War II. And he played a key role talking both sides down during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Pope John XXIII has been canonized as a saint, and is today affectionately known as “the Good Pope.”

If my calculations are correct, he was the second cousin of the wife of my great great granduncle. I’m not religious, but I think this is pretty cool!

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