52 Ancestors, Week 13: Light a Candle for My Cousin the Pope

My maternal grandmother always said we were related to a Pope. But she died young, and nobody knew exactly what Pope she claimed to be related to, or even if her story was true. In recent years, in researching our family history, I discovered that she was absolutely right! I am a distant cousin of Pope John XXIII, now also known as Saint John XXIII.

When I saw that there is a commemorative candle with his image on it, I knew it was perfect for this week’s theme in the 52 Ancestors project. The theme: Light a Candle.

My cousin the Pope (1881-1963) was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the fourth of thirteen children born to sharecroppers Marianna Mazzola and Giovanni Battista Roncalli. They lived in Sotto il Monte, a village in the province of Bergamo, in the Lombardy region of Italy. He became a priest in 1904, was an army chaplain and stretcher bearer in World War I, and is credited with helping to save 24,000 Jewish refugees from the Nazis in World War II. He served as Pope from 1958 until his death in 1963, and was an energetic church reformer, calling the Second Vatican Council, and a tireless advocate for human rights. In fact, he is often called The Good Pope, and in 2014 was named a Saint, which I suppose is even better than having your face on a candle.

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