The mortal remains of St. John XXIII will spend more than two weeks away from the Vatican on a “peregrination” to the northern Italian towns where he grew up and served as a priest, the Diocese of Bergamo stated.
Exposed for veneration at an altar inside St. Peter’s Basilica, the saint’s body will return to his home diocese May 24-June 10 marking the 55th anniversary of his death and the publication of his encyclical on establishing universal peace, Pacem in terris.
The trip was announced last year after Pope Francis approved a request by the Bergamo diocese. It will includes stops at various places in the diocese, where St. John XXIII served as a priest for more than 20 years, and in the town of Sotto il Monte, where he was born.
The theme of the visit, “We start from the land where I was born and then continue up to heaven,” was modified from a quotation of St. John XXIII where he referenced a line from the Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis: “Dimitte omnia et invenies omnia — Leave everything and you will find everything.”
The schedule for the pilgrimage of “Good Pope John,” will begin May 24, when the reliquary containing his body will arrive at the city center in Bergamo.
Following, the body will be transferred to a local prison, recalling the time he visited a prison in Rome and said: “I put my eyes in your eyes, I put my heart next to your heart,” stated a press release from the Diocese of Bergamo.
The reliquary will then be moved to a local seminary dedicated to the saint. At 9:00 p.m. that day the relics will be solemnly welcomed in the Bergamo cathedral.
It will remain at the cathedral through May 27, when it will be brought to a new hospital, also dedicated to the saint, to recall his historic visit to the sick of the Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome.
From there the body will be brought to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Cornabusa, to whom St. John XXIII was especially devoted. In 1908, when he was a young priest, he was present for the coronation of the Marian image. He later also presided over the 50th anniversary Mass of the coronation in 1958, just months before he was elected pope.
The body will then stop at the Franciscan monastery at Baccanello. In the evening a candlelit procession will accompany the body from the church of Carvico, where the saint was confirmed, to Sotto il Monte, where he was born. The relics will remain in the church of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peace for veneration until June 10.
St. John XXIII was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli in Sotto il Monte Nov. 25, 1881, as the fourth of 13 children. He was ordained a priest of the Bergamo diocese in 1904, at the age of 22, serving there until he was selected for the Vatican's diplomatic corps and consecrated a bishop in 1925.
In 1953 he was made a cardinal and appointed Patriarch of Venice. He was elected Bishop of Rome Oct. 28, 1958. He is most remembered for his 1963 encyclical Pacem in terris and for calling the Second Vatican Council.
He was beatified in 2000 and canonized April 17, 2014. While two miracles are typically required for a non-martyr saint to be canonized, in the case of John XXIII, Pope Francis waived the rule and allowed him to be canonized with just one miracle formally acknowledged by the Vatican.