Having hitherto used only a free, online version of Peter Hebblethwaite’s biography “Pope John XXIII”, it was quite a treat to finally find myself with a used hardcopy version. Although it took some months for it to arrive from the States, it was well worth the wait.
A casual initial flip through the book yielded this very revealing photograph, taken in 1901. It shows a group of seminarians, including the future Pope John XXIII, Angelo Roncalli. Roncalli is in the back row, on the extreme right.
As can be seen in the main image, one of the seminarians was photographed with his hand inside his cassock – a very intentional gesture designed, surely, to indicate this young man’s Masonic connections.
To the right of this potential priest is Angelo Roncalli, (circled in red) with his hand on the shoulder of the Mason.
The photograph’s caption reads, “Angelo’s ‘year’ at the Roman seminary, 1901; he is at the right hand end of the back row.”
This ‘year’ was Roncalli’s first year of theology, at the age of nineteen. Awarded a scholarship, he had relocated to Rome to continue his studies for the priesthood. Roncalli had entered the minor seminary at the age of twelve, receiving the tonsure in 1895.
When time permits, I will research the names of Roncalli’s classmates and promise to keep you posted. Who knows? I may even get my book on John XXII finished one day.
(A quick look at ordination dates would indicate that this is not Roncalli’s friend, Ernesto Buonaiuti, who was later excommunicated for his extreme Modernism.)