SAINT PAUL VI (1897-1978), pope
Today, the Church honors Pope Saint Paul VI, the 261st successor to Saint Peter as the Bishop of Rome.
Born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini to a wealthy upper-class family in the Lombardy region of northern Italy on Sept. 26, 1897, Giovanni entered the seminary in 1916. After his ordination in 1920, he was sent to Rome to study at the Gregorian University and the University of Rome. In 1922, he was transferred to the Ecclesiastical Academy, the training institution for papal diplomats.
After serving as a papal diplomat in the nunciature in Warsaw for a year, he was sent to Rome for health reasons. He was then assigned to the Vatican Secretariat of State, where he remained for 30 years.
In 1937, he served as sostituto (deputy) to Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the future Venerable Pope Pius XII, who was then the Vatican secretary of state. During the World War II, Father Montini remained in that position and was responsible for organizing the extensive relief work and the care of political refugees.
In 1953, Pope Pius XII appointed Father Montini as archbishop of Milan, where he is reported to have “revitalized the entire diocese” by preaching the social message of the Gospel, appealing to the working class and promoting Catholic education at every level.
Elected pope on June 21, 1963, and taking the name of Paul VI, he led the Church through the Second Vatican Council that was begun by Pope Saint John XXIII. He committed himself to a continuation of the work of his predecessor and had to deal with tension between papal primacy and the collegiality of the episcopacy. On September 14, 1965, he announced the establishment of the Synod of Bishops called for by the Council fathers.
Arguably his most famous legacy was his landmark 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae [Of Human Life]” on the regulation of birth – a document produced amid much opposition and which continues to be opposed even today by certain progressive elements within the Church, but which has been widely viewed as prophetic. Prior to that, in 1967, he had produced an encyclical on aid and development, “Populorum Progressio [Development of Peoples]”.
Those who knew Pope Paul VI best have described him as a brilliant man, deeply spiritual, humble, reserved and gentle, a man of “infinite courtesy”. He opened a new era of papal travel and became the first pope to address the United Nations in 1965. He died on Aug. 6, 1978, the Feast of the Transfiguration.
Pope Paul VI was beatified by Pope Francis I on October 19, 2014. Also present at the ceremony was Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, whom Paul VI appointed as archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany, in 1977.
During the Beatification Mass, Pope Francis stated during his homily, “When we look to this great pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle, we cannot but say in the sight of God a word as simple as it is heartfelt and important: Thank you. Thank you, our dear and beloved Pope Paul VI! Thank you for your humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his Church.”
Four years later, Blessed Paul VI was canonized, along with six other new saints, by Pope Francis on October 14, 2018 in Vatican City. Pope Francis said of Saint Paul VI at the canonization ceremony, “[He] spent his life for Christ’s Gospel, crossing new boundaries and becoming its witness in proclamation and in dialogue, a prophet of a Church turned outwards, looking to those far away and taking care of the poor.”
We commemorate his feastday on May 29.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, ncregister.com and w2.vatican.va)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Commons for Pastors ~ pope)
“All-powerful and Ever-living God, You called Saint Paul VI to guide Your people by his word and example. With him, we pray to You: watch over the pastors of Your Church with the people entrusted to their care, and lead them to salvation.
“We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”