Paul VI elected Pope
Pope Paul VI (Latin: Paulus PP. VI; Italian: Paolo VI), born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini (26 September 1897 – 6 August 1978), reigned as Pope of the Roman Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 1963 to 1978.
Succeeding Pope John XXIII, who had convened the Second Vatican Council, he decided to continue it. He fostered improved ecumenical relations with Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants, which resulted in a number of historic meetings and agreements.
Montini served in the Vatican’s State Department from 1922 to 1954. While in the State Department, Montini and Domenico Tardini were considered as the closest and most influential co-workers of Pope Pius XII, who named him in 1954 Archbishop of the largest Italian dioceses, Milan, a function which made him automatically Secretary of the Italian Bishops Conference. John XXIII elevated him to the College of Cardinals in 1958, and after his death, Montini was considered the favourite successor.
He took on the name Paul, to indicate a renewed worldwide mission to spread the message of Christ. He re-opened the Second Vatican Council, which was automatically closed with the death of John XXIII and gave it both priorities and direction. After the Council concluded its work, Paul VI took charge of the interpretation and implementation of its mandates, often walking a thin line between the conflicting expectations of various groups within the Roman Catholic Church. The magnitude and depth of the reforms affecting all areas of Church life during his pontificate exceeded similar reform policies of his predecessors and successors.
Paul VI was a Marian devotee, speaking repeatedly to Marian congresses and mariological meetings, visiting Marian shrines and issuing three Marian encyclicals. Following his famous predecessor Ambrose of Milan, he named Mary to be the Mother of the Church during the Vatican Council. Paul VI sought the dialogue with the world, with other Christians, religions, atheism, excluding nobody. He saw himself as a humble servant for a suffering humanity and demanded significant changes of the rich in American and Europe in favour of the poor in the Third World.
His positions on birth control (see Humanae Vitae) and other issues were controversial in Western Europe and North America, but applauded in Eastern and Southern Europe and Latin America. His pontificate took place during sometimes revolutionary changes in the world, student revolts, the Vietnam War and other upheavals. Paul VI tried to understand it all but at the same time defend the Deposit of Faith as it was entrusted to him. Paul VI died on 6 August 1978, the Feast of the Transfiguration. The diocesan process for beatification Paul VI began on 11 May 1993.
The Coronation of Pope Paul VIMontini was generally seen as Pope John's heir apparent, a fact acknowledged by John himself, though he jokingly used to tease Montini as being Our Hamlet on account of Montini's alleged indecisiveness. Montini was an enthusiastic supporter of Pope John's decision to establish the Second Vatican Council. When John died of cancer in 1963, Montini finally was elected to the papacy, where he took the name Paul VI. He brought the Second Vatican Council to completion in 1965 and directed the implementation of its directives until his death in 1978. He was also the last pope to be crowned; his successor Pope John Paul I abolished the ceremony during his reign, though it could be reinstated. He donated his own Papal Tiara to the Basilica of National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC. In 1965 he established the Synod of Bishops but controversially withdrew two issues from its authority, priestly celibacy and the issue of artificial contraception and made both the subject of controversial encyclicals.
Pope Paul's most controversial decision occurred on July 24, 1968, when in his encyclical Humanae Vitae, "Of Human Life", he rejected the recommendations of a commission established by John XXIII and reaffirmed the Catholic Church's disapproval of artificial birth control. His decision was unexpected, as many in the catholic world expected the Church to accept with some reservations the technological advances that had produced the contraceptive pill. In subsequent decades, the vast majority of baptised Catholics opted to use birth control in spite of church teaching. To its supporters, Humanæ Vitae is seen as a valued and welcome reaffirming of the sanctity of human sexuality and the procreative act. To his many opponents, Humanæ Vitæ is seen as a calamity akin to Pope Pius IX's Syllabus of Errors, with the church turning its back on technological advances that could help humanity deal with the problems of serial births and climbing birth rates, particularly in the Third World. While his successor, Pope John Paul I in a meeting with United Nations population experts during his short reign did give some indication that Humanæ Vitæ might be changed somewhat, Pope John Paul II unambiguously supported the encyclical.
Papal Coat of Arms
of Pope Paul VIHis predecessor and great friend, Pope John XXIII, once called Montini "Our Hamlet" for his notorious bouts of indecisiveness, most famously in his inability to decide how to deal with the scandal-ridden American Cardinal Cody, where he constantly changed his mind over whether or not to remove Cody. He also could not decide on how to handle the controversial anti-Vatican II Archbishop Lefebvre, who challenged papal authority by refusing to accept the New Mass and liturgical reforms produced by Vatican II. In the end, Lefebvre remained largely unchallenged until the election of John Paul II in 1978.
As he became increasingly elderly, Pope Paul openly spoke of abdicating the papal throne and going into retirement. As in other areas, his indecision led to no decision; he remained in the papacy until his death.
A few months before his death, he celebrated the solemn funeral of Aldo Moro (after his murder by the Red Brigades), who had sent him a famous letter from his prison. Moro and Montini had been together in the FUCI, a catholic association for university students, many years before, and in time had become perhaps the two most important catholic figures in Italy.
The Pilgrim Pope
Pope Paul VI became the first pope to visit all five continents, and was until the election of Pope John Paul II the most travelled pope in history, earning the nickname the Pilgrim Pope. In 1970 he was subject to an assassination attempt in the Philippines. While the Vatican denied it, subsequent evidence suggests Pope Paul did indeed receive a stab wound in the incident. Pope Paul became the first pope to meet a protestant Archbishop of Canterbury and the first for centuries to meet the heads of various Eastern Orthodox faiths.
On June 29, 1972 Pope Paul VI in a homily delivered a strikingly downbeat analysis of the state of the Roman Catholic Church post Vatican II. He told a congregation:
We believed that after the Council would come a day of sunshine in the history of the Church. But instead there has come a day of clouds and storms, and of darkness ... And how did this come about? We will confide to you the thought that may be, we ourselves admit in free discussion, that may be unfounded, and that is that there has been a power, an adversary power. Let us call him by his name: the devil.
His fears of satanic infiltration of the Church were even more pronounced in a later sentence which is widely quoted by ultra-conservative catholics. He said:
It is as if from some mysterious crack, no, it is not mysterious, from some crack the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God.
What he was alluding to was never explained.
Gianbattista Montini was elected Pope in 1963 upon the death of John XXIII. The new Pope took the name of Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, because of Paul's role to the proclamation of the Gospel to the four corners of the earth. It fell to Pope Paul VI to complete the work of the Second Vatican Council and to see that Vatican II's teaching was implemented in the life of the Church. Though less jovial and humorous than his predecessor, Pope Paul VI was an inspiration in his relentless energy in serving the Lord. It was he who began the international Papal travel that was taken up so effectively by Pope John Paul II. Pope Paul VI died in 1978 and was succeeded by Pope John Paul I.