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Saint Pope Paul VI

For if the sacred liturgy holds first place in the life of the Church, then the Eucharistic Mystery stands at the heart and centre of the liturgy, since it is the font of life that cleanses us and strengthens us to live not for ourselves but for God and to be united to each other by the closest ties of love.

Saint Pope Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei

Saint Pope Paul VI (Or Pope Paulus VI) was the Bishop of Rome (Pope) from June 21st, 1963, to August 6th, 1978 after succeeding Pope John XXIII. Saint Pope Paul VI continued the Second Vatican Council, implemented it's reforms and built bridges to improve ecumenical relations with the Eastern Orthodox Church and several Protestant Churches.

Saint Paul VI was born as Giovanni Battista Montini in Brescia (northern Italy) and was the second of three sons. His father, Giorgio was a lawyer, journalist, director of the Catholic Action and member of the Italian Parliament. His mother Giudetta held linage from a rural nobility family line. His two brothers, Francesco and Lodovico grew to be a physician and lawyer respectively. Four days after his birth, on September 30th, 1897, he was baptized and as a child he attended the local Jesuit school, the Cesare Arici school. He entered the seminary in 1916, full of joy and excitement at the thought of becoming a priest. He was ordained on May 29th, 1920 and celebrated his first Holy Mass in Brescia at the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The very same year he received a doctorate in Canon Law.

In 1922, two years after his ordination and at the age of only 25, Saint Paul VI entered the Secretariat of State where he would work under Giuseppe Pizzzardo. It was here he first met Aldo Moro who would later become Prime Minister. In 1923 he was posted to Poland. Here he found himself greatly troubled by the growing nationalism he experienced, writing:

"This form of nationalism treats foreigners as enemies, especially foreigners with whom one has common frontiers. Then one seeks the expansion of one's own country at the expense of the immediate neighbors. People grow up with a feeling of being hemmed in. Peace becomes a transient compromise between wars."

In 1931, he was appointed to teach history at the Pontifical Academy for Diplomats and in 1937 he was named Substitute for Ordainary Affairs under Cardinal Pacelli, the Secretary of State. Writing later in life about serving under two Popes he wrote:

It is true, my service to the pope was not limited to the political or extraordinary affairs according to Vatican language. The goodness of Pope Pius XII opened to me the opportunity to look into the thoughts, even into the soul of this great pontiff. I could quote many details how Pius XII, always using measured and moderate speech, was hiding, nay revealing a noble position of great strength and fearless courage

When the second world war broke out, Saint Paul VI served as a principle figure in the Secretariat of State and helped formulate replies to the thousands of letters that arrived at the Pope's desk. At the request of Pope Pius XII, he created an information office regarding POWs and refugees - that office received nearly 10 millions requests for information about missing persons and produced over eleven million replies. When Benito Mussolini attacked him for meddling in politics, Pope Pius XII came to his defense strongly. In 1944, he was named Secretariat of State and helped coordinate the assistance to the persecuted hidden in convents, parishes, seminaries and other Catholic institution. Alongside Ferdinando Baldelli and Otto Faller , Saint Paul VI established the Pontifical Commission for Assistance which aided refugees rom throughout Europe with shelter, food and material assistances. In 1944, two million pounds of free food were distributed.

In 1954, Benedictine Cardinal Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster died and Saint Paul VI was appointed to succeed him as the Archbishop of Milan (which also made him the Secretary of the Italian Bishops conference). As Archbishop he frequently called himself the Archbishop of the Workers and visited factories frequently in an attempt to win disaffected workers back to the Catholic Faith. He strongly believed that Churches are the only non-utilitarian buildings in modern society and were a necessary place of spiritual rest. Following this philosophy he oversaw the building of over 100 additional churches.

During his service as Archbishop in Milan he reformed pastoral care and used his authority to ensure the liturgical reforms of Pope Pius XII were carried out. He hoped to re-introduce the Faith without too much religion, saying:

If only we can say Our Father and know what this means, then we would understand the Christian faith.

In 1958, Saint Pius VI was the first of 23 cardinals named by Pope John XXIII. As Cardinal he helped prepare the Second Vatican Council and enthusiastically participated in it's first sessions. He journeyed to Africa in 1962, visiting Ghana, Sudan, Kenya, Congo, Rhodesia, South Africa and Nigeria. He also visited Brazil and the United States as Cardinal.

During the Papal Conclave in 1963, he was seen as the most likely successor due to his closeness to both of the previous Popes, his administrative and diplomatic abilities, and his identification with neither the left or right wings of the Vatican. On June 21st, he was elected Pope on the sixth ballot of the Papal Conclave and chose the name of Paul VI in honor of Saint Paul the Apostle. Saint Pope Paul VI was the last Pope to be crowned on June 30th, 1963 and immediately set out to do away with much of the regal splendor of the papacy.

Now Pope, Saint Paul VI continued the Second Vatican Council and brought it to completion on December 8th, 1965. Saint Paul VI also immediately took a focused effort of restoring communication between Rome and Constantinople which lead to the Catholic-Orthodox Joint declaration of 1965. The Declaration, read on December 7th in both Rome and Istanbul, rescinded the excommunications of the Great Schism of 1054. Though it did not end the schism, it did bring both churches back into a state of desiring for reconciliation. In May of 1973, the Coptic Patriarch Shenouda III of Alexandria visited with Saint Paul VI three times and proclaimed a joint Creed that showed unity on many theological issues.

Saint Paul VI was also the first pope to receive an Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, which he did with Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher. After the Archbishop praised Saint Paul VI, Saint Paul replied with :

"by entering into our house, you are entering your own house, we are happy to open our door and heart to you."

On March 16th, 1978, Saint Paul VI's friend from his earlier days, the former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro, was kidnapped and held hostage by an Italian terrorist group known as the Red Brigades. Saint Paul VI wrote a letter to the Red Brigades saying:

"I have no mandate to speak to you, and I am not bound by any private interests in his regard. But I love him as a member of the great human family as a friend of student days and by a very special title as a brother in faith and as a son of the Church of Christ. I make an appeal that you will certainly not ignore. On my knees I beg you, free Aldo Moro, simply without conditions, not so much because of my humble and well-meaning intercession, but because he shares with you the common dignity of a brother in humanity. Men of the Red Brigades, leave me, the interpreter of the voices of so many of our fellow citizens, the hope that in your heart feelings of humanity will triumph. In prayer and always loving you I await proof of that."

Unfortunately the appeal did not work, as the body of Aldo Moro was found on May 9th.

Saint Pope Paul VI authored seven encyclicals -

  • Ecclesiam suam - In it, Saint Paul IV identified the Catholic Church with the Body of Christ. He appealed to all to create dialogue within the church and between Churches and Atheism.

  • Mense maio - This encyclical was focused on The Blessed Virgin Mary

  • Mysterium fidei - Writing about the mystery of faith, Saint Paul IV opposed any concept or notion that gave the Eucharist a purely symbolic nature

  • Christi Matri - Called for Christians to pray the Rosary heavily during the month of October and called for special devotions for her to invoke her intercession for peace. It discussed the war in Vietnam, the growing armaments race, racism, obsession for revolution and the slaughter of innocent people.

  • Populorum progressio - This encyclical discussed the idea that the economy of the world should serve mankind, not just an elite. It discussed traditional Catholic social teaching such as the right to a just wage, fair working conditions, etc.

  • Sacerdotalis caelibatus - a strong defense of priestly celibacy

  • Humanae vitae - His most famous encyclical ; it reaffirmed the Catholic Church's teachings on marriage and martial relations as well as it's strong condemnation of artificial birth control.

On Sunday in July of 1978, on the Feast of the Transfiguration, Saint Paul VI fell ill and despite a strong desire to say the Angelus, was forced to remain bedridden as a fever continued to grow in temperature. On August 6th, he participated in Sunday Mass at 6PM from his bed but suffered a heart attack immediately following Holy Communion. For three hours he held on to life but died at 9:41 PM. Following his will, Saint Pius VI was not buried in an ornate sarcophagus but instead was buried in a grave beneath the floor of Saint Peter's Basilica. His confessor, Father Paolo Dezza said:

If Paul VI was not a saint, when he was elected Pope, he became one during his pontificate. I was able to witness not only with what energy and dedication he toiled for Christ and the Church but also and above all, how much he suffered for Christ and the Church. I always admired not only his deep inner resignation but also his constant abandonment to divine providence.

Saint Pope John Paul II opened the beatification process for Saint Paul VI on May 11th, 1993. Pope Benedict XVI, on December 20th, 2012, declared that Paul VI had lived a life of heroic virtue, officially granting him the title of Venerable. Two miracles were presented during the canonization process:

The first occurred in 2003 with a fetus in the mother's womb that was found to have brain defects. The doctor and medical staff advised the mother that an abortion would be the best medical case as the child would not heal from these defects in the womb. The mother refused and sought help from a local nun who provided her with a card that contained a piece of Paul VI's cassock on it. Miraculously, the child was born showing none of the defects and grew to be a teenager with no medical issues. The Inquiry into the miracle went to the Vatican Medical board who voted on December 12th, 2013, that the miracle was indeed "Medically unexplainable".

The second miracle occurred in 2015. Vanna Pironato was hospitalized during pregnancy when her unborn daughter, Amanda Maria, had a premature rupture of the placenta. Vanna and Alberto went to the Santuario della Grazie and prayed for Paul VI's intercession. Their daughter, Amanda, survived for months with the broken placenta. On March 6th, 2018, Pope Francis confirmed the miracle and approved Paul VI's canonization.

Today his feast day is celebrated on May 29th.

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