ONE of the great popes of modern times, Paul VI–who was the target of an assassination attempt at the Manila International Airport on November 27, 1970–will be beatified today in Rome.
Last May, the Holy See’s Congregation for the Causes of the Saints announced that it had unanimously recognized the miraculous sudden healing from an incurable brain illness of an unborn baby to be due to Pope Paul VI’s intercession. The healing could not be explained on medical grounds. The child was born in California, USA, and is now a healthy teenager.
A friend of Angelo Roncalli–who became Pope John XXIII, convened the Second Vatican Council, and is now a canonized saint–the former Cardinal Giovanni Bautista was elected Pope on June 21, 1963.
Pope Francis, in June last year, during the 50th Anniversary of the late Pope’s election, named the three most remarkable aspects of Paul VI’s papacy as “his love for Christ, for the Church and for mankind.” He said Paul VI’s testimony “feeds us the flame of love for Christ, love for the Church, and gives us the momentum to announce the Gospel to the people of today, with mercy, patience, courage, and joy.”
Paul VI reigned from 1963 to 1978. He was praised for his efforts to advance the unity of all Christians and for his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae which underlines the Church’s opposition to artificial contraception and reiterates the value of marriage, the family and human life including the life in the womb.
Pope Paul VI (Latin: Paulus VI), born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini, on September 26, 1897 and died on August 6, 1978), reigned until his death. Succeeding Pope John XXIII, he re-convoked the Second Vatican Council, which was automatically closed on St. John XXIII’s death. Pope Paul VI adjourned Vatican II in 1965 after it had concluded its work. During his reign he began the implementation of the Vatican II’s numerous reforms and fostered improved ecumenical relations with Eastern Orthodox and Protestant churches, which resulted in many historic meetings, agreements and the start of ecumenical dialogues.
The late Pope, who will be called Blessed after the beatification Mass, took the pontifical name Paul VI to indicate his resolve to lead the Church on a renewed worldwide mission to spread the message of Christ, as St. Paul did. Paul VI was seen to have taken charge of the interpretation and implementation of Vatican II’s mandates, and was often criticized by extremists on both sides for staying in the middle of conflicts between conservatives and progressives in the Church. But the depth and magnitude of reforms he introduced following Vatican II’s mandates are described to have surpassed those of his predecessors.
A devotee of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, he spoke at global Marian congresses and mariological meetings, visited Marian shrines and issued three Marian encyclicals. During the Vatican Council he formally named Mary “Mother of the Church.”
He sought dialogues not only with the Catholics’ separated brethren but with people of non-Christian faiths and even atheists. He spoke for the poor and those excluded from the benefits of materialism and called on the rich in North America and Europe to change their policies to relieve the sufferings of humanity in the other continents of the globe.
He also appealed to the Western Powers to work for peace and stop the policy of war at the time when the Vietnam War was raging.
Among his encyclicals is Humanae Vitae, which affirms the Church’s stand on the sanctity and value of marriage and the family as well as the ban on artifical contraception. Later, St. John Paul II championed and even expanded and deepened Pope Paul VI’s calls for fidelity to the doctrines of the Church on the sanctity of human life.