Tag Archives: Pope Paul VI

Pope Paul VI remembered for a faith that is open

The Venerable Servant of God Pope Paul VI died on this day in 1978, the Feast of the Transfiguration. He was the Roman Pontiff for 15 years. Notable in his pontificate were several events: the closing of the Second Vatican Council, the erection of the created a Secretariat for non-Christians, later renamed the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the publication of 7 encyclicals including the most contentious of the 20th century, Humane Vitae, the mutual lifting of the ex communications between Rome and Constantinople (Patriarch Athenagoras) and the meeting with Pope Shenouda III (of Egypt) resolving Christological differences, the meeting with Archbishop Michael Ramsey of Canterbury, plus he held 6 consistories that created 143 cardinals. The reform of the sacred Liturgy is likely the one enduring bone of contention that gets lots of people riled up to this day.

It must be said in my opinion, not all the problems that Paul faced were of his making. Society was haywire which adversely affected the Church in all quadrants.

Back in June the Vatican newspaper published a translation of a homily likely never read in English by many Americans given to honor the deceased Pontiff by the cardinal-archbishop of Munich, Joseph Ratzinger.

In a homily given by Joseph Ratzinger recalling Pope Paul VI, he said, “the transfiguration promised by the faith as the transformation of man is above all a journey of purification, a journey of suffering. Paul VI accepted his papal service increasingly as a transformation of faith in suffering. The last words of the Risen Lord to Peter, after constituting him as the Shepherd of his flock, were: “when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go” (Jn 21:18).  It was a reference to the cross awaiting Peter  at the end of his journey. It was, in general, a reference to the nature of this service. Paul VI let himself be lead more and more where as a human being he did not want to go alone. More and more the pontificate meant for him wearing the cloth of another, being nailed to the cross. (…) He gave new value to authority as service, bearing it as suffering. He took no pleasure in power, in position, in a successful career; and it was precisely because of this, his dutiful authority – ‘they will lead you where you do not want to go’ – became great and credible. Paul VI  carried out his service by faith. From this derived  both his firmness and his willingness to compromise. For both he was criticized, and some comments after his death were even in bad taste.  But today a Pope who  isn’t criticized  would be failing to carry out his duty to this age.  Paul VI resisted the intense scrutiny of the media, the powers of the day. He could do this because he didn’t consider success and approval the measure of truth and faith, but rather his conscience.

Those who met him in his last years were able to experience directly his extraordinary transformation in faith, its transfiguring power. One could see how much the man, who by his nature was an intellectual, surrendered himself day after day to Christ, how he let himself be changed, transformed, purified by him, and  how this made him ever more free, ever more profound, good, perceptive and simple.

Faith is a death, but it is also a metamorphosis for entering into authentic life, towards transfiguration. In Pope Paul one could see all this. Faith gave him courage. Faith gave him goodness. And in him it was also clear that a faith of conviction is not closed but open. In the end, our memory will treasure the image of a man who held out his hands. He was the first Pope to have travelled to all the continents, fixing in this way an itinerary of the Spirit, which began in Jerusalem, the centre of meeting and of parting of the three great monotheistic religions; then his journey to the United Nations, to Geneva, his meeting with humanity’s greatest non-monotheistic religious cultures, India, and his pilgrimage to the people who suffer in Latin America, in Africa, in Asia. Faith holds out its hands. Its sign is not a fist, but an open hand”.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
1978 homily for Pope Paul VI
L’Osservatore Romano
21 June 2013

Paul VI’s Last Will and Testament

Pope Paul VI, of blessed memory, died on this date in 1978. In history, late summer at that time became known as the year of three popes. Paul’s now being consider for sainthood and thus carries the ecclesial title of Servant of God. His last Last Will and Testament follows. Thought it would be interesting to read; there are some key interesting statements of faith and person. 

Some notes for my testament.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

1. I fix my gaze on the mystery of death, and on what follows it, in the light of Christ which alone can brighten it, and for this reason with simple and serene trust. I recognize the truth, which for me has always reflected on present life regarding this mystery, and I bless the victor over death for having escaped its shadows and unveiled the light. Thus before death, in total and definitive separation from the present life, I feel the duty to celebrate the gift, the good fortune, the beauty, the destiny of this very fleeting existence. Lord, I thank you that you have called me to life, and still more that, by making me a Christian, you have regenerated and destined me for the fullness of life.

Likewise I feel the duty to thank and to bless those who were mediators for me of the gifts of life bestowed on me by you, O Lord: those who brought me to life (Oh! May my most worthy parents be blessed!), those who educated me, wished me well, were kind to me, helped me and surrounded me with good example, attention, affection, trust, kindness, courtesy, friendship, faithfulness, respect. I am thinking with thanks about the natural and spiritual relationships which have given origin, aid, comfort and significance to my humble existence. How many gifts, how many beautiful and noble things, how much hope have I received in this world!

Now that the day is setting, and all is finishing and this stupendous, dramatic temporal and earthly scene is disappearing, how again can I thank you, O Lord, for the gift of faith and of grace, higher than the gift of natural life, in which at the end my being takes refuge?

How can I worthily celebrate your kindness, O Lord, for having been included just as I entered into this world, in the ineffable world of the Catholic Church? For having been called and initiated into the priesthood of Christ? For having the joy and mission of serving souls, brothers, youth, the poor, the people of God, and for having the unmerited honor of being a minister of the holy Church, in Rome especially, next to the Pope, then in Milan as archbishop on a throne too exalted for me, the most venerable throne of Sts. Ambrose and Charles, and finally on that supreme, most formidable and most holy throne of St. Peter? I will sing out the Lord’s mercies forever.

May all those whom I have met on my earthly pilgrimage be blessed and saluted: those who were my collaborators, counsellors, and friends–and they were many, such good people, generous and dear! Blessed be those who welcomed my ministry and were my sons and brothers in Our Lord!

To you, Ludovico and Francesco, brothers in blood and spirit, and to all you dear ones of my home, who never asked anything of me, and never had from me any earthly favor, and who always gave me an example of human and Christian virtues, you who understood me with so much discretion and cordiality and who above all helped me to seek in the present life the life of the future — my peace and my benediction be with you.

The mind turns back and its horizons broaden around me, and I know well that this farewell would not be a happy one, were I not to remember to ask pardon of those I’ve offended, failed to serve or failed to love enough, and to ask pardon of anyone who desires it of me. May the Lord’s peace be with you.

I feel that the Church surrounds me. O holy Church, one, catholic and apostolic, receive my supreme act of love with a salute and blessing.

To you, Rome, diocese of St. Peter and of the vicar of Christ, most beloved to this last servant of the servants of God, I give my most paternal and full blessing so that you, city of the world, will be always mindful of your mysterious vocation and with human virtue and Christian faith, know how to respond to your spiritual and universal mission, however long will be the world’s history.

And to all of you venerated brothers in the episcopate, my cordial and reverent greeting. I am with you in the one faith, in service together to the Gospel, for the building up of the Church of Christ and for the salvation of all humanity.

To all priests, to men and women religious, to students in our seminaries, to militant and faithful Catholics, to youth, to the suffering, the poor, seekers of the truth and justice, to all, the benediction of the Pope who is dying.

And thus, with special reverence and recognition for the lord cardinals and for all the Roman Curia: Before you who surrounded me most closely, I profess solemnly our faith, I declare our hope, I celebrate our charity which does not die by accepting humbly from divine will the death which is my destiny, invoking the great mercy of the Lord, imploring the clement intercession of most holy Mary, of the angels and saints, and recommending my soul to the remembrance of the good.

2. I name the Holy See my universal heir: I owe it duty, gratitude, love. Except for the dispositions herewith indicated.

3. My private secretary is to be executor of my testament. He will want to take counsel with the secretariat of state and conform to the juridical norms in force and to good Church custom.

4. Concerning the things of this world: I have decided to die poor and thus simplify any question in this regard.

As for possessions and properties which I still have from my family, my brothers Ludovico and Francesco are to dispose of them freely; I beg of them some remembrance for my soul and for those of our dead. May they bestow some alms on needy persons and good causes. May they keep for themselves, and give to those who merit and desire it, some memento from among the possessions, religious objects or books belonging to me. May the notes, notebooks, correspondence and my personal writings be destroyed.

Concerning the other things which can be considered my own: My personal secretary is to dispose of them, as executor, keeping some mementos for himself and giving some small object as a memory to my best friends. I would like manuscripts and notes written in my own hand to be destroyed; and may the correspondence received of a spiritual and confidential nature which was not intended to be shown to others be burnt. If the executor cannot see to this, may the secretary of state take on the job.

5. I strongly urge my possessions be disposed of for proper remembrances and as generous contributions, as much as possible.

About the funeral: May it be pious and simple. (May the catafalque now in use for pontifical funeral rites be substituted by a humble and decorous contrivance.) The tomb: I would like to be in real earth, with a humble marker indicating the place and asking for Christian mercy. No monument for me.

6. And concerning what counts most, my departure from this world’s scene and my journey to meet the judgment and mercy of God: I would have so many, many things to say.

On the state of the Church: May she listen to a few of our words, uttered with seriousness and love for her.

Concerning the Council: May it be brought to a good climax and be executed faithfully. Regarding ecumenism: May the work of bringing together separated brothers proceed with much understanding, patience and great love, but without defecting from true Catholic doctrine.

Concerning the world: Do not think the Church can help it by assuming its thoughts, customs, tastes, but rather by studying it, loving it, serving it.

I close my eyes upon this sad, dramatic and magnificent earth calling once again still on divine kindness. I again bless everyone. Especially Rome, Milan, Brescia. A special blessing and greeting to the Holy Land, the land of Jesus, where I was a pilgrim of faith and peace.

And to the Church, to the most beloved Catholic Church, and to the whole of humanity, my apostolic blessing.

Then: Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

PAULUS PP VI
Given in Rome, near St. Peter
June 30, 1965, third year of our pontificate.

Complementary note to my testament:

Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. My soul magnifies the Lord. Mary! I believe. I hope. I love. In Christ. I thank those who have done good to me. I ask pardon of those to whom I have not done good. I give peace to all in the Lord. I greet my dearest brother Ludovico and all my relatives and friends, and those who have welcomed my ministry. To all collaborators, thank you. Especially to the secretariat of state. I bless Brescia, Milan, Rome, and the whole Church with special charity. How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord! May everything that is mine go to the Holy See. May dear Don Pasquale Macchi, my private secretary, see to providing for some remembrances and benefices and giving some memento among my books and objects to dear ones. I do not want a special tomb. Some prayers that God may be merciful. In you, O Lord, have I placed my hope. Amen, alleluia. To all my blessing, in the name of the Lord.

PAULUS PP VI

Castelgandolfo, Sept. 16, 1972, 7:30 am.

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Addition to the dispositions of my testament. I want my funeral to be very simple and I do not want any special monument. Some remembrances (benefices and prayers).

PAULUS PP VI
July 14, 1973.

Pacis Nuntius: St Benedict as “exemplar and type of absolute beauty”

Why is Saint Benedict so important for us today? Why spend so much energy trying to promote his cause and to recall his influence upon civilization? One answer is: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” You may want to read “Translating St Benedict” by Dom Hugh of Douai Abbey (UK) who does a fine job at locating a piece of our interest.

I also think it’s a good day to remember that Europe –and the USA– needs its heavenly patron to get it out of the moral, political and human confusion that is wreaking havoc today. I wonder what life in the USA would be like if we had a “new” Benedict? The Servant of God Pope Paul VI wrote Pacis Nuntius (1964), an Apostolic Letter by which he names Saint Benedict as the principle patron of all of Europe. In this document we read in an abbreviated form why Abbot and Saint Benedict was important not only to the Pope, but to a continent.

In everlasting memory

Paul VI in Montecassino.jpg

Messenger of peace, molder of union, magister of civilization, and above all herald of the religion of Christ and founder of monastic life in the West: these are the proper titles of exaltation given to St. Benedict, Abbot. At the fall of the crumbling Roman Empire, while some regions of Europe seemed to have fallen into darkness and others remained as yet devoid of civilization and spiritual values, he it was who, by constant and assiduous effort, brought to birth the dawn of a new era. It was principally he and his sons, who with the cross, the book and the plow, carried Christian progress to scattered peoples from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia, from Ireland to the plains of Poland (Cf. AAS 39 (1947), p. 453). With the cross; that is, with the law of Christ, he lent consistency and growth to the ordering of public and private life. To this end, it should be remembered that he taught humanity the primacy of divine worship through the “opus Dei”, i.e. through liturgical and ritual prayer. Thus it was that he cemented that spiritual unity in Europe, whereby peoples divided on the level of language, ethnicity and culture felt they constituted the one people of God; a unity that, thanks to the constant efforts of those monks who followed so illustrious a teacher, became the distinctive hallmark of the Middle Ages.

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Pope Paul VI elected 50 years ago

GBMontini.jpg

5o years ago today 80 cardinals of the Roman Church elected Giovanni Battista Montini, the cardinal archbishop of Milan, as the Roman Pontiff to succeed Pope John XXIII.


Pope Pius XII gave to Milan his personal gift in the person of Monitni. He succeeded the Benedictine Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster who is now a blessed of the Church in 1954.


Among the many things he did was to confront communism, sexual “freedoms”, published Humane Vitae, closed the Second Vatican Council, set the stage for a new work of evangelization and he worked for unity among Christians, notably with the Orthodox and the Anglicans. Moreover, he set to work to reform the Roman Curia and he renovated the Roman Liturgy. The latter still a contentious point among some people.

Paul’s cause for sainthood is being studied. Pope Benedict XVI certified that the Servant of God Pope Paul VI did indeed live a life of heroic virtue bestowing the title of Venerable.

Pope Paul VI died on the feast of the Transfiguration in 1978.

Pope Francis: cannot believe in Jesus without the Church

In the Pauline Chapel in Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis offered Mass with some of the cardinals on the feast of Saint George, the name day of the Pope, Saint George. There are several stellar points made the Pope noted below with my emphasis. In these days when one’s identity as a Christian is questioned, or even rejected for superficial reasons, I think that if you consider what the Church teaches, especially through the eyes of Pope Benedict and now through Pope Francis, you will notice the truth, not ideology, joy, not grumpiness. The Pope uses another previous pope to help him and us to understand the work of the Church –her mission– under the power of the Holy Spirit.


English: Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter ...

The [first] reading today makes me think that the missionary expansion of the Church began precisely at a time of persecution, and these Christians went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, and proclaimed the Word. They had this apostolic fervor within them, and that is how the faith spread! Some, people of Cyprus and Cyrene – not these, but others who had become Christians – went to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks too. It was a further step. And this is how the Church moved forward. Whose was this initiative to speak to the Greeks? This was not clear to anyone but the Jews. But … it was the Holy Spirit, the One who prompted them ever forward … But some in Jerusalem, when they heard this, became ‘nervous and sent Barnabas on an “apostolic visitation”: perhaps, with a little sense of humor we could say that this was the theological beginning of the Doctrine of the Faith: this apostolic visit by Barnabas. He saw, and he saw that things were going well.


And so the Church was a Mother, the Mother of more children, of many children. It became more and more of a Mother. A Mother who gives us the faith, a Mother who gives us an identity. But the Christian identity is not an identity card: Christian identity is belonging to the Church, because all of these belonged to the Church, the Mother Church. Because it is not possible to find Jesus outside the Church. The great Paul VI said: “Wanting to live with Jesus without the Church, following Jesus outside of the Church, loving Jesus without the Church is an absurd dichotomy.” And the Mother Church that gives us Jesus gives us our identity that is not only a seal, it is a belonging. Identity means belonging. This belonging to the Church is beautiful.


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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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