POPE PAUL VI
Giovanni Battista Montini
(b.1878, el.1963, d.1978)
 

 Pope Paul VI and


The Following is adapted from: The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. Cross, Livingstone; (OUP, 1983).


POPE PAUL VI (1897–1978), Pope from 1963. Giovanni Battista Montini, the son of a parliamentary delegate and editor of a Catholic newspaper, Il Cittadino di Brescia, was a delicate child; he was educated at home and attended the diocesan seminary only as circumstances permitted. After his ordination in 1920 he went to the Sapienza and then the Gregorianum in Rome. Apart from a few months at the nunciature in Warsaw in 1923, he held office in the Papal Secretariat of State from 1922 for over 30 years. In 1931 he became a domestic prelate and in 1938 he accompanied E. Pacelli (the future Pius XII) to the Eucharistic Congress at Budapest. After the death of L. Maglione, the Secretary of State, in 1944, Pius XII appointed no successor and Montini, as pro-secretary for the internal business of the Church, discharged his business directly under the Pope. In this capacity he was responsible for Papal relief work, and he played a large part in the organization of the Holy Year in 1950 and the Marian Year in 1954. His appointment as Abp. of Milan in 1954, involving his departure from Rome, is sometimes thought to have been due to internal Vatican politics. In Milan he did much to restore and rebuild churches destroyed during the Second World War, as well as trying to deal with the acute social problems of a highly industrialized diocese. In 1958, on the death of Pius XII, his name was widely mentioned as a candidate for the Papacy. Pope John XXIII, Shortly after his election, created Montini a Cardinal; he continually brought him forward at the Second Vatican Council, and during the first session Montini was a member of the Secretariat appointed to examine the questions raised by members of the Council. On the death of John XXIII in 1963 he was elected Pope. He quickly promised to continue the Council and declared his intention of pursuing the same policy as his predecessor.

Within three weeks of his election he convened the Second Session of the Vatican Council, which he opened on 29 Sept. 1963. Before the opening of the Sessions he had issued a revised Ordo Concilii to expedite business, and he introduced a number of procedural reforms, Such as the admission of laymen as auditors and the establishment of a press committee. In Nov. 1963 he enlarged the Conciliar Commissions to make them more representative. Before the meeting of the Third Session in 1964, he also admitted Some women, both religious and lay, as auditors. He refused to intervene in the Third Session when he was asked to overrule a decision postponing a vote on the Schema on religious liberty, but on his own authority he modified the Decree on Ecumenism and he declared the BVM ‘Mother of the Church’ despite the fact that the fathers of the Council had refused to attribute the title to her. He also directed that an explanatory note (‘nota praevia’) be added to the text of the 1964 constitution on the Church containing important clarifications. At the Fourth Session he announced that he was establishing a permanent ‘Synod of Bishops’, which would have deliberative as well as consultative powers at the Pope’s discretion. At the close of the Council he proclaimed an extraordinary Jubilee or Holy Year, to be observed from 1 Jan. to Whitsunday (29 May) 1966, in order that the faithful might be familiarized with the teaching of the Council and the life of the Church renewed. [For the decrees of the Council, see vatican council, second.]

Paul VI established a number of post-conciliar Commissions to put into effect the wishes of the Council and confirmed the permanent Secretariats for the Promotion of Christian Unity, for Non-Christian Religions, and for Non-Believers. The most far-reaching reforms of his pontificate were effected largely through the working of these Commissions, most notably the publication of a new Missal in 1970, with its accompanying lectionary, and a new Breviary in 1971, which together involved a reordering of the Mass and Office; these changes coincided with the introduction of the use of the vernacular. Other reforms, such as that of the Codex Iuris Canonici, were put in hand, though this was completed only under John Paul II. Paul VI’s own encyclicals generally appeared more conservative; the most important include Mysterium Fidei (3 Sept. 1965) reaffirming the traditional doctrine of the Eucharist, Sacerdotalis coelibatus (24 June 1967), insisting on the need for priestly celibacy, and Humanae Vitae (25 July 1968) condemning artificial methods of birth control. However, he also dealt with social, economic, and political issues in Populorum Progressio (16 March 1967). After 1968 he had to face growing tensions within the Church; the demand for celibacy was challenged and many religious sought secularization; there was widespread criticism of Humanae Vitae, and traditionalists, such as Abp. M. Lefebvre, refused to accept the conciliar reforms. In 1970 Paul VI proclaimed the first women, St Teresa of Ávila and St Catherine of Siena, Doctors of the Church, but any idea of the ordination of women to the priesthood was firmly rejected. He also convened a number of episcopal synods on social and economic justice and on the priesthood (1971), evangelization (1974), and catechesis (1977).

In Jan. 1964 on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land he embraced Athenagoras, the Oecumenical Part. of Constantinople, in Jerusalem, and at the close of the Vatican Council he took part in a historic gesture of friendship with the Eastern Orthodox Church: before Mass on 7 Dec. 1965 a joint declaration was read in which Paul VI and Athenagoras expressed their mutual regret for the events of 1054, when Cardinal Humbert of Silva Candida and Pair. Michael Cerularius had excommunicated each other. After the Mass the Pope exchanged embraces with Athenagoras’s envoy. With Anglicans and other Churches Paul VI fostered good relations. He received in Rome two Abps. of Canterbury (A. M. Ramsey and F. D. Coggan) and established the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission. He also addressed the World Council of Churches in Geneva in 1969. He was the first Pope to travel extensively abroad, going to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly in 1965 and visiting Uganda in 1969 and the Philippines and Australia in 1970. He expanded the college of cardinals, making it a truly international body, and restricted the right of cardinals to vote in Papal elections to those under the age of 80. He also fixed a retirement age of bishops and clergy at 75. He reorganized the Curia, reduced the ceremonial pomp of the Papacy and sold his tiara for the benefit of the poor. The cause for his beatification was opened on 11 May 1993.

Official does. are pr. in the AAS for the years of his pontificate. Insegnamenti di Paolo VI (16 vols. + index to vols. 1–12, Vatican City, 1965–79; Fr.tr., Documents Pontificaux de Paul VI, 17 vols. + 3 vols. of index covering the whole pontificate, St-Maurice, Switzerland, 1967–83). N. Vian (ed.), Anni e opere di Paolo VI [1978]. Paul VI et la modernité dans l’Église: Actes du Colloque organisé par l’École française de Rome (Rome 2–4 juin, 1983) (Rome and Brescia, 1984). P. Hebblethewaite, Paul VI: The First Modern Pope (1993). P. Arató, SJ, and N. Vian, Paulus pp. VI, 1963–1978: Elenchus Bibliographicus (Pubblicazioni dell’Istituto Paolo VI, 1; Brescia, 1981). There are other specialized vols. in this series and in the series Quaderni dell’Istituto Paolo VI (ibid., 1981 ff.). A. Boland, SJ, in Dict. Sp. 12 (pt. 1; 1984), cols. 522–36, s.v.; G. M. Vian in Enciclopedia dei Papi, 3 (2000), pp. 657–74.


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