After the canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII in April 2014, it was the turn of a third pope to be raised to the altars in 2014. Sunday, Oct. 19, Pope Francis presided over a solemn Mass in St. Peter’s Square for the closing of the extraordinary Synod of bishops on the family, and the beatification of Pope Paul VI. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who was made a Cardinal by the newly Blessed in 1977, was present at the beatification and was greeted warmly by Pope Francis at the start of the Mass. From now on, Blessed Paul VI will be celebrated liturgically September 26, the date of his birth. (Giovanni Battista Montini was born on September 26, 1897, and passed away on August 6, 1978, the Feast of the Transfiguration.) The relic brought near the altar after the beatification formula was a shirt stained with Paul VI’s blood after a knife attack in Manila airport in the Philippines on November 27, 1970. Here are excerpts from Pope Francis’ homily:
“When we look to this great Pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle, we cannot but say in the sight of God a word as simple as it is heartfelt and important: thanks! Thank you, our dear and beloved Pope Paul VI! Thank you for your humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his Church!
“In his personal journal, the great helmsman of the Council wrote, at the conclusion of its final session: ‘Perhaps the Lord has called me and preserved me for this service not because I am particularly fit for it, or so that I can govern and rescue the Church from her present difficulties, but so that I can suffer something for the Church, and in that way it will be clear that he, and no other, is her guide and saviour’. In this humility the grandeur of Blessed Paul VI shines forth: before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord.
“Paul VI truly “rendered to God what is God’s” by devoting his whole life to the “sacred, solemn and grave task of continuing in history and extending on earth the mission of Christ” (Homily for the Rite of Coronation, June 30, 1963), loving the Church and leading her so that she might be “a loving mother of the whole human family and at the same time the minister of its salvation” (Encyclical Letter Ecclesiam Suam, Prologue).”
At the conclusion of the Holy Mass, before the recitation of the Angelus, Pope Francis stressed how much Paul VI had been a missionary and Marian Pope: “I thank you all for your presence and exhort you to faithfully follow the teachings and example of the newly Blessed. He was a staunch supporter of the mission ad gentes; a testimony of this is the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi with which he intended to awaken the enthusiasm and commitment to the mission of the Church. It is important to consider this aspect of the Pontificate of Paul VI, especially today as we celebrate World Mission Day.
“Before all together invoking Our Lady with the Angelus prayer, I would like to underline the profound Marian devotion of Blessed Paul VI. To this Pontiff, the Christian people will always be grateful for the Apostolic Exhortation Marialis cultus and for having proclaimed Mary as “The Mother of the Church”, on the occasion of the closing of the third session of the Second Vatican Council. Mary, Queen of Heaven, help us to carry out faithfully in our lives the will of the Lord, as the newly Blessed had done.”
H H H
The pontificate of Paul VI (1963-1978) was not an easy one. This was a period of upheavals like the May 1968 revolution, with the slogan “It is forbidden to forbid”, when everything was questioned. It took a lot of courage for Pope Paul VI to hold firm despite all the storms and challenges, and keep on course faith in Jesus and his Church. If several popes have been beatified or canonized recently, it is precisely because they were souls with exceptional qualities. We can not thank enough Heaven for having given us Popes like John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, and one can easily extend this thankfulness for Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, who are of similar calibre. In gratitude for these gifts from Heaven, let us all respond to Pope Francis’ frequent request: “Please pray for me.”
Four days after Paul VI’s death, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then Archbishop of Munich (and future Pope Benedict XVI) celebrated a Mass for the late Pope Paul VI. Here are excerpts:
“Paul VI carried out his service for the faith. He was obliged to accept criticism for this... Today, however, to the eyes of our time, a Pope who does not stand up to criticism will fail in his task. Paul VI resisted telecracy (television that dictates what public opinion will be) and demoscopia (public opinion polling), the two dictatorial powers of the present time. He was able to do so because he did not adopt success and approval as the parameter, but rather his conscience, which is measured by truth and by faith...
“For this reason he was able to be inflexible and decisive when the essential Tradition of the Church was at stake. This firmness within him did not stem from the insensitivity of one whose path is dictated by the pleasure of power and contempt for people, but from the depth of his faith which enabled him to stand up to opposition.”