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Paul VI

the Pope (1963-1978) who reconvened the Second Vatican Council, which introduced the largest revision to the Church's Liturgy ever

Pope Paul VI

Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini was born in Concesio, Lomardy, Italy, on September 26, 1897, the son of a prominent lawyer-turned-editor. A frail but intelligent child, he received his early education from the Jesuits near his home in Brescia. He entered the seminary in 1916, but was allowed to live at home due to his health.

Ordained in Brescia on May 29, 1920, Montini was initially sent to study at the Gregorian University and the University of Rome, but in 1922 he transferred to the Accademia dei Nobili Ecclesiastici to study diplomacy, continuing his canon law studies at the Gregorian. In 1923 he was sent to Warsaw as attache of the nunciature, but was recalled to Rome the following year because of the effect of the severe Polish winters on his health and assigned to the office of the Secretariat of State, where he remained for the next thirty years. In 1937, Montini was named Substitute for Ordinary Affairs under Cardinal Pacelli, the Vatican Secretary of State. On Pacelli's election as Pope Pius XII in 1939, Montini was reconfirmed in his position under the new Secretary of State, Cardinal Luigi Maglione. When the latter died in 1944, he became Acting Secretary for Ordinary Affairs. In 1952 he was made Prosecretary of State.

Montini was appointed Archbishop of Milan in 1953, and took "possession" of his See on January 5, 1955. In this capacity, he worked to win back the laboring class, promoted Catholic education at every level, and supported the Catholic press. His impact upon the city at this time was so great that it attracted world-wide attention. At the conclave of 1958, his name was frequently mentioned, and at Pope John XXIII's first consistory in December of that year he was one of 23 prelates raised to the cardinalate. He was subsequently appointed to the Central Preparatory Commission for Vatican II and also to the Technical-Organizational Commission.

His Papacy

Montini was elected to succeed Pope John XXIII on June 21, 1963, and took the name Pope Paul VI.

Paul VI decided to continue Vatican II, which had been suspended upon the death of John XXIII, and brought it to completion in 1965. He then personally supervised implementation of many of its reforms, including the largest revision to the Church's Liturgy ever -- and the first major revision since the Council of Trent.

On September 14, 1965, Paul VI established the Synod of Bishops as a permanent institution of the Church and an advisory body to the papacy. On March 28, 1968, with Pontificalis Domus, and in several additional Apostolic Constitutions in the following years, Paul VI revamped the entire Papal Curia, which included reduction of bureaucracy, streamlining of existing congregations, and a broader representation of non-Italians in the curial positions.

The first pope to visit six continents and the most traveled pope in history to that time, Pope Paul VI was colloquially known as "the Pilgrim Pope." In 1964, he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, becoming the first pope in over 150 years to leave Italy. That was followed by trips to India in 1964, the United States (where he addressed the United Nations) in 1965, Turkey (where he became the first Roman Catholic pontiff to enter an Eastern Orthodox cathedral since 1054) in 1967, Africa in 1969, and Southeast Asia in 1970.

Pope Paul VI being welcomed in Jerusalem on January 4, 1964
Pope Paul VI being welcomed in Jerusalem

Pope Paul VI meets with Athenagoras I, Patriarch of Constantinople
Pope Paul Vi and Athenagoras I

On November 26, 1970, an attempt was made on the Pope's life after he arrived in Manila, Philippines. The knife-wielding would-be assassin was a Bolivian artist.
assassination attempt

Paul VI put much emphasis on dialogue with all nations of the world through establishing diplomatic relations, and the number of foreign embassies accredited to the Vatican doubled during his pontificate. Relations between the Vatican and Communist nations also improved, and Communist leaders visited the Vatican for the first time during his papacy.

Paul VI also put much emphasis on improving relations with other churches. In 1969 he addressed the World Council of Churches, and limited doctrinal agreements were reached with the Anglicans and Lutherans.

Of his eight encyclicals, Pope Paul VI is best known for Humanae Vitae (July 25, 1968), in which he reaffirmed the Catholic Church's traditional view of marriage and marital relations and reaffirmed the Church's ban on artificial birth control. In Sacerdotalis Caelibatus (June 24, 1967), he defended the Church's tradition of priestly celibacy.

Pope Paul VI died of a heart attack on August 6, 1978, and was buried beneath the floor of Saint Peter's Basilica on August 12.

the funeral of Pope Paul VI
funeral of Pope Paul VI


The Vatican

See Also

Pope Pius XII
Pope John XXIII

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This page was last updated on October 03, 2018.