He was born Giovanni Battista Montini in the village of Concessio near Brescia, Italy on September 26, 1897 in the waning years of the papacy of Pope Leo XIII, the 24th selection of the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY. Suffering from unstable health most of his life, Montini surmounted all odds as he became a priest on May 29, 1920 - eleven days after a young child had been born in Poland by the name of Karol Wojtyla. After two years of pastoral work, Father Montini was assigned to the office of the Papal Secretariat of State in Warsaw, but his health became so precarious that he was forced to resign that post. Recovering, he became deeply involved in the Catholic student movement throughout Europe and taught diplomatic history at the Papal Academy for diplomats in Rome. Pope Pius XI, the 32nd selection of the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY, appointed him domestic prelate to the Holy See on July 8, 1931 and he became assistant to the Secretariat of State on December 13, 1937. Two years later the Secretary - whom Montini worked closely with - Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, became Pope Pius XII. The new Pope remembered Montini and promoted him in November 1952 to Pro-secretary of State. The following year Giovanni was offered the privilege of cardinal but politely declined. A year later he was named Archbishop of Milan which was one of the largest dioceses in Italy and one full of societal problems. Montini was the perfect fit and called upon his background and numerous books he crated with him to salvage what he could of this war-torn deanery in northern Italy. He soon won over the industrial masses who had reservations about the new Archbishop and during an exhausting November of 1957 he made it a point to visit every parish in the city of Milan. The results, though not what he had hoped for, were still astounding in the face of the opposition he faced.
On December 15, 1958 in the first Consistory held by Pope John XXIII he finally received his red-hat, elevated to the cardinalate. It seems that after he turned down the cardinal's hat in 1953, Pius XII took it as a personal affront to him, shipped him off to Milan, and never recommended Montini for cardinal again even though the people of Milan continued to pepper the Holy See on behalf of Montini's elevation. There are those archivists who claim Pius did not take it personally, but was acceding to Montini's humble wishes and wanted to elevate him in 1956 but, because of his health, was out of the loop so to speak and the curia members in charge buried his nomination. Others say Montini declined because he felt he would be stuck in the Curia as a cardinal and knew of the jealousies within the Curia. Wanting nothing to do with that, he opted for pastoral work which Pius granted. Whatever the reasons - we may never know, but we do know it took John XXIII less than three months to see this through to fruition. In fact, because of Montini's experience, John called on him, along with Italy's Cardinal Augustin Bea and Cardinal Leo Josef Suenens of Belgium to help in the vital initial preparations for Vatican II. His long tenure within the Roman Curia and his groundroots input played a pivotal role in Vatican II even before he became Pope. He realized and stressed that the central theme had to be the mystery of the Church and address the relationship between the Pope and the bishops which had been left unresolved at Vatican I during the papacy of Pope Pius IX. It must also be noted that the First Vatican Council, which took place from 1869 to 1870, was never officially closed.
For the new cardinal of Milan the seasoning proved invaluable as, unbeknownst to him at the time, he would be the one to carry Vatican II to its completion when he was selected on the fifth ballot on June 21, 1963 to become the 262nd in the unbroken line of Peter. He chose the name Paul VI, the first Paul since Pope Paul V who guided the Church from 1605 to the beginning of 1621, an aggregate time of 15 years; the same amount of time Paul VI would rule Holy Mother Church in the twentieth century. He announced immediately he would continue Vatican II, and, in respect for his predecessor who he greatly admired, followed through on all that John XXIII had promised.
Thus on September 29, 1963 on the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, he reconvened the Second Vatican Council at St. Peter's in Rome. He continued the trend John had begun by relaxing confidentiality and admitting women, religious and laypersons as auditors plus appointing four moderators for the Council. The second session was closed December 4 of the same year with the date set to reconvene on September 14 to November 21, 1964. Following this third session Vatican II concluded in 1965 with the fourth session from September 14 to December 8, 1965 when Pope Paul VI concluded the proceedings asking the Council Fathers and bishops to go forth and implement what the Holy Spirit has wrought in bringing the Church into modern times in playing an active and integral part in the salvation of mankind. There were sixteen documents formulated and promulgated including two dogmatic and two pastoral constitutions as well as nine decrees and three declarations all reflecting a basic pastoral approach toward renewal and reform in the Church. On the final day of the Council Paul VI confirmed all the decrees of the Council and announced an extraordinary Jubilee from January 1 to the end of May 1966 to take time for reflection and renewal in light of everything passed down by the Council. The main objective of these documents and the council directives was and always has been the full development of the charisms of Holy Mother Church in carrying out her mission in the contemporary world.
Has it worked out that way? The jury is still out. There are those who contend that Vatican II sold out and the result has been heresy within the Church; others maintain that it was the best thing that ever happened to the Church and freed her from the chains of a staid old institution by two great Popes. Both claims are extreme and we prefer to believe that the Council was good and truly inspired by the Holy Spirit, but the implementation of all that was decreed left a lot to be desired and that is the inherent problem today. There was not enough education to the masses on what was truly proclaimed by the Council Fathers and because of this many liberals took advantage to advance their own agendas under the guise that it came from Vatican II. This is evident today in many of the bogus lay commissions, conflicting agendas, and intellectual lay leaders that exist at the diocesan level and which have been given too much power and influence in setting policy in our opinion. In truth, Paul VI cannot be blamed for this for he could not be present in every diocese or church. He boldly upheld the doctrine in proclaiming Mary, Mother of the Church which some in the Council wanted to defuse. But he stood his ground and overruled them in honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary. Other problems arose when the Council Fathers agreed to offer exceptions in certain circumstances.
What were originally exceptions during the pontificate of Paul VI would become the rule in the late 90's...so much so that some are calling for a Third Vatican Council but the present Holy Father John Paul II is resisting their cries for he can foresee further deterioration if the progressives and liberals are given a forum for more change. Thus, rather than clearing up the confusion over the past thirty years since Vatican II, it is eveident even more confusion would reign. The most important thing to remember is to be obedient to the Supreme Pontiff and the Church the Vicar of Christ governs. The surest way to do this is to be knowledgable to what truly are the teachings of the Church and to know what Vatican II really did decree.
Many of those decrees were not always followed. As we mentioned earlier, Paul VI's papacy was wrought with controversy. Many accused him of being too liberal while others labeled him out-of-touch and way too conservative. The former charge came from those who saw the radical changes in the liturgy and relaxed attitude of the Church as a "compromise" to appease non-Catholics. The latter indictment resulted from the Holy Father's landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae on July 25, 1968 which dealt with his no-holds-barred condemnation of artificial birth control. This shocked many because a majority of those named to the pontifical commission in 1963 had reported back to him in favor of certain contraceptions in some cases. But the Pope rejected their claims and took the lonely road of proclaiming contraception, except for the rhythm method, wrong. His decision was met with world-wide rejection both by non-Catholics - including the Anglican bishops who disavowed it at the Lambeth Conference on August 6, 1958 - and Catholics everywhere, especially in America where a new independent attitude had taken over. No non-married old man was going to tell young American couples how to live their life...no matter that he was the Vicar of Christ on earth. Wave after wave of Catholics abandoned the teachings of the Church, either leaving the Faith completely in favor of an "easier" Protestant sect that, they rationalized, would allow them to continue to live the way they had become accustomed to or even continue the facade within the Church with little regard to what the Pope said. Thus "cafeteria catholicism" was spawned where many baptized in the Faith decided they knew best and would pick and choose that which suited them and reject teachings and doctrine that didn't fit with their modern way of thinking.
Whether the world realized it or not, Paul VI was deeply hurt by this rejection and many believe, after 1968, withdrew more and more from the public limelight. Some historians put the cause on the growing trend of international terrorism stemming from the mid-east, but the real cause was the growing tension within Holy Mother Church that was tearing her apart. He was acutely concerned whether any of the reforms he had approved might in some way undermine the integrity and authority of the Church and was constantly torn between the fine balance of the visions he had for the Church of the future and her traditions of the past. Vatican historians talk about his struggles with the mysteries of the Faith vs. the modern platform of the world that was permeating the Church. Because of this he totally rejected scientific naturalism.
Paul VI was not a man of pomp, rejecting these trappings to turn his attention to the poor. In fact, he sold the tiara he received at his coronation and with the money received, donated it to the poor. Yet he was still criticized, many believe unfairly. Add to this the openly defiant stance of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and his followers who rejected the liturgical reforms totally. Interestingly many within this latter group and Bayside claim an imposter took over the papacy posing as Paul VI after 1968 but there is no foundation to this astounding and ridiculous claim.
Though the Pope's depression was real, he still forged onward, making a number of trips through Europe, Africa, the Far East and other world destinations including Manila where he barely escaped an assassination attempt on his life in November 1970. He was not popular like his predecessor John XXIII who had once referred to Paul's personality as "a little like Hamlet." Yet, Paul was not the tragic figure of Shakespeare's tale but rather a caring Pope that was trying desperately to right the ship which was listing badly to the left. Despite all the rejection he constantly worked for reunification of the separated churches throughout his papacy. The day before the close of Vatican II he had met with the Eastern Patriarch Athenagoras I and they jointly proclaimed the deplorable conditions that had split East and West over the years and both rescinded the excommunication edict of each other invoked in 1054.
Paul convened synods, introduced the Episcopal Synods and defined the role of the priests and the laity as well as retirement age for the ordained. He also enlarged the Sacred College of Cardinals and brought it more in line with an international flavor, decreasing the Italian minority while raising the total from 80 to 138 cardinals including an archbishop from Poland named Cardinal Karol Wojtyla who would, of course, become Pope John Paul II. It was Paul VI who was the first Pope to honor two holy women by officially proclaiming Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint Catherine of Siena as the first female Doctors of the Church. He canonized 84 saints including Saint Charles Lwanga and the Martyrs of Uganda and Saint John Nepomucene Neumann to name a few.
Pope Paul VI's final public appearance was at St. John Lateran in May 1978 where he presided over the funeral of his lifetime friend Aldo Moro, a Christian Democrat statesman who had been kidnapped and murdered. Shortly after that Paul's arthritis became so painful that he became totally bedridden and asked to be taken to Castel Gandolfo away from the masses where he could rest. During the hot summer months he deteriorated and in early August, realizing he was near death, uttered those lamentable famous words that have echoed through the Church since: "Through Vatican II, we had meant to open a window to let in some fresh air, but a gale blew in and now satan is in the sanctuary." While Mass was being said by his bedside on August 6, 1968 he suffered a massive heart attack. His heart, broken so many times during his pontificate, was finally stilled in this life but those who knew him realized his heart was now secure in the Refuge of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts.
We can prove that all men are obliged to practice religion, because all men are entirely dependent on God, and must recognize that dependence by honoring Him and praying to Him. It is absolutely necessary for us to practice religion. God gives us no choice in the matter. Our chief business in life, the business which God commands us to attend to, is to go to God. And this depends on our practice of religion.
It is by religion that we fulfill the purpose for which we were created. By believing what God has revealed, we know God. By knowing God, we cannot help but love Him. By practicing what we learn and obeying God's commands, we serve Him. "He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me" (John 14:21).
Many people spend their lives in a vain pursuit of riches, honors, and pleasures. But these never satisfy the heart of man even on earth. Besides, they have to be left behind when the hour of death comes. We learn to know, love, and serve God from Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who teaches us through the Roman Catholic Church.
The study in which Jesus Christ teaches us about God and how to know, love, and serve Him, is the study of Religion. It is the most important study anyone can undertake. The neglect of this study is the root cause of crime in the world at present. Without a knowledge of God men give way to their basest passions.
Our salvation is much more important than a knowledge of physics, poetry, or history. All our science and knowledge, with our wealth and honors, will be profitless if we do not save our soul. "What does it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?" (Matthew 16:26).
This study needs thought and attention. We need to listen to a good teacher. We cannot study it well by ourselves alone. The deacon Philip asked the Ethiopian reading Holy Scripture: "'Dost thou then understand what thou art reading?' But he said, 'Why, how can I, unless someone shows me?'" (Acts 8:31).
Those that advocate no study of religion are generally termed free-thinkers, agnostics, skeptics, and rationalists. These thinkers claim that all problems can be solved by the use of the intellect alone, without necessity of any principle, law, dogma or authority. "Freedom of thought" has a pleasant sound, but it is against reason; by it the mind is fettered by error. We submit our minds freely to natural and scientific truths; that is true freedom. If there is no freedom of thought in mathematics, why in religion? "Freedom of thought" is evidently a contradiction; we are not free to think what is not the truth. There are fundamental laws that bind the intellect. For instance, are we free to believe that the sun revolves around the earth, even if it appears to do so?
The intelligent man, in order to attain the kind of freedom humanly possible, should find out to which authority he must submit; he must discover which is the Law. And this is why the rational man studies Religion, to find out this fundamental Law.
Death of Pope Saint Silverius, 58th successor of Peter, During his one year plus pontificate this Frosinone-born holy Pope was captured by the Byzantine armies of Justinian under the command of Belisarius who exiled Silverius to the island of Ponza where he was martyred for his faith when he was forced to renounce the Papacy but not his faith.
Pope Pius VII, in order to keep peace, travels to Paris where he is asked to crown Napoleon Bonaparte emperor of France. When he attempts to place the crown on the little general's head, Bonaparte grabs it and places it on his own head in defiance of Rome. Shortly after he would show his disregard for the Holy See by invading Rome and the Vatican, forcing the Pope to flee for awhile.
Death of Cardinal Francis J. Spellman, fifth archbishop of New York City. He would be succeeded by Cardinal Terrence Cooke and later by Cardinal John O'Connor.