The prefect for the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, presided at a Mass today at St. Peter’s Basilica, marking the 30th anniversary of the passing of Pope Paul VI during which he recalled the “prophetic magisterium, the testimony and the fruitful legacy of Pope Montini.”
In his homily, the cardinal recalled that Paul VI died on the Feast of the Transfiguration, the same day that he published his first encyclical, Ecclesiam Suam, in 1964. He said the Pope chose the name Paul because, as he himself said during the inauguration of his pontificate in 1963, it was St. Paul “who supremely loved Christ, who desired greatly and strived to bring the Gospel of Christ to all peoples, who for love of Christ, offered his life.”
Cardinal Re also pointed out the “prophetic magisterium” of Paul VI, who “lived and proclaimed the faith with tireless dedication and courage in the defense of integrity and purity. He took advantage of every opportunity to make known the Word of God and the thinking of the Church,” the cardinal said.
He went on to note that when Paul VI was elected to the Chair of Peter, it was during “difficult years for the magisterium and for the governing of the Church: the years of protest. And Paul VI had to firmly steer the boat’s rudder and with courageous strength he strived to defend the deposit of the faith.”
Humanae Vitae and the dialogue with the world
After pointing out that the most criticized and rejected document of Paul VI’s magisterium, and at the same time the one that showed his greatness the most, was Humanae Vitae, Cardinal Re noted that Pope’s decision to issue the encyclical was “difficult and painful. He knew it would be opposed, but he did not run from his responsibilities. He had the issue studied and he studied it deeply and afterwards he had the courage to make a decision, understanding well that he was going against the dominant culture and against what public opinion was expecting.”
“The issue was one of divine law, written by the creating hand of God in the very nature of the human person, and the Pope could not change it, only interpret it,” Cardinal Re said.
“In a world wanting of love and full of problems and violence, Paul VI worked to bring about a civilization inspired in love, in which solidarity and love reach to where social justice cannot,” the cardinal added. “The civilization of love which should be raised up in hearts and consciences was for Pope Montini more than an idea or a project, it was the guiding force of his entire life.”
“May the Virgin Mary, who Paul VI tenderly loved and proclaimed ‘Mother of the Church,’ intercede so that the light of the teachings and witness of Paul VI continue to illuminate the journey of the Church and of society,” Cardinal Re said.