.- This weekend at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI received members of the research and executive committees of the Paul VI Institute of Brescia, Italy. The group was founded in 1979 and promotes studies into the life, thought and activities of Pope Paul VI, who governed the Church from 1963 to 1978.
Benedict XVI recalled with gratitude how Paul VI had appointed him as archbishop of Munich, Germany and, three months later, as cardinal. That pontiff, he continued, "received the call of divine providence to guide the ship of Peter through a historical period marked by no small number of challenges and problems."
Paul VI's missionary zeal "inspired him and encouraged him to undertake important apostolic trips, even to distant nations, and to make prophetic gestures of great ecclesial, missionary and ecumenical value. He was the first Pope to travel to the Land of Christ," where his visit "took on clear symbolic significance, indicating to the Church that the way of her mission is to follow the footsteps of Christ."
The Holy Father indicated that "the secret of the pastoral activity that Paul VI carried out with such tireless dedication, sometimes making difficult and unpopular decisions, lay in his love for Christ... Until his last breath, his thoughts, energies and activities were for Christ and for the Church."
Pope Benedict pointed out "how arduous a task it was for Paul VI to lead the Church in the period following Vatican Council II." However, "he did not let himself be conditioned by misunderstandings and criticisms, although he sometimes had to endure suffering and occasionally-violent attacks, yet he always remained a firm and prudent helmsman of the ship of Peter.”
"With the passing of the years," he added, "the importance of his pontificate for the Church and the world becomes ever clearer, as does the value of his exalted Magisterium, which inspired his successors and to which I too continue to refer."