Vatican City, Oct 17, 2014 / 16:15 pm
He had the unenviable task of being Pope during a most "tumultuous" era for the Church, but Paul VI stood "deeply rooted in Christ" through it all, a theology professor has said.
"Pope Paul VI suffered greatly from the growing apostasy of the world from Christian values and from the distortions of the teaching of Vatican II," said theology professor Dr. Alan Schreck of the Franciscan University of Steubenville. "Through it all, he remained deeply rooted in Christ and the Holy Spirit."
Giovanni Battista Montini – soon to be Blessed Paul VI -- will be beatified Oct. 19, at the conclusion of the Synod on the Family.
His cause for beatification moved forward after a miracle was attributed to his intercession by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and approved by Pope Francis in May.
Benedict XVI had affirmed his "heroic virtue" in 2012, officially recognizing him as "Venerable."
As Pope, Paul VI lived "heroic virtue" because though he "suffered" much turmoil and dissent in the Church, he directed major church reforms and supported renewal of faith amongst the laity and religious, was a prophet about the errors of the age, and was even a well-traveled "pilgrim pope."
The reforms of Paul VI included reforms of the Roman curia and the College of Cardinals, as well as support for renewal movements within the Church.
"He was an able administrator who reformed the Roman Curia, as Vatican II had directed," Schreck said. Paul VI also "internationalized the College of Cardinals" by "markedly increasing the membership in the college from the global South and East."
Amid the cultural wreckage of the age, he saw "the need for a deep and profound prayer life for every member of the Church," Schreck said, and supported "spiritual renewal movements."
Paul VI also was a forerunner of St. John Paul II's stand against Communism.
"He sought religious freedom concessions from Iron Curtain countries, paving the way for the downfall of communism in Eastern Europe," Schreck said.
Perhaps Paul VI is most well known for his encyclical Humanae vitae in which he upheld the Church's discipline of priestly celibacy and its teaching against the use of artificial contraception. The stand was widely "controversial" then and now, yet Paul VI has been vindicated by time as a prophet of the destructive effects of contraception.
"Though this teaching sparked dissent among some Catholics, today Paul VI's specific warnings of the negative effects of the widespread use of artificial contraception – such as increased sexual promiscuity and the decline of respect for human life – have certainly come to pass," Schreck affirmed.
Yet as St. John Paul II was known as the well-traveled pope, Paul VI was also a "pilgrim pope," Schreck said, citing his travels to Australia, South America, Asia, and the United States. And he promoted ministry through the end of his papacy with his "brilliant apostolic letter 'On Evangelization in the Modern World,'" as well as his calling a synod on catechesis.
Through his faith, he guided the Church "in this most challenging period in which Western culture began to be dislodged from her Christian moorings," Schreck concluded.