From the Archives: Pope Paul VI

Pope Paul VI at the Second Vatican Council

This piece first appeared in the July 5, 1963 issue of Commonweal.

THE ADVENT of a Pope always brings joy to the hearts of Catholics on the scene and throughout the world. This is doubly so when the new successor of St. Peter enjoys thc popularity and repute achieved by Cardinal Montini in his distinguished career of service to the Church. The leaders and peoples of the world joined in his acclaim. The Cardinal Archbishop of Milan was far and away the leading candidate this time for accession to the See of Peter. He was said to be the universally beloved John's first choice, and he had made widely known his similarly positive and progressive views on critical issues. The speed with which he was elected by the Conclave of Cardinals was consonant with the worldwide enthusiasm over their choice.

Pope Paul comes to his exalted office with superb qualifications. The range and depth of intellect are notable in his voluminous writings; his warm personal concern for human well-being is clearly manifest. He brings to his office a wealth of invaluable experience from conducting Vatican affairs and the solicitous pastoral care of a great archdiocese. He has recently visited the United States, South America and Africa (where there is a mission territory under the sovereignty of the Archdiocese of Milan). As a Cardinal he was long noted for his keen interest in the poor and his consequent concern about the social question; he has for years been dedicated to the cause of world peace. He strongly supported the efforts of the Council to bring about a greater and more organic internationalizationof the Vatican administration in accordance with the wishes of Pope John.

The new Pope immediately gave voice to his intentions. His choice of the name of the Apostle to the Gentiles signifies a willingness to break precedent as well as a profound gesture toward his fellow Christians who are Orthodox or Protestant. His first address signalizes the task of the Ecumenical Council as "the principal labor on which we intend to expend an the energies that the Lord has given us." Pope Paul further pledges himself "to pursue with every commitment" the great work begun by John XXIII and the goal that "all may be one." He cpened his arms to his brothers, to "all who glory in the name of Christ."

At the same time in this address, which like Pacem in Terris is significantly directed to the whole human family, Paul VI directs emphatic attention to the implementing of the great social encyclicals of his predecessors. As a primary duty of Christian charity he calls for aid and care for the underdevelopedcountries in order to bring the living standards of these neglected fellow creatures up to a level consonant with human dignity. He stresses the dedication of his pontificate to the preservation of peace in the world, founded, as he told the assembled diplomats accredited to the Vatican, "on the four pillars of truth, justice, love and liberty."

His choice of the name of the Apostle to the Gentiles signifies a willingness to break precedent as well as a profound gesture toward his fellow Christians who are Orthodox or Protestant. His first address signalizes the task of the Ecumenical Council as "the principal labor on which we intend to expend an the energies that the Lord has given us." Pope Paul further pledges himself "to pursue with every commitment" the great work begun by John XXIII and the goal that "all may be one." He cpened his arms to his brothers, to "all who glory in the name of Christ."

THE PROBLEMS that confront the Church and the world at the beginning of this pontificate are truly intimidating. The threat to the peoples of the world of thermonuclear war, deepening poverty in so many areas of the globe, growing racial tensions, the gains and objectives of Communism and the weakening of the democratic structure of Italy––all this is of vital concern to the new Pope. Then there are certain present-day concerns of the Church itself: the lack and need of a native hierarchy in the emerging African nations; the growing persecution of Christians in Moslem lands; the hope of greater freedom of worship in Soviet Russia's European satellites; the continued alienation from the Church of European workers, especially in Spain, France and Italy; the plight of the Church in Latin America, which accounts for such a high percentage of the world's Catholics.

That the well-informed Paul VI should take upon his shoulders such staggering problems as these is heartening in itself. And it is nothing short of providential at this crucial stage that we have as sovereign pontiff so superbly equipped a dedicated servus servorum Dei determined to meet these problems and to carry forward in his own way the work of Christian renewal and unity so auspiciously begun by his intimate friend, Pope John.

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