Should Pope Francis not succumb to the sexual revolution with this October’s Synod on the family, he will likely earn the same contempt his predecessor Paul VI did when he released Humanae Vitae. CNS photos

Condemned for the holy truth

  • August 13, 2015

When Pope Paul VI was beatified last October, his feast day was set for Sept. 26, the date of his birth in 1897, rather than the customary date of death, Aug. 6, 1978. Blessed Paul VI died on the feast of the Transfiguration, so another day for his feast had to be found, otherwise it would never be celebrated.

Nevertheless, Aug. 6 has been associated with Paul VI ever since 1978; it remains to be seen if Sept. 26 catches on. This year on the Transfiguration I was at a Mass during which the apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó, recalled that every year on Aug. 6 his thoughts turned to Paul VI, whom he served as a young Vatican official.

When Pope Francis addresses the United Nations a few days before the first celebration of Blessed Paul’s feast this year, many will recall the latter’s visit to the UN in 1965 with its famous cry: “Jamais plus la guerre! — War never again!”

That Francis will follow in Blessed Paul VI’s footsteps is to be expected, for so too did St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Paul VI was the creator of the modern papacy; his pontificate has particular lessons for that of Pope Francis.

Paul VI, elected during the Vatican Council summoned by his predecessor St. John XXIII, had to guide it to a conclusion and implement its directives. In choosing the name Paul — the first to do so in over 300 years — he sought to take up the missionary call of the council, preaching the Gospel to the worlds of work and culture while travelling to all five continents. He began papal travels outside of Italy with the first ever papal trip to the Holy Land, where he also inaugurated a new ecumenical era by embracing in Jerusalem Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople.

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