Time to look afresh at Paul VI

Rediscovered relevance

Few people have read Blessed Pope Paul VI's 1968 paper on life and marriage, intended as an inspiring reflection on love and relationships. Most only remember him for saying no to contraceptives. It's time to revisit his legacy, writes Bruce Duncan.

- Redemptorists of Australia and New Zealand

The furore that resulted shook Blessed Pope Paul profoundly, and obscured for many his profound commitment to justice and peace, spelt out most strikingly in his 1967 encyclical, Development of Peoples, and his landmark address to the United Nations in October 1965, the first by a Pope. At the height of the Cold War, he famously declared in the UN General Assembly: "No more war, war never again. It is peace, peace which must guide the destinies of peoples and of all humanity."

Nor must we forget the impact of Pope Paul’s visit to Sydney in 1970, which did so much to dissipate the old sectarian climate in that city and encourage greater ecumenical collaboration.

Of the 80 popes recognised as saints, many martyred in early centuries, in the last thousand years only seven popes have been acknowledged as saints by the Church, including the recently canonised John XXIII and John Paul II. But Pope Francis is keen that the Church also acknowledges Paul VI as a saint, and on 19 October declared him ‘Blessed,’ with his feast day as 26 September.

Pope John Paul II, as his name suggested, wished to carry forward the initiatives of both his predecessors, particularly on matters of peace and justice, but he was such a superstar on the global stage during his 27 years as Pope, that both John XXIII and Paul VI were overshadowed.

Pope Paul’s concern for justice and peace stemmed from his conviction that Church thinking needed thorough renewal. His father had been a prominent anti-Fascist lawyer, a journalist - the Fascists smashed his printery – and a member of the Italian parliament. The future Pope, J-B Montini, was keenly interested in political philosophy and debates, and read avidly the works of the so-called New Theology, arguing for new approaches from the best scholarship in Scripture, Church history and theology.

For much of his career, Montini worked in the Secretariat of State, and though never publicly critical of the restrictive policies of Pius XII, tried to protect the new writers and thinkers from reactionary groups in the Vatican. Nevertheless, many of the leading scholars were silenced during the 1950s, until they re-emerged among the experts guiding the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) in its fundamental reworking of Catholic thought and practice.

FULL STORY The renewed relevance of Paul VI (Redemptorists of Australia and New Zealand)

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