Pope beatifies Blessed Paul VI, leader of Vatican II
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Beatifying Blessed Paul VI at the concluding Mass of the Synod of Bishops on the family, Pope Francis praised the late pope as the “great helmsman” of the Second Vatican Council and founder of the synod, as well as a “humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his church.”
The pope spoke during a homily in St. Peter’s Square at a Mass for more than 30,000 people, under a sunny sky on an unseasonably warm Oct. 19.
“When we look to this great pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle, we cannot but say in the sight of God a word as simple as it is heartfelt and important: thanks,” the pope said, drawing applause from the congregation, which included retired Pope Benedict, whom Blessed
Paul made a cardinal in 1977.
“Facing the advent of a secularized and hostile society, (Blessed Paul) could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter,” Pope Francis said, in a possible allusion to “Humanae Vitae,” the late pope’s 1968 encyclical, which affirmed Catholic teaching against contraception amid widespread dissent.
Religious aide brings relic
The pope pronounced the rite of beatification at the start of the Mass. Then Sister Giacomina Pedrini, a member of the Sisters of Holy Child Mary, carried up a relic: a bloodstained vest Blessed Paul was wearing during a 1970 assassination attempt in the Philippines. Sister Pedrini is the last surviving nun who attended to Blessed Paul.
In his homily, Pope Francis did not explicitly mention “Humanae Vitae,” the single achievement for which Blessed Paul is best known today.
Instead, the pope highlighted his predecessor’s work presiding over most of Vatican II and establishing the synod.
The pope quoted Blessed Paul’s statement that he intended the synod to survey the “signs of the times” in order to adapt to the “growing needs of our time and the changing conditions of society.”
Looking back on the two-week family synod, Pope Francis called it a “great experience,” whose members had “felt the power of the Holy Spirit who constantly guides and renews the church.”
The pope said the family synod demonstrated that “Christians look to the future, God’s future ... and respond courageously to whatever new challenges come our way.”
The synod, dedicated to “pastoral challenges of the family,” touched on sensitive questions of sexual and medical ethics and how to reach out to people with ways of life contrary to Catholic teaching, including divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, cohabitating couples and those in same-sex unions.
“God is not afraid of new things,” Pope Francis said. “That is why he is continually surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways. He renews us; he constantly makes us new.”
The 50th anniversary of the publication of his first encyclical letter, “Ecclesiam Suam,” and the 36th anniversary of his death Aug. 6, 1978, became the occasion for multiple reflections on his life and legacy in the Vatican media.
“Although he was not always understood, Paul VI will remain the pope who loved the modern world, admired its cultural and scientific wealth and worked so that it would open its heart to Christ, the redeemer of mankind,” wrote Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re.
The Italian cardinal, a former papal diplomat like Pope Paul, said that while St. John XXIII is remembered for having convoked the Second Vatican Council and presiding over its first session, it was Pope Paul who was the “real helmsman of the council,” presiding over the last three of its four sessions and guiding its implementation.