Remembering Montini

Zenit reports on the establishment of a newly endowed chair at a Roman University in memory of Pope Paul VI. The chair will look at the pontiff's early life and work as well as his later years as Archbishop of Milan and then as Pope. I have long nurtured a profound esteem for Papa Montini, not only because he was the Pope of my youth, but because the more I learn of him and of his writings, the more I see how difficult a job he had of it, steering the Second Vatican Council to its conclusion and overseeing the early years of its reforms. What is emerging clearly is that he was intensely concerned that all the reforms keep the Church focused on Christ. His apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi paved the way for what we now know as the New Evangelization. His contributions to the social teachings of the Church were exemplary. And, even his most controversial encyclial, Humanae Vitae, reads better every year in its prescient concern about the eugenic potential of human tinkering with nature.

I remember the day he died as if it were yesterday, that I was driving down Farmington Avenue in Hartford, Connecticut and heard the news on the radio, and stopped at St. Thomas Church to offer a prayer. I hope that Papa Montini will pray for me from heaven. He was a good man and a great pope. And, I hope this new faculty chair will help historians grasp the significance of his troubled tenure on the chair of Peter.


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