This year, on the 21st of June, we recall the election in 1963 of Giovanni Battista Cardinal Montini to the See of Peter as Universal Pastor of the Roman Catholic Church. On the 30th of this same month we will commemorate his coronation, as Pope Paul VI, twelve years ago.
Pope Paul VI’s twelve years as Pope have been years of both great achievement for the Church and its service to Christ the Lord and to the world, as well as years of great difficulty and even crisis. To our present Holy Father fell the burden of guiding the Church through the period which followed the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. No Catholic who has kept in touch with the life of his church during the past twelve years can be unaware of the storm of change which has blown through the entire church — the remarkable renewal which it has known in so many ways, thanks to the moving of the Holy Spirit, as well as the dangerous situations which it has had to confront, and continues today to encounter.
In this immense task of directing the Church in this time of change, we know that Pope Paul has steered the Barque of Peter with vision and courage, with heroic dedication and self-giving, with remarkable humanity and compassion. Even those who have criticised him on individual issues, acknowledge that the Pope who gave us the encyclicals Ecclesiam suam (The paths of the Church) and Populorum Progressio (The development of peoples), who has striven so much for unity among all who believe in Christ, who has fostered the Church’s involvement in, and concern for, the great problems of mankind, — will go down in history as one of the most outstanding Popes of the modern age. We should not fail to mention too, that he is a Pope who has insisted, in an age of growing unbelief and secularism, on the necessity of a deeper life of the spirit, of worship of God, of prayer and conversion, of reconciliation, of an active and self-giving faith, hope and love in our Christian life.
Two years ago, the Bishops of Holland, in a document which the Holy Father himself called “a public and moving witness of hierarchical communion with the See of Peter and of supernatural charity towards our humble person,” spoke of the ministry of Pope VI in these terms:
For ten years now, Pope Paul VI has exercised this ‘ministry of Peter’ which is at once sublime and difficult. It is a ministry which has found itself caught in the very center of the storm raised by the new developments — developments in some measure contradicting each other — which are present today in the Catholic Church. The Pope has discharged his duties and tasks by gathering up all his energies, by dedicating his entire being, in a truly conscientious fidelity, moved by an authentic pastoral inspiration, wishing to be true to the example of the great figures who were his predecessors, especially Pius XII and John XXIII.
He has embarked on journeys: to the World Council of Churches in Geneva; to the United Nations in New York; to the City holy to the Jews, Christians and Muslims, Jerusalem; to the continents of Africa, Latin America and Asia. He has raised his voice in a call to the conscience of the peoples of the world: in matters of faith and morals, in matters pertaining to war and peace, in decrying numerous forms of discrimination and of injustice coming from men as well as from structures.
In the course of the ten years of the pontificate of Pope Paul, the Catholic Church has seen within itself and its own life so many things renewed: in this renewal the doctrine and the spirit of the Second Vatican Council has been embodied and made firm.
The work of historical importance accomplished by the Pope, which consists in his consecration of himself to the service of the unity of all Christians, has been especially remarkable: not only in and through eloquent words or gestures, but through well-considered practical decisions. We recall all these deeds in our minds and hearts and they inspire us with profound respect and with great affection towards him who has accomplished them.
This mere detailing of some of the labors and achievements to which the Holy Father has dedicated himself is already an inspiring account. We could ourselves fill long pages with mere enumeration of the deeds of untiring labor, of complete self-dedication with which Pope Paul VI –with his great mind and great heart–has enriched the life of the Church and the life of mankind.
In recent years, however, particularly intemperate attacks have been launched against the person of Pope Paul and the work of the papacy, especially in some “liberal Catholic” circles and perhaps in some small segments of the press. We cannot but regret that these violent attacks have taken place: for while there is room for honest criticism in the Church, such criticism should arise from a loving and sincere attachment to the Church, not–as often happens–from self-righteousness and contempt, and a spirit of destructiveness.* The present Pope has himself spoken movingly of the share in the cross which is so great a part today of the burden and duty of Peter’s successor–successor not in church office only, but successor too, in the humiliation, contradiction and crucifixion which was Peter’s own lot, in his discipleship to the Lord.
A few days after his election, Pope Paul VI wrote these lines in his personal notebook: “Perhaps the Lord has called me to this service not because I have some special qualifications or aptitude for it, not so much so that I may govern the Church and rescue it in its present difficulties, but so that I may suffer something for the Church, so that it may appear with all clarity that it is He, the Lord Himself, and no one else, who directs His Church, He who saves His Church.” This reflection is characteristic of the Pope’s deep faith and hope in the midst of his burdens, so full of his profound confidence that Christ is truly with His Church, and that what He calls us to bear for Him and His Church is truly a “share in what is lacking in His sufferings for His Body.”
Fortunately bitter and destructive criticism of the Holy Father has not been common in our country, which has always been proud of a special affection and fidelity toward the person of him whom Catholic tradition has called vicarius Christi in terris , the vicar of Christ on earth. We remember the spontaneous outpouring of loyalty and love which surrounded Pope Paul VI’s visit to our people in November 1970 — a memory we will always cherish, and which we believe he also treasures in his heart.
The coming commemoration of the accession of Pope Paul VI to the office of Bishop of Rome and Head of the Roman Catholic Church should be, for the Catholic in our nation, an occasion for renewing in their minds a more profound understanding of the function of the Pope in the universal Church and in the Church’s ministry to mankind — a more profound understanding which must be increasingly part of the knowledge and faith of adult and mature Filipino Catholics; an occasion too, for renewing in their hearts a spirit of loving loyalty toward the person and the teaching of the Holy Father.
Above all, we the Bishops would like to ask our fellow-Catholics (and all our fellow-Christians, in the measure that they wish to join us in prayer) to make Pope’s Day, 1975, a day of truly intense prayer for the Holy Father. We know the heavy burdens that lie on his shoulders; we know too, the attacks to which he is subjected and which visit him with added sorrow. Our faith teaches us that prayer, the prayer of all of us together, has power beyond our knowledge. Let us, singly and together, set aside time for the “prayer of our hearts” for the Pope Paul VI. Let us pray for his person, his work, his concerns, for all that is close to his mind and his heart — his desires for the Church and for God’s people, his longings for brotherhood and peace in the world and in all mankind. Surely no gift and tribute from us would be more pleasing to his heart than this: the Catholic community of our country at one in trusting, filial prayer to Christ, joined to his own petition and longing.
Oremus Pro Pontifice Nostro Paulo. Let us pray for our Holy Father, Pope Paul VI.
That the Lord may keep him close to Himself always, and give him strength and wisdom, courage and hope, grant him unfailing grace and blessing for his tasks here on earth, and defend against those who oppose him in his work for the Lord and His people.
That the Lord may keep him close to Himself always, and give him strength and wisdom, courage and hope, grant him unfailing grace and blessing for his tasks here on earth, and defend him against those who oppose him in his work for the Lord and His people.
May the Lord direct him always in the way of salvation, so that by His grace he may both desire with all his heart those things which are pleasing to God and conducive to the coming of the Kingdom, — desire them and carry them out, with all his strength.
This we ask through Jesus Christ Our Lord.
May the coming Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, Pope’s Day in this year of Our Lord 1975, the twelfth of this pontifice, be marked throughout the Philippines by our intense and fervent prayer for the Roman Pontiff; marked by our renewed dedication to Christ, His Church and the Church’s mission on earth, and by a sincere renewal of our devotedness to the person and teaching of the Holy Father, Pope Paul VI.
For the Catholic Hierarchy of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+JAIME L. SIN, D.D.
Archbishop of Manila
* (The distinguished Swiss theologian, a member of the International Theological Commission, Dr. Hans Urs von Balthasar, has recently responded to some of these attacks in his spirited study and defense of the role of the Roman Pontiff within the Church today, Der Antiroemische Affekt, Herder-Freiburg in Breisgau, 1974, translated into Italian as Il Complesso Antiromano — The Anti-Roman Complex — by G. Moretto, Queriniana, Brescia, 1974).
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