Monday, August 29, 2011
Papal Profile: Pope Paul VI
Naturally, changing so much so fast caused some painful divisions, most famously the schism of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre who opposed any changes to the old “Tridentine Mass” (aka the Latin mass). Even those not intricately familiar with the minutia of Church ceremony could see some confusion in the more diverse countries where masses had to be scheduled in various different languages, depending on the congregation, whereas before it had been Latin for all. The traditionalists were outraged further by the fact that liberals seemed to think that the changes of the Council, put into effect by Paul VI, gave them free reign to pretty much do as they pleased with the apostolic blessing of the Pope himself. This was when guitars and hand-holding started showing up in Church and those were among the tamer innovations in some areas. However, Paul VI was to prove almost as good at attracting progressive condemnation as he was the traditionalist sort. He began to travel around the world calling for Christian unity and worked feverishly on paper after paper explaining the documents Vatican II had produced.
Pope Paul VI broke plenty of new ground during his reign. He was the first pope to travel to the United States, where he met President Kennedy and held mass in Yankee Stadium. He was the first pontiff to travel by way of planes and helicopters, the first pope of modern times to go to Israel, the first to ever visit India and the first to address the United Nations, which the Vatican joined as a permanent observer. However, this was a time of great hardships and instability, for both the world and the Church. The Cold War was raging, Southeast Asia was covered by war, international terrorism was on the rise and the Church was torn by divisions. In 1970 the Pope himself had been the subject of an assassination attempt in Manila. The Pontiff was, contrary to what some think, greatly distressed by the reaction to Vatican II, both by those who opposed it and even more so by those who seemed to willingly misinterpret it. When he defended traditional Church teachings, in some cases, the Church leadership across whole countries simply refused to obey. Paul VI lamented that, "the smoke of Satan" had entered the Church.
Because of all this, it is safe to say that his final days were not happy ones. Perhaps he had been a bit too idealistic upon coming to the papal throne but, whatever the case, he was certainly distressed by the state of the Church and the world during his reign. Things had definitely taken a turn for the worse in terms of vocations and even the public image of the Church which did not change despite all of the efforts to more or less 'make nice' with the modern world. The liberals may have welcomed such changes but so long as fundamental truths were upheld, their opposition to the Catholic Church, or indeed any organized religion, was not about to change and Paul VI seemed rather dismayed by it all. It would be left to his successors to try to put the changes into the proper perspective and to come out with the "correct interpretation" of the Second Vatican Council, the consequences of which so dominated the reign of the "pilgrim pontiff".Pope Paul VI died on August 6, 1978 after suffering a heart attack while hearing mass at Castel Gandolfo. Most of the positive feelings attached to his memory revolve around his defense of Church teachings on life and although not given much attention a cause for his beatification has been initiated.