|Paolo VI (1897 - 1978)
Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini was born on September 26, 1897 at Concesio (Lombardy) of a wealthy family of the upper class. His father was a non-practicing lawyer turned editor and a courageous promoter of social action. Giovanni was a frail but intelligent child who received his early education from the Jesuits near his home in Brescia. Even after entering the seminary (1916) he was allowed to live at home because of his health. After his ordination in 1920 he was sent to Rome to study at the Gregorian University and the University of Rome, but in 1922 he transferred to the Accademia dei Nobili Ecclesiastici to study diplomacy continuing his canon law studies at the Gregorian. In 1923 he was sent to Warsaw as attache of the nunciature but was recalled to Rome (1924), because of the effect of the severe Polish winters on his health, and assigned to the office of the Secretariat of State where he remained for the next thirty years. Besides teaching at the Accademia dei Nobili Ecclesiastici he was named chaplain to the Federation of Italian Catholic University Students (FUCI), an assignment that was to have a decisive effect on his relations with the founders of the post-war Christian Democratic Party. Pope Paul had an unaccountably poor press and his public image suffered by comparison with his outgoing and jovial predecessor. Those who knew him best, however, describe him as a brilliant man, deeply spiritual, humble, reserved and gentle, a man of "infinite courtesy." He was one of the most traveled popes in history and the first to visit five continents. His remarkable corpus of thought must be searched out in his many addresses and letters as well as in his major pronouncements. His successful conclusion of Vatican II has left its mark on the history of the Church, but history will also record his rigorous reform of the Roman curia, his well-received address to the UN in 1965, his encyclical Populorum progressio (1967), his second great social letter Octogesima adveniens (1971)-the first to show an awareness of many problems that have only recently been brought to light-and his apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, his last major pronouncement which also touched on the central question of the just conception of liberation and salvation.
Pope Paul Vl, the pilgrim pope, died on August 6, 1978, the feast of the Transfiguration. He asked that his funeral be simple with no catafalque and no monument over his grave.