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Paul VI


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Pope (1963–78) who undertook the process of modernization of the Catholic Church initiated by the Second Vatican Council (1962–65).

The son of a middle-class lawyer and editor from the Brescia region of Italy, Montini was ordained a priest in 1920. After graduate studies in Rome at the Gregorian University and the University of Rome, he joined the training school for Vatican diplomats. He served briefly as apostolic nuncio in Warsaw in 1923 until ill health forced his return to Rome, where he entered the Vatican civil service. As spiritual adviser to Catholic students in Rome, Montini formed friendships with many of Italy's future statesmen, including Aldo Moro. Appointed papal undersecretary of state in 1939, Montini became a close personal adviser and confidant to Pope Pius XII. He was appointed Archbishop of Milan in 1953 and was made a cardinal in 1958.

Five years later, Montini was elected successor to John XXIII and, as Pope Paul VI, presided over the remaining sessions of the Second Vatican Council. Thereafter he proceeded to implement, albeit cautiously, its decisions. Communications between the Vatican and laity were improved and power devolved to the bishops through the biennial synods. The traditional Latin mass was phased out in favour of the vernacular and, through his meetings with other religious leaders, Pope Paul gave impetus to the ecumenical movement. However, his 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae (‘Of Human Life’), caused considerable controversy and widespread dismay by reasserting the Vatican's total opposition to artificial means of contraception. Throughout his reign, Pope Paul travelled widely, although his critics found his repeated appeals for universal justice and liberty and an end to hunger and misery somewhat ambivalent in view of the contents of the reactionary Humanae Vitae.

Subjects: Religion

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