CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 5, 2001 ( John Paul II today recalled his predecessor Paul VI as a witness of Christ in difficult times for the Church.

At his midday Angelus address, the Holy Father noted that Paul VI died on Aug. 6, 1978, on the day the Church celebrates the feast of the Lord´s transfiguration.

For that occasion, Paul VI had written an address, which he never read. But John Paul II read from it today: "The transfiguration of the Lord throws a dazzling light on our daily life and makes us turn our mind to the immortal destiny which that fact itself foreshadows."

"Two thousand years later, the Church repeats with unaltered vigor that Christ is the light of the world!" the Pope exclaimed, summarizing the message Christ gave to his apostles in his transfiguration on Mount Tabor.

This proclamation "tempered" the "whole life of Paul VI," John Paul II added. Indeed, Paul VI "gave faithful witness to Christ in complex and difficult years."

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini was elected Pope 1963 and presided over the closing of the Second Vatican Council in December 1965. Afterward, Paul VI had to lead the renewal of the Church in light of the conciliar teachings.

The ensuing years were turbulent both inside and outside the Church. It was the time of the Vietnam War and the 1968 student protests. The Church suffered an acute crisis of vocations, and thousands of priests and religious abandoned their ministry.

In his first encyclical, John Paul II recalled those difficult times in the life of Paul VI.

"I was constantly amazed at his profound wisdom and courage and also by his constancy and patience in the difficult postconciliar period of his pontificate," John Paul II wrote in "Redemptor Hominis," No. 3. "As helmsman of the Church, the bark of Peter, he knew how to preserve a providential tranquility and balance even in the most critical moments, when the Church seemed to be shaken from within, and he always maintained unhesitating hope in the Church´s solidity."

The midday Angelus was attended by thousands of pilgrims who filled the courtyard of the papal residence here, southeast of Rome.

At 8 a.m. Monday, the Pope will offer a Mass in the private chapel of Castel Gandolfo, for the repose of Paul VI´s soul.