John Paul II Remembers His "Father and Teacher" Paul VI

On 40th Anniversary of His Predecessor’s Election to the Papacy

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 25, 2003 ( Love is the secret that explains the mission of the Church’s pastors, John Paul II said as he reminisced about his predecessor Paul VI.

Today’s general audience became a tribute to the pontificate of Giovanni Battista Montini, «firm and wise guide of the Church, …strong and meek apostle,» who died 25 years ago, the Pope said.

Addressing 10,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, John Paul II said that his «concern has been to continue the pastoral action begun by him [Paul VI], being inspired by him as by a father and a teacher.»

As an example he pointed to «the innovative initiative of apostolic trips» of Paul VI which «today is an integral part of the ministry of the Successor of Peter.»

Cardinal Montini, archbishop of Milan, was elected Pope 40 years ago, on June 21, 1963. He led the Church for 15 years, until his death on Aug. 6, 1978. His most important task was to guide the development and conclusion of the Second Vatican Council.

«I was able to appreciate personally the commitment that Paul VI did not cease to show for the necessary ‘aggiornamento’ of the Church to the exigencies of the new evangelization,» John Paul II recalled. The Polish Pope, then archbishop of Krakow, played an important role in the council.

«He wanted the ecclesial community to open itself to the world without, however, giving way to the spirit of the world,» John Paul II said of his predecessor. «With prudent wisdom, he knew how to resist the temptation to adapt himself to the modern mentality, facing with evangelical fortitude difficulties and lack of understanding and, in some cases, even hostility.»

Recalling the evangelical foundations of the ministry of the Bishop of Rome and, in particular, the words Jesus addressed to Peter after his resurrection — «Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?» — John Paul II added: «Love is the secret of Peter’s mission!»

«And love is also the secret of those who are called to imitate the Good Shepherd in guiding the People of God,» he said.

John Paul II reflected on a homily Paul VI delivered shortly before his death. «Before the dangers that we have delineated,» Paul VI said, «we feel driven to address Christ, as the only salvation, and to cry out to him: ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’ He alone is the truth, he alone is our strength, he alone is our salvation. Comforted by him, we will continue our way together.»

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