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Paul VI Saint: Angelo Maffeis, an “important announcement” in the life of the Church

Theologian Angelo Maffeis commented on the announcement of the imminent canonization of Pope Montini, made by the Pope during his meeting with Rome’s parish priests

“Paul VI will be a saint this year”, Francis announced by surprise during a meeting with the priests of the Diocese of Rome, held behind closed doors on February 14 in St. John Lateran Basilica. “It’s an important announcement” for the life of the Church, said Fr Angelo Maffeis, Professor at the Theological Faculty of Northern Italy, President of the Paul VI Institute. SIR asked his comments on the announcement.

What is the bearing of the announcement – albeit still informal – on the imminent canonization of Paul IV?
It’s certainly an important announcement. It’s the completion of the process for the recognition of the sainthood of Paul VI: beatification was the first step, this announcement proposes it to the universal Church. Even though when Montini was elected Pope and exercised his ministry at the service of the universal Church he already was a significant figure for the ecclesial community, this new stage fulfils the process leading to the full recognition of his sainthood.

Some consider the proclamation of the Popes’ sainthood as an automatic gesture. But in my opinion it’s a way to reaffirm – with regard to the closeness of the shepherds and the ways to practise the ministry – a principle that can be found in Lumen gentium: namely the idea that the universal vocation to sainthood is confirmed also in those who exercised the ministry at the service of the universal Church.

In other words, there is a bond connecting sainthood and the ministry: as stated in chapter five of Lumen gentium, for the shepherds’ charity becomes pastoral charity. It’s the secret of sainthood, the soul underlying pastoral service.

Paul VI was the Pope of Bergoglio’s spiritual formation and the Pope of the Council. Francis recently said that 50 years is not a long period of time, at least a century needs to go by before a Council is entrenched in Church praxis. In your opinion which of the intuitions of Paul VI are yet to be realized? Some processes were carried out and have already borne fruits, this cannot be denied. But some processes require a historical period that extends further than the life of an individual: those are the aspects that are yet to be deepened and brought to fruition.

One of the main traits characterising the way in which Paul VI continued the path of the Council is the liturgical reform: the task of making the faith community participate in the celebrated mystery is yet to be fulfilled. Translating the liturgical texts does not automatically lead to participation.

Another task requiring further dedication is a peculiar trait of Paul VI’s pontificate, namely, to enter into a relationship with culture, with the realm of culture in all its nuances and expressions. It’s one of the most urgent aspects of evangelization that is constantly changing and that the Church is called to address.

Unquestionably, one of the pillars of Montini’s pontificate is the relationship between culture and faith. The fact that the Pope recognized his sainthood wipes away the misunderstandings stemming from superficial interpretations of Bergoglio’s magisterium, deemed “unbalanced” for excessive focus on social issues …
With his magisterium Pope Francis constantly testifies to the urgent need of the Church’s cultural mission, but he does so on the grounds of a culture that is no longer European, that takes on greater emphasis and scope because it conveys viewpoints that are distant from the tradition that characterised the understanding of the mission of the Catholic Church until now.

Bergoglio brings to the fore the standpoint of the South of the world, whose face he relentlessly shows in his journeys: this emphasis is of great import also for the cultural mission of the Church.

One of Paul VI’s documents most frequently mentioned by Pope Francis is the encyclical Populorum progressio, which states that development is the new name of peace, and that social questions are of prime importance today. Is he the only “world leader” who understood this? Fifty years after Montini’s encyclical, how far are national policies from addressing and countering the “throwaway culture”?
One of the aspects highlighted by many commentators and scholars of Populorum progressio is that for the first time in Church social doctrine social questions take into account the standpoint of the South of the world. Thus they are no longer viewed from a purely European perspective, or one focused on rich and developed Countries, but rather from one that considers also the rights of those who are marginalized from them. Francis highlights this aspect in his magisterium. Let it suffice to consider the two adjectives used by Paul Paul VI to describe human progress: “integral”, i.e. the image of a human person that is not reduced to one dimension but that is put in the condition of developing all of his virtues, and “sustainable”, because development can’t be an exclusive privilege enjoyed by few. There can be no progress if it is not shared by everyone. I consider it a concept of great topical relevance, whose roots are found in Christian anthropology: if it is not so it does not live up to the Gospel.

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