Paul VI Honored as 'One of the Great Protagonists of the 20th Century'

Historical Investigation Launched at Roman University

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ROME, MAY 18, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Pope Paul VI's role in history will be highlighted at a Roman university that is instituting a chair in his honor.

According the Vatican Information Service, today the Paul VI Chair, which will be instituted at LUMSA (Libera Università Maria SS. Assunta) University in Rome, was presented at the Vatican press office by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, retired prefect of the Congregation for Bishops; Giuseppe Dalla Torre, Rector of LUMSA, and others.

Cardinal Re praised the initiative of including the chair dedicated to Paul VI in the sphere of the coursework on contemporary history at LUMSA because "the footprints of his work in history - as the priest in charge of the Italian Federation of Catholic Universities (FUCI), as well as Secretary of State of his Holiness, and later as Archbishop of Milan and Pope - have not been erased or discoloured with the passing of time. On the contrary, they have been made stronger. Pope Montini was one of the great protagonists of the 20th century".

Paul VI has a place in history, above all for his guidance of the Second Vatican Council, the cardinal affirmed. Even if the merit of calling for and opening the Council falls to Blessed John XXIII, "Paul VI led it with an expert and sure hand, respectful of the Fathers of the Church but firm". For example, "his decision to publish the famous 'Nota praevia', on collegiality and Petrine primacy established the authoritative and proper interpretation of the matter".

He also "loved and esteemed his day and looked at the modern world with sympathetic eyes, seeking the reconciliation between the modern age and the Christian faith. There are few like him who have known how to read the anxieties, the worries, the desires, and the weariness of the human being in our days. As Pope he made historic gestures and, as these were carried out for the first time by a pontiff, they can be considered 'firsts': He was the first Pope to ride in an airplane; the first to return to Palestine; the first t renounce the crown, earmarking the proceeds of its sale to the poor; the first to go to the United Nations; and the Pope who abolished the pontifical court, bringing a simpler lifestyle to the Pontifical Household".

The historical investigation to be carried out under the chair instituted at LUMSA will be very useful for analysing two little know chapters of Giovanni Battista Montini's life. The first is the work of formation of the members of the Italian Federation of Catholic Universities because the Pope "had an innate passion for the formation of persons: religious, but also civil, social, and in some way even political formation".

The second is the impressive charitable activity of human and social assistance that he organized and directed during World War II ... through the creation of Vatican Relief for contact with prisoners and his personal and untiring dedication to feed Jewish and political refugees hidden in convents and religious institutions. This was in compliance with Pius XII's wishes but the dedication with which he devoted himself to this task, asking assistance from nations not at war that they send ships full of provisions to Civitavecchia, north of Rome, merit appreciation and admiration. The 'Montini Chair'", concluded the cardinal, "will also contribute to our remembrance".