2013-06-21 L’Osservatore Romano
Giovanni Battista Montini was elected pope on 21 June 1963. In the late morning of that summer day, St Peter’s Square was being engulfed by the sun when the white smoke rose into the blue sky. As the first cardinal of John XXIII, he who had elected, was expected but not obvious. The surprise came in the name he chose; that of the last of the Apostles who, more than anyone else, preached the Gospel. And this was the centre of Montini’s life, that he himself perceived as “an interrupted path” but with the constant thought of being a witness of Christ in the modern world.
Fascinated by monastic life, the priest from Brescia was in fact was destined for a path perhaps more arduous. For more than 30 years, under two pontiffs, both different from one another but great, Montini served the Holy See in the heart of the Roman Curia and became a key figure. He was for eight years the Archbishop of Milan, the largest diocese in the world, and for 15 years the Successor of Peter with the name of Paul.
A half-century after the beginning of the his decisive pontificate L’Osservatore Romano turns to this protagonist, far off in time and often forgotten, with a biography, rare photos and a selection of beautiful texts. In the final text, celebrating the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul, the Pope takes stock of his pontificate which lasted for 15 years and was exciting and dramatic at the same time: from the time of the council to its first application, patiently and persistently sowing the seed which is still to bear fruit.
Traditional and modern, Montini searched his entire life for contemporary humanity, holding out his hand to shake the hands of others, as an equal which can be seen in the televised images of his audiences. His open hand was the sign of the recently-deceased Pope which his last Cardinal chose to discuss. in an unpublished homily on the Transfiguration. Joseph Ratzinger, in an unpublished homily on the Transfiguration, seized Paul VI’s most profound being, foreseeing — without knowing it — the future now revealed.