Page 10, 11th August 1978

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The life and times of Pope Paul VI by Michael Wilson, the Catholic Herald's Rome correspondent who has covered Vatican affairs for 18years

Giovanni Battista Montini was born in Concesio, near Brescia, in Northern Italy, on September 26, 1897, on the family farm, and was named by his mother Giuditta Alghisi after John the Baptist. His father. Giorgio Montini, was a 'Ayer and for 25 years editor of 11 Cittadino, a Catholic newspaper.

As leader ol the Christian Social Movement, Paul's father was instrumental in shaping. the development of this political party, which evolved into what is today Italy's strongest political party, the Christian Democrats.

The young Giovanni remained on the farm for the first three years — an attempt to bring him to Brescia had proved injurious to his health — and was brought up in strict Catholic tradition.

With his two brothers, Ludovico and Francesco. young Giovanni Battista attended Mass at seven every morning, prayed during the clay at set times and, when a bell rang at three every afternoon (the traditional hour of Christ's death on the Cross), the boys and their parents would cease 'whatever they were doing to pray briefly. Ludovico became a lawyer, and like his father, was elected to the Italian Senate. of which he remained a member until the 1972 elections, when he did not stand for election. Francesco became a surgeon in Brescia, but Giovanni Battista chose the priesthood even before his teens.

He attended Cesarearici College and Cristo Re Seminary. both run by Jesuit fathers; contributed frequently while at school to the magazine La Honda (The Sling) and was spoken or by the fathess as a -well balanced boy, determined and very intelligent."

Although gaining robustness and strength in later life, Giovanni Battista was an ailing boy and it is recorded that he was unable to sit for his final tests in 1912-13 because of illness and had also been refused admission to military service in the 1914-18 war for health reasons.

Canon law studies

On Ma ■ 29, 1920, Montini was ordained a priest in the parochial church of St Mary of the Graces in Brescia by Mgr Giacinto Gaggia and celebrated his first Mass in this church. But later that same year he decided to pursue his studies, reportedly at his father's insistence, and enrolled at the Lombardy University of the Gregorian Academy and at the University of Rome.

The future Pope's health must have improved considerably, for in 1921 he entered the Ecclesiastical Academy to study canon law while continuing his studies at the other two universities.

On May 23, 1921, he was suddenly sent on the first of the many diplomatic missions he was to undertake and was given his first taste of "Vatican politics," when he was appointed secretary to the Papal Nunciature in Warsaw.

While in Poland he added Polish to the formidable list of languages he was to accumulate — English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Polish and, of course Latin, Greek and Hebrew.

Returning to Rome in 1923, he resumed his studies at the diplomatic academy and in the Gregorian and the next year was assigned to the staff of the Vatican's Secretariat of State, being named a Clerk in the following year.

Attracting almost immediate attention (even in a milieu noted for its high-level thinking) for his quickness of mind, passion for reading and attention to minutest detail, as well as an interest in politics, the future Pope moved rapidly ahead in the diplomatic career to which he had been called.

History of diplomacy

In 1925 he was named by Pope Pius XI as Ecclesiastical Assistant to the Federation of Catholic Universities, a body which was often in cOnflict with Mussolini's Fascist followers, and continued his outside assignments for this federation until the growing pressures of Vatican diplomatic business forced him to give it up in 1934.

In addition to his duties at that time, Montini was appointed an instructor in the history of diplomacy to the Ecclesiastical Academy in 1931.

In 1937, the young monsignor was named Pro-Secretary of State for Ordinary i Affairs, replacing Mgr Domenico Tardini, who was promoted to Substitute Secretary of State. When Cardinal Luigi Maglione. Secretary of State under Pius XII, died, the Pope decided not to replace him and retained Mgr Montini and Mgr Tardini in their posts under himself, as Secretary.

Both men were extremely close to the Pontiff, especially Montini. When Allied planes accidentally bombed the fourth century basilica of St Lawrence Without-the-Walls in July 1943, Pope Pius rushed to the scene and Montini accompanied him.

It was also Montini who was generally credited with having persuaded Pope Pius XII to have swung the whole weight of the Catholic Church in Italy behind the Christian Democrat Party in the crucial political campaign of 1948 against the Communists.

Offered Cardinal's red hat

A liberal-thinking prelate throughout his life, Montini was instrumental in the success of the German working people in obtaining a share in the management as well as in the profits of the Ruhr industries and supported the French "workerpriest" movement which eventually fell into discredit, was curbed and finally abolished.

At the Consistory of January 12, 1953, Pope Pius XII is reported to have offered both Mgr Tardini and Mgr Montini the "red hats" of the cardinalate — an unprecedented gesture since they were not yet bishops. Both declined, but it was felt that Mgr Montini had only refused because his nominal superior in the Secretariat, Mgr Tardini. did not wish to accept it.

Pope Pius recorded his recognition of the invaluable services of these two men by retraining them in their Secretariat positions. and, as an almost equally unprecedented gesture of esteem, gave them precedence over all prelates except cardinals at important Vatican functions.

In 1954, when Cardinal ldelfonso Schuster. Archbishop of Milan, died after 25 years in the Archdiocese. the political situation in this highly industrialised northern Italian city was acute. Milan was a centre of Communist agitation which was spreading through the wealthy north, and the archdiocese needed a strong hand.

On November 3, 1954, Montini was elevated to the position or archbishop and consecrated in St Peter's on December 22. On Epiphany Day of 1955 (only nine years to the day before the historic Epiphany celebrations in Jerusalem) he drove to the Rome railway station and, alone, took a train for Milan.

He arrived on a cold, foggy and rainy day but, to the people of Milan, especially the Catholics, he was a fellowcountryman of the north and thousands lined the streets of the city to welcome him. He drove in an open car despite the weather and insisted on getting out to kiss the ground.

Faced up to communists

Moscow-trained Pietro Secchia, a leading Communist who had played a commanding role in the 1948 political campaign, was sent by the Party to Milan to take charge of the party organisation and to face up to the new archbishop.

"Let the little old man come and he will see what we think of him," Secchia told his fellow Communists.

The new archbishop was not easily daunted. Within a feu days of his arrival he began taking regular walks through the large steel. rubber, chemical and other industrial factories and plants of his archdiocese.

Workers tried to obey Communist instructions to "give him the cold shoulder" but found it difficult to resisc, the Montini piercing eyes, smile and lack of pretention. When he held out his hand for a shake they found themselves kissing his ring instead. One speech he, made to a group of workers typified the man: "Ours is not propaganda. is not an attempt to force your conscience. I know there are many who feel much diffidence about religious truths. Greet them for me and tell them this from me: 'Be men, be loyal.'

"I am telling you the truth which affects your life and on which your destinies will depend. Listen. That is all I ask. We want no other tribute either of deference or of money; neither of applause nor of consent. We desire only that yoursouls open up and that you listen once again to the word of Christ."

Bomb on window sill

Communist membership in Milan party organisations began falling off and stronger methods

were decided upon by Secchia. Early on the morning of January 5. 1956, a bomb exploded on the ground floor window-sill of the archbishop's residence.

Montini, who was working in his study, is reported to have kept on working without apparent attention to the event. He never made reference to it. But gradually. through the area, the Communists lost control of the factories, and Montini was given much of the credit. When Pope, Montini pursued his course of bringing Christ to the Communists. Following Pope John's lead in drawing sharp distinctions between the Communist regime and those who lived and worked in Communist-dominated lands, Pope Paul inspired a programme aimed at detente between the 'Eastern European and other Communist countries • and the Holy See.

This course had its up and downs; its critics and its supporters. During his life the Pope was often rebuffed but always pursued the same objective.

An agreement was signed with Hungary but has so often been violated that it is always being re-negotiated; an understanding was reached with Yugoslavia which led to an exchange of diplomatic representatives, and a Yugoslav cardinal heads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; with Czechoslovakia, where new bishops were appointed; and, in Poland, Cardinal Wyszynsky was encouraged and the Holy See, at the time of the Pope's death, was still seeking a Concordat.

When Pius XII died, Archbishop Montini flew to Rome on October 9, 1958, drove to the summer residence at Castelgandolfo where the body lay, knelt briefly in prayer with tears in his eyes — then quickly returned to Milan.

Problems of unity

At the Conclave a few weeks later. Cardinal Roncalli of Venice was elected Pope — John XXIII — but many in the Church believed that it was only because Montini had not yet been named a cardinal that he had not been selected. His prestige in the Church, although he was virtually unknown to the public outside Milan, was such that his name was even mentioned as papabile (Pope, worthy) even though only an archbishop.

It was only a few weeks later that Pope John called a Consistory (December 15, 1958) and named Montini as his first cardinal.

As preparations for the Ecumenical Council (Vatican Council II) went forward and Pope John again pondered the problems of unity in the world, he decided to send Montini on missions for him.

In 1960, Montini went to the United States — his second visit — to receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Notre Dame; was received by President Eisenhower and then visited Chicago. Boston, Philadelphia and Washington before continuing on his exploratory travels to Brazil.

Behind this United States visit was Pope John's desire for a real trustworthy appraisal of the politico-religious situation developing during the American Presidential Election campaigns. Cardinal Montini was instructed to tell American Catholic prelates that an editorial in the Osservatore Romano, saying that the Church "has the duty and the right" to tell Catholics how to vote, was applicable only to those countries where Communism Vt as a major factor, and not to

the United States. •

Groomed to be Pope

The Cardinal was also instructed to sound out reaction

to a Catholic President and to determine whether this could cause anti-Catholic feeling in the nation.

In 1962 Cardinal Montini again went abroad for Pope John; this time to -Rhodesia, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and the Sudan — nearly all emerging as independent nations.

Although Cardinal Montini was known as a liberal and a strong supporter of the progressive movement that had grown to strength within the episcopate of the Church, he spoke only once during the first session of the Ecumenical Council, somewhat to the disappointment of his fellow bishops.

It was later believed. however, that Pope John, aware of his serious illness, was grooming the Cardinal as his successor and had instructed him to remain quasi-silent so as not to antagonise the still strong conservative body of Cardinals.

Cardinal Montini, at the death of Pope John, appeared indeed to be eminently suited to succeed him. It was as though his whole life and career in the Church had been shaping towards that one position—his early experience of youth and their Fight for freedom against the Fascists; his diplomatic experience in the field and for more than 40 years in the Secretariat of State: finally, his pastoral experience as Archbishop of Milan.

Old adage disproved

Again it appeared that Pope John placed the utmost reliance in Cardinal Montini to carry the Council to a successful conclusion since Montini had been the only cardinal_ to be invited to reside in the Vatican during that crucial first Council session and had spent many evenings in talk with Pope John..

When the Conclave opened in Rome to elect the new Pope, Cardinal Montini appeared so eminentlypapabile that when he entered the Sistine Chapel a few in the crowd mentioned "Papa, Papa" which caused him to throw up his hands in annoyance.

But 43 hours later the old Roman tag "he who enters the Conclave a Pope leaves it a cardinal" had been disproved and Paul VI emerged in his white robes of Pontificate.

Pope Paul VI will live in history as the "Apostle on the move — the Pontiff who led the Church into the rocket-age, through doors unlocked by his predecessor Pope John XXIII. _ In his 15 years on the Continued on page 11. 'Throne of Peter, Pope Paul personally brought the Catholic Faith closer to millions of people of every confession in every Continent arid he brought the Church into a position of international leadership in the search for world peace, unity among all Christians and social reforms.

Conservative by nature, he nevertheless initiated liberal trends within the Church and, with a disregard for ancient traditionalism, streamlined the Vatican Curia administration to meet the jet-age needs, ruthlessly doing away with what he considered to be unnecessary triumphalism, pomp and ritual.

However, towards the end of his life, alarmed by what many deemed "avant-gardist" initiatives in wide areas of clerical teaching, he drew back somewhat and the real revolutionary nature of the "updating" process which he had guided in the wake of Vatican Council 11 has not always been given proper recognition. Paul was a space-age Pope, a religious leader who gave new impetus, inspiration and meaning to the Papacy and to the Church, bringing it into more direct confrontation with the living world beyond the medieval walls of the Vatican City.

Hailed as a holy man

During his pontificate he travelled widely both within Italy and to the farthest corners of the earth, the first Pope to leave Italian territory since Pope Pius VII went to Fontainebleau to assist at the coronation of Napoleon.

Paul opened his era of world travel within months of his coronation by bringing the Church in Rome back to the land of Jesus by the simple, modern action of flying there himself — the first Pope to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land since Peter the Apostle, the first Pope, left Jerusalem to establish his See in Rome.

In subsequent years, he flew to Bugota for a Latin-American Eucharistic Congress; to New York to address the United Nations; to Bombay where he was hailed as a "holy man" by millions of non-Christian Buddhists and Mohammedans; to Kampala for an African Eucharistic Conference; to Geneva to address the World Council of Churches — and to leave no doubt in their or any other minds as to how he regarded the Papacy by his opening words: "I am Peter" — and to the Far East, Australia and the Pacific on his longest journey.

Courageously, Paul proclaimed that Papal primacy was not an irrevocable obstacle either to unity among all Christians or to collegiality "by divine right" with his fellow bishops.

Visit to the Patriarch

In Jerusalem, in January 1964, he had initiated a dialogue with Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras which was the first concrete move to heal the schism between the two great Christian confessions of East and West since the short!lived injunctions of the Council of Florence in the 15th century.

To further this dialogue, Paul disregarded the outward formalities of his position as "first among equals" in the overall hierarchies of the Eastern and Western Catholic Faiths. Instead he flew to Istanbul in July 1967 to pay the first icebreaking visit to the Patriarch in his own home.

A few months later, in October that same year, the Patriarch came to Rome and, as the Pope's guest within the walls of the Vatican City, concelebrated with him in prayer in St. Peter's and even sat on the Papal Throne to hold an audience of Orthodox faithful in Rome — the first non-Catholic Pope ever to do so.

Pope Paul was intensely concerned with all mundane matters which affected the bodies and souls of humanity in general — peace, freedom, of the individual, liberty of conscience, social equalities and benefits.

Peace in the world preoccupied him perhaps above all temporal affairs because he realised the attainment of the other objectives of freedoms depended in great part on the establishment of lasting peace. Almost monthly he castigated wars and those who initiated and pursued them. He made appeal after appeal to all countries, to all Heads of State and offered the Church's mediation.

Sensational NY trip

In pursuit of this goal he took the world by surprise by an unexpected and sensational move. He flew to New York on October 4, 1965, to make a personal appeal to the nations of the world from the rostrum of the United Nations headquarters Assembly Hall.

Concerned over the danger of a nuclear holocaust arising from apparently minor conflicts, Paul often said: "I would fly to Vietnam, too, if I thought that this would serve the cause of peace."

VATICAN TWO In the history of the modern Church, Pope Paul's name will be coupled with that of his great predecessor, John XXIII. The one complemented the other.

It had been Pope John who had had the unerring instinct to sense that the Church needed "up-dating" after the nearcentury which had elapsed since Vatican Council I had been forced to suspend its deliberations by the invading armies of King Victor Emmanuel II and had left its mission unfulfilled.

Pope John 'had the courage and rugged peasant determination to unlock the Church's doors upon the world by convening Vatican Council H and seeing to it that the world episcopate could make its needs known and felt.

But it was Pope Paul who had the diplomatic know-how to finish the Council, to guide it through three years of stormy session to reach conclusions which, while revolutionary in :hemselves, retained inviolable :he fundaments of the Catholic Faith and teaching.

Intense and moody

It was John who had launched the Church onto the threshold of the space-age but it was Paul, with his long years of experience in the Vatican's Secretariat of State and, above all, with his pastoral faith, humility and understanding, who piloted her through the pitfalls of post-Conciliar exuberance and possible dangers ,of exaggeration.

Like his predecessor, he shared the idea that peace and unity among men, nations and religions were possible of achievement and from the first days of his Pontificate he devoted his immense energies to these tasks. _ An intense, moody and sometimes self-conscious intellectual, Pope Paul VI was virtually unknown to the world outside his Archdiocese of Milan, his fellow priests and the Diplomatic Corps of the world with whom he had worked for so many years, when he was elected to the Throne of Peter by his fellow cardinals on June 21, 1963.

As he stood on the balcony of St Peter's to be crowned Supreme Pontiff on that sunny Monday, June 30, few could help noticing the contrast between this slight. austere man and John XXIII, who had died a few weeks before — jovial. spontaneous, a man of the soil who had so endeared himself to mankind that virtually the world, Christian and nonChristian, had wept over his passing.

A strong new force

The world and the Church, however, were soon aware that a new and strong force had taken over.

The day after his coronation, Pope Paul plunged immediately into work by receiving the then President of the United States. John F. Kennedy, in private audience. It was only the third audience between a Pope and an American President — the more significant because the President, for the first time, was a Catholic.

A few days later, Paul announced that Pope John's Ecumenical Vatican Council II would continue.

In the three subsequent sessions of this four-year Council, Paul somehow steered some 2,500 prelates of vastly divergent views into producing 16 documents which have changed and are continuing to change the Church's methods and approaches.

At a funeral rite in Milan on June 7 for Pope John, four days after his death in 1963, Pope Paul, then Archbishop of that northern city, had said: "John indicated some landmarks on our road which it will be wise not only to remember but to follow. Can we deviate from the path which he blazed with such boldness to religious history in the making, the path of the universality of the Catholic Faith."

Paul was not the founder of the Catholic Church's move to heal breaches with other Chris. tian confessions but he ably gave impetus to the work of the Secretariat for Promoting. Christian Unity, which John had created in 1960.

Destroying barriers

Pope Paul made his first step towards such unity when, in August 1963, he appealed to the Greek Orthodox Church to "help tear down the barriers that separate us."

That month, too, he became the first of the Western world's leaders to approach Red China by appealing to Mao-tse-Tung to recognise that Christianity and Communism could co-exist and restore religious freedom.

And again, nine years later, he became the first of the Western world's leaders to con-. gratulate President Richard Nixon on his visit to China.

Since that day Paul has welcomed to Rome the late Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras as his guest in the Vatican; visited him in Jerusalem and Istanbul and, with the Patriarch, "buried" the anathemas of both Confessions on one another.

Almost an initial step in Paul's Pontificate, yet one that stressed clearly his intention of dusting off cobwebs and scraping off barnacles, came within four months of his enthronement.

Before the second session of the Council he told the cardinals of the Roman Curia, the

ultra conservative administrative organisation of the Church, that he intended "vast reforms" of its personnel and funds.

He would. he told them, internationalise the Curia, sweeping away encrustations that had grown up through the centuries yet were extraneous to either the Faith or the proper administration of the Holy See. The moves he than outlined have been achieved.

Finding out problems

Paul has reorganised and internationalised the Curia into virtually a Papal household (the Secretary of State and seven Prefects of the ten Congregations are nonItalians); limited office-holders to five years unless reappointed: excluded cardinals over 80 from taking part in papal elective conclaves; asked for episcopal resignations to be submitted at the age of 75; set up a coordinating Curia "Cabinet" to smooth possible inter-Curial antagonism and overlap; and even transferred the Holy Office into a Congregation for expounding, exhorting and explaining the Faith rather than an inqu;sition working in dread secrecy.

These changes were linked with profound mutations in the government of the Church. Paul has set up machinery to help him decide the main great problems of the Church: a Synod of Bishops. with a permanent headquarters in the Vatican, which has met every two years between 1967 and 1971 and which is scheduled now to meet every three years. These Synods he has attended regularly, the better to hear the criticism, often pungent, of his bishops.

While he has renounced none of the absolute nature of the Papacy, he is influenced by the thinking of these consultative sessions and they are by no means "rubber stamp" assemblies.

Pope Paul, in those early days of his Pontificate, was still almost unknown to the Romans, of whom he was bishop, or to the world. He had not yet achieved that personal popularity and stature that he was to attain, almost overnight.

On December 4, 1963, at the closing session of the second Vatican Council Assembly in the giant nave of St Peter's, Paul revealed his decision: "We will visit the Holy Land."

Visit to Holy Land

This decision gripped the imagination of the entire world.

Cables and letters of con gratulations, prayer and good wishes poured into the Vatican and the switchboard was swamped with long-distance calls.. Although a number of previous Popes had travelled outside Italy in past centuries, Paul was the first to set foot in the Holy Land since St Peter had left the land of Christ to establish the Church in Rome — an alien city whose language he did not even speak but which was the centre of the civilised world as then known.

Paul was also the first Pope to leave Italy since 1812, when Pius VII had been forcibly taken to assist at the Emperor Napoleon's self-coronation (he placed the crown on his own head).

From the overthrow ot the Papal States in 1870, only John had previously moved beyond the confines of the Vatican or the Castelgandolfo summer residence in the Roman Hills. Pope John had been the first Pope in almost 100 years to make a railway journey within Italy.

The world did not know it then, but with his simple announcement of a visit to the Holy Land, Paul was initiating a pontificate of jet-age flights to the six continents as, in his own words "an Apostle on the move."

Holding papal line

Scarcely a year went by during which Pope Paul did not fly to some far-off country, as a pilgrim going to listen as well as to exhort, on his mission of bringing the Church to the world. These flights have taken him to:

The United Nations, Latin America, Australia and the Far East, India, Africa and, within Europe. to Fatima, Geneva and Istanbul.

He has not neglected his own country of birth and as late as September 1972 flew to attend the penultimate session of the Italian 18th National Eucharistic Congress in Udine, Northern Italy.

Pope Paul could well be called the Pope of the Third World for his encyclical Progressio Popolorum, the development of people, and Octogesima Adveniens, the call to action.

All popes are faced with difficult, sometimes momentous decisions which, as Supreme heads of the Church, they alone can and must take.

But it is safe to say that Paul's problems in the confusion of the post-Conciliar world were tremendous and overshadowed those of his immediate predecessor despite two world wars and the affects of Communism.

Paul had tried to hold the line of Papal authority while pushing often reluctant bishops and peoples to effect the radical renewals of the Church as demanded by the Council.

He defined the development of doctrinal and disciplinary procedure while streamlining Church administration and stripping to a minimum the onetime pomp. majesty and triumphalism of the Papal Court.

Gravity of decisions

Popes are not immune from criticism, even from within the Church, but perhaps Paul, who was criticised on all sides, was more vulnerable because of the age in which we live with its easier communications, freedoms of speech and revolutionary movements.

Few decisions have been as unpopular all over the world as two of Paul's — his condemnation of artificial means of birth control, including the pill, and his stand against the introduction of a married clergy into the Latin-rite Church, In both of these. especially in that of birth control, Paul showed that he realised the gravity of his decisions by seeking advice from commission after commission of theologians, experts and laity.

Both of his final decisions, unpopular though they were to a great many, were in line with the traditions of the Church, and Pope Paul was not only a traditionalist where fundamentals were concerned but considered himself the guardian of these traditions.

Paul was an indefatigable worker. Despite youthful weakliness, he drove himself unsparingly throughout his life, from earliest seminary days, through his 40 and more years in the Vatican Secretariat of State and the Archdiocese of Milan into the Papacy with its almost superhuman daily schedule. Pope Paul was by now not a strong roan. But his energy, spry activity and indomitable willpower forced him into a physical schedule which men ten to fifteen years younger would find too strenuous to maintain.

Tiring routine

The Pope rose around 6.30 every morning, said Mass in his private chapel, then breakfasted sparingly in the Continental style of coffee, a roll and usually a little fruit.

From then on he was hard at work in his private study, interrupted only for audiences or an occasional outside function.

His Wednesday audience routine was tiring to the extreme. These were usually preceded by private audiences and followed by semi-private ones during which he spoke to hundreds of people, sometimes for only a few seconds, sometimes for minutes; but each demanded concentration on the personality of the individual or group met, and he would mentally assimilate meticulous briefings.

During times when the greatest numbers of pilgrims and visitors came to Rome, Paul would hold two audiences each Wednesday: the first, in the new Audience Hall which was built to his specifications for both audiences and meetings of the Synod, for non-Italians; and the second, in St Peter's for Italians and often French as well. If he sat down to lunch by 2.30 on those Wednesdays he was a lucky man.

A brief siesta and the "office work" began again, lasting usually until well after six. Evening prayer, dinner, relaxation, listening to symphony music, did not complete his day and the lights in the papal study on the fourth floor of the Apostolic Palace were often burning until well after midnight.

But despite the pressure of work and his age, there was never any indication whatsoever that Pope Paul had had any intention of resigning, even though speculation was often rife. Paul believed that God had called him to his present position and that he could lay it down only when God finally called him.

However as he passed his eightieth birthday Pope Paul began to slow down. He began to look old and lost his spry manner and the dancing gleam in his eyes. Earlier this year he had a serious attack of flu, and arthritis made it impossible for him to walk. Vatican officials said that he might have soon to use a wheelchair but to the very end he continued to shuffle and limp helped only when going up or down stairs, He remained very alert for a man of his age though in recent months his memory failed him and sometimes he didn't remember names of officials. On more than one occasion he lost his place in a speech he was reading. But his warmth and humour never deserted him. 10,000 people cheered at a recent audience when he tossed a football into the crowd and many wept openly when he knelt down to speak to a crippled child in a wheelchair.

As he grew older he grew more popular with the people who came to the weekly audiences in the Vatican. The man who took away the votes of Cardinals at eighty and suggested that bishops should retire at 75 would not himself offer to step down but continued until he died. Even though Vatican officials complained that vital documents were not moving across the Pope's desk fast enough and his private audiences, 112 in the first four months of 1977, dropped to 87 in the same period this year, he held on.

Despite this decline Pope Paul will be irreplaceable. He has followed world politics from a front row seat for nearly half a century, longer than any other world leader alive today.

As he neared the end he spoke more and more of his own death and in terms which suggested that he did not wish it were far off.

His courage too amounting to almost recklessness was with hini to the end. When Sgn Aldo Moro, the Italian Prime Minister was kidnapped, and when highjackers seized a plane of hostages at Mogadishu, last year, Pope Paul offered himself as an exchange in a dramatic appeal for the lives of the hostages. Just as earlier in his life he was nearly attacked by a man brandishing a knife in Manila in 1970. And when an Archbishop of Milan had calmly ignored the bomb which was was put on his window sill, he never had great concern for his own personal safety.

IT IS significant that after a lifetime's dedication to the cause of ecumenism it should be the subject of his last major address. At a meeting during Unity Week -this year, he spoke of the divisions between Christians as a scandal and said that the task of reunion was urgent.

His health continued to worsen this year but like many who have been sickly as children he possessed extraordinary powers of tenacity and recovery. He cancelled most of his Holy Week services and although he managed to give his Easter blessing he was said to have been close to collapse when he returned to his apartments.

Less than a month later he wrote in his own hand an appeal to the Red Brigade to release the kidnapped Christian Democrat leader Also Moro. It was a typically dramatic and personal appeal and he used 'I' and not the papal 'We'. The plea failed, Moro was murdered and Pope Paul, who had been a close friend of Moro, was deeply disappointed. Again he broke precedent by leaving the Vatican to attend the memorial service for Moro.

One of the last tributes paid to him was made by Lilian Carter, mother of the American President. She met him a week before he died and described it as the most moving experience of her life. 'He is the most tender man I have ever known,' she said.

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