VATICAN CITY, JUN 25, 2003 (VIS) - In today's general audience, celebrated in St. Peter's Square, the Pope spoke about his predecessor, Servant of God Paul VI, who was elected forty years ago to the See of St. Peter on June 21, 1963.
After recalling that his petrine ministry lasted 15 years (1963-1978) "and was characterized especially by Vatican Council II and by a great openness to the demands of the modern age," the Holy Father said: "I too had the grace to take part in the work of the Council and to live through the post-conciliar period. I was able to personally appreciate Paul VI's constant commitment to the necessary 'aggiornamento' or renewal of the Church according to the demands of the new evangelization. As his successor to the See of Peter, it has been my concern to continue the pastoral care that he began, inspired by him like a 'father' or a 'teacher'."
"A strong and humble apostle, Paul VI loved the Church and worked for its unity and to intensify its missionary activity. In this way, the innovative initiative of apostolic trips that today constitutes an integral part of the ministry of the Successor of Peter is fully understood."
The Holy Father emphasized that Paul VI "wanted the ecclesial community to open up to the world, without giving in to the spirit of the world. With prudent wisdom, he knew how to resist the temptation of 'conforming' to the modern mentality, sustaining difficulties and misunderstandings, and sometimes even hostility, with evangelical strength. Even in the most difficult moments he did not cease to bring God's illuminating word to His People."
"Let us give thanks to God," concluded John Paul II, "for the gift of his pontificate, a solid and sage guide for the Church. ... In the light of our eternal goal we understand better how urgent it is to love Christ and to serve His Church with joy. May Mary, whom Paul VI wanted to proclaim Mother of the Church with filial love, obtain this grace for us. And may she be the one to embrace in her arms this devoted son in the eternal happiness that is reserved for those who faithfully serve the Gospel."
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