(Vatican Insider, Andrea Tornielli) Pope Francis has officially declared the late Pope from the Italian city of Brescia, Blessed. Pope Francis thanked him for his “humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his Church” and commenting on the Gospel, said: “God is not afraid of new things!” Benedict XVI was also present at the Beatification Mass.
“On this day of the Beatification of Pope Paul VI, I think of the words with which he established the Synod of Bishops: “by carefully surveying the signs of the times, we are making every effort to adapt ways and methods… to the growing needs of our time and the changing conditions of society”. Pope Francis has declared his predecessor Giovanni Battista Montini – who was Bishop of Rome from June 1963 to August 1978 – Blessed. In the homily he pronounced at today’s mass which he concelebrated with all the Synod Fathers, Pope Francis spoke once again about the path taken by this first Synod on the Family.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was also present at the solemn ceremony celebrated in the sun-drenched square in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. Benedict XVI arrived well ahead of time and took his seat in the first row of concelebrating cardinals. Pope Francis, who arrived wearing a chasuble which had belonged to the newly beatified Paul VI, went to greet Ratzinger and thanked him for being present. Benedict XVI’s low key presence is increasingly becoming a normal part of Church life, as Pope Francis had wanted. Ratzinger had just turned 55 when Paul VI nominated him Archbishop of Munich in March 1977. Three months later, he was created cardinal. Paul VI’s beatification was celebrated at the beginning of today’s mass. After the official proclamation, a relic of the Blessed Paul VI was brought to the altar: a bloodstained woolen undershirt he was wearing when he was stabbed by a mentally disturbed man in Manila, in 1970, just after he had disembarked the airplane. The dagger only just missed his heart.
In his homily, Pope Francis commented on Jesus’ words in the passage of today’s Gospel: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” “Goaded by the Pharisees who wanted, as it were, to give him an exam in religion and catch him in error, Jesus gives this ironic and brilliant reply. It is a striking phrase which the Lord has bequeathed to all those who experience qualms of conscience, particularly when their comfort, their wealth, their prestige, their power and their reputation are in question. This happens all the time; it always has.”
Pope Francis urged faithful to “master the fear which we often feel at God’s surprises. God is not afraid of new things! That is why he is continually surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways.” “Rendering to God the things that are God’s” means being docile to his will, devoting our lives to him and working for his kingdom of mercy, love and peace. Here is where our true strength is found; here is the leaven which makes it grow and the salt which gives flavor to all our efforts to combat the prevalent pessimism which the world proposes to us.”
“When we put our hope in God,” Pope Francis said, “we are neither fleeing from reality nor seeking an alibi: instead, we are striving to render to God what is God’s. That is why we Christians look to the future, God’s future. It is so that we can live this life to the fullest – with our feet firmly planted on the ground – and respond courageously to whatever new challenges come our way.”
“In these days, during the extraordinary Synod of Bishops, we have seen how true this is,” the Pope added. “For the Church is called to waste no time in seeking to bind up open wounds and to rekindle hope in so many people who have lost hope.” “We have sown and we continued to sow, patiently and perseveringly, in the certainty that it is the Lord who gives growth to what we have sown,” Pope Francis said recalling the words used by Paul VI when he established the Synod of Bishops: “By carefully surveying the signs of the times, we are making every effort to adapt ways and methods… to the growing needs of our time and the changing conditions of society.”
“When we look to this great Pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle, we cannot but say in the sight of God a word as simple as it is heartfelt and important: thanks! Thanks! Thank you, our dear and beloved Pope Paul VI! Thank you for your humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his Church!” Pope Francis went on to quote a phrase used by Paul VI: “Perhaps the Lord has called me and preserved me for this service not because I am particularly fit for it, or so that I can govern and rescue the Church from her present difficulties, but so that I can suffer something for the Church, and in that way it will be clear that he, and no other, is her guide and savior.” It is in this humility that “the grandeur of Blessed Paul VI shines forth: before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord.”At the end of the Holy Mass, Pope Francis recited the Angelus prayer in the presence of faithful and pilgrims gathered in t. Peter’s Square, recalling how Paul VI “was a staunch supporter of the mission ad gentes; it is the witness above all of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi with which he intended to reawaken the enthusiasm and the commitment of the Church for the mission. And this Exhortation is still relevant, it has great relevance. It is significant to consider this aspect of the Pontificate of Paul VI, especially today, which is celebrated as World Missionary Day. Before invoking together the Madonna with the prayer of the Angelus, I am pleased to emphasize the profound Marian devotion of Blessed Paul VI. The Christian people will always be grateful to this Pontiff for the Apostolic Exhortation Marialis cultus, and for having proclaimed Mary “Mother of the Church,” on the occasion of the close of the third session of the Second Vatican Council.”