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Don Ettore Malnati, a great scholar of Pope Montini, remembers him: he was a man attentive to the changes of his generation, he was attentive to the needs of modern man

It was June 21, 1963 when Giovanni Battista Montini was elected to the See of Peter. The name he wanted to impose on himself as Pope was that of Paul VI, with a precise reference to the Apostle of the Gentiles for whom he had a profound love. In the years of his youth, he was appointed ecclesiastical assistant of the Italian Catholic University Federation (Fuci) and then became deputy and pro-secretary of the Secretariat of State. In 1954 Montini was called to be archbishop of Milan, four years before his appointment as cardinal by Pope John XXIII in 1958.

Great weaver of the Second Vatican Council

The beginning of his pontificate was characterized by the desire to mark continuity with his predecessor, the very John XXIII who initiated the Second Vatican Council but was unable to bring it to completion. Paul VI did it by implementing, during the works, a wise work which led among other things to the revocation of the mutual excommunications between Rome and Constantinople issued in 1054. dialogue within the Church, with other religions and with the world the other figures that characterized the years of his pastoral government were modern.

Malnati: “Prophet of the sign of the times”

“Montini, faced with contemporary problems, placed himself in the light of the signs of the times and of fidelity to the Gospel” says don Ettore Malnati, theologian and profound expert on Paul VI and his works. Exactly sixty years after his election, Malnati recalls that Montini “already when he was in the Secretariat of State, he was attentive to the world of workers to the point of approaching the perspective of worker priests. When he became archbishop of Milan, he often went to celebrate in the factories at the end of the shifts."

Attention to the laity

The growth of the laity was another dear theme of Paul VI. “When he was an ecclesiastical assistant at Fuci-recalls Malnati-Montini he was careful to enhance the presence of his students in the Church. Above all, he offered them the opportunity to pray in their mother tongue by translating the Liturgy of the Hours after a meeting in Camaldoli. An initiative which, unfortunately, cost him his job at the students' federation."

Friend of Man

Paul VI's government action did not neglect the needs of modernity. Malnati underlines that it was his constant desire to "reach out to contemporary man, feeling him to be a friend and not in opposition, as John XXIII and the Council have often taught".

Initiator of ecumenism

“Paul VI was the first Pope who returned to the Holy Land to indicate that it was necessary to reclaim the sources of the Church”, explains the scholar, maintaining that from that moment on “the great season of ecumenism opened: in Jerusalem he met Athenagoras , the then Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, and together they embarked on a journey that led to the cancellation of their respective excommunications".

His legacy: a Church for the poor

When asked what is the legacy that Paul VI left to the world, Malnati responds like this: “The idea of ​​a poor Church for the poor. A poverty that is attention, solidarity, to be addressed to a humanity that still needs Christ".

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