This biography of Paul VI, who was Pope from 1963 to 1978, draws conclusions about his contribution to the modern papacy. Unlike his predecessor, John XXIII, there are few anecdotes about Paul. There is consequently no "industry" surrounding him. And yet, the author argues, he was probably a richer and deeper personality, and his pontificate was of more decisive importance for the future of the Church. There had, he suggests, been unreasonable liberal optimism at the death of John XXIII. Paul was bound to disappoint, given these expectations. As it was, he consolidated the post-Vatican II Church with a mixture of openness and fidelity.
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A well-researched, sympathetic biography of the self-effacing pontiff who steered the Roman Catholic Church through the tumult of Vatican II. Legend has it that, as Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini, Paul VI (1897-1978) was upbraided by Pope John XXIII for his ``Hamlet'' tendencies, and, indeed, during his own 15-year pontificate, Paul often suffered by comparison with his ebullient predecessor. But Hebblethwaite (In the Vatican, 1986, etc.), an ex- Jesuit and Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, persuasively argues that Paul was ``the most naturally talented man to become pope in this century.'' Intellectual (the son of a liberal Italian journalist), friendly in one-to-one encounters, and unusually knowledgeable about the non-Catholic world, the young Montini became a valued aide of Pius XII in the Vatican's Secretariat of State, where he witnessed firsthand the Church's battles against Fascism and Communism. But after 18 years of selfless service, he unaccountably fell from favor and was kicked upstairs with an appointment as Archbishop of Milan. It was under John XXIII that Paul finally became a cardinal and, Hebblethwaite shows, the architect of the agenda that kept the Second Vatican Council from spiralling out of control. Paul's achievements as pontiff (ecumenical outreach to alienated churches; reform of the conservative Curia; greater expansion of the role of women in the Church; the balancing of collegial discussion with papal authority) are weighed against what the author sees as his mistakes (the bans on birth control and clerical matrimony; inability to disentangle messy Vatican finances, resulting posthumously in the Sindona banking scandal). Using interviews and a wealth of unpublished material, Hebblethwaite depicts Paul as a ``good and holy man,'' tireless missionary, eloquent advocate for the poor, and--despite the carping of later critics (and unlike Pope John Paul II)--a comparative font of tolerance toward dissenting theologians. An insightful account of a pope who rose above his deep self- doubts to become a pivotal figure in religious--and contemporary- -history. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Publishers Weekly:
In this scrupulous, densely detailed biography, veteran Vatican reporter Hebblethwaite ( John XXIII ) convincingly portrays Paul VI, pontiff from 1963 to 1978, as thoughtfully and judiciously engaged with the political, social and religious issues of the day. Though Hebblethwaite explores the background of Giovanni Battista Montini, born in 1897 in Brescia, Italy, the book is mainly an institutional history of the church and Montini's role in it, based on accounts from sources from several countries. As chaplain of a student movement, Montini opposed Fascism; he was a close adviser to Pope Pius XII during WW II and after; as Archbishop of Milan, he rebuilt the diocese and supported the ecclesiological changes of Pope John XXIII's Vatican II. As pope, Paul VI traveled the world, becoming the first pope to visit the U.S. and Africa; he committed the Church to working with the United Nations and was the first pope to take part in an ecumenical service. Paul VI, the author argues, had a more nuanced view of ethics than was suggested by the "Pope Bans Pill" headlines that summarized his 1968 encyclical letter on birth control, Humanae Vitae. Observing that many people, including Pope John Paul II, now criticize Paul VI, the author ably--though at too great length--defends his pontificate. Photos not seen by PW.
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