Giovanni Battista Montini left his native land when he was very young, shortly after his Ordination to the priesthood. He always remained deeply attached to his small homeland of Brescia, where his family had its roots, and returned there whenever possible. Elected at the Conclave in 1963 and having become Paul vi, as Pope he no longer visited that Brixia fidelis to which, in speaking to a pilgrimage from Brescia visiting Rome, he addressed the wish that he carried in his heart: that it might always retain its “great vitality and faithfulness”.
As if to compensate for Montini's quiet discretion, two of the Brescian Pontiff's Successors significantly chose to return to the large Lombard Diocese: John Paul ii twice, in 1982 and 1998, and now Benedict xvi. Both had bonds with Paul vi from the time of the Second Vatican Council and both were his “creatures” – Cardinals ab eo creati [created by him] – as the Pope recalled with gratitude, mentioning this bond of affection and devotion.
A great many Brescians joined in paying homage to Paul vi and welcomed Benedict xvi with a warmth that brought life to the grey, autumn day: at Botticino, commemorating the diocese's most recently canonized saint, Fr Arcangelo Tadini; then in the city, with the prayer for the victims of terrorism; and lastly at Concesio, where Montini was born and baptized in 1897. The fine Institute named after him, which has just moved there, was inaugurated by the Pope. This year it has awarded its prize – a real Catholic Nobel – to “Sources chrétiennes”, a French series which has published ancient texts of the Christian tradition for almost 70 years.
Before the Cathedral in which Montini was ordained a priest – surrounded by the Bishops of Lombardy led by their Metropolitan – Benedict xvi presided at a Eucharistic celebration, impressive for its solemn atmosphere that not even the continuous rain could spoil. The Pope explained the Scriptures and reminded the faithful of the “invaluable” gift of the great Pope's lesson.
Throughout his life Paul vi bore witness to the truth, seeking to encounter contemporary humanity that at that time – just as it is now – was placing Catholics in confrontation with forgetfulness of God and with the non-Christian religions. In the face of the post-conciliar difficulties, Montini said that the Pope did not consider following “any other line than that of trust in Jesus Christ, whose concern for his Church is greater than for anyone else”.
Likewise, his Successor was newly elected when he explained his “real programme of governance”: “not to pursue my own ideas, but to listen, together with the whole Church, to the word and the will of the Lord”, in order “to be guided by him, so that he himself will lead the Church at this hour of our history”.
St. Peter’s Square
Feb. 19, 2020
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