Cardinal Etchegaray: Blessed Paul VI Was ‘Missionary Pope’
Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, 92, vice-dean of the College of Cardinals, first met the future blessed in 1960s.
VATICAN CITY — Blessed Paul VI was a missionary Pope who wished to bring the light of the Gospel all over the world, a cardinal who worked with him recalled.
Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, 92, vice-dean of the College of Cardinals, had a long-term relationship with Paul VI, whom he first met during the 1960s.
“I was serving as general secretary of the French bishops’ conference, and I met the-then Cardinal Montini, who showed great interest in European matters,” Cardinal Etchegaray told CNA in an Oct. 17 interview.
Giovani Battista Montini had served for several years in the Secretariat of State before being appointed archbishop of Milan in 1954.
In his years in the Secretariat of State, Cardinal Montini had been (from 1925 to 1933) the spiritual assistant to the Italian Federation of Catholic University Students, while as a young priest Father Roger Etchegaray had served as responsible of the Catholic Association in the Diocese of Bayonne, France.
Their common sensitivity toward young people and their formation played a major role in fostering their confidence and friendship.
“I had the occasion to lunch with him in the Archbishop Curia of Milan a few months before he was elected Pope. So when he was elected, I knew the importance the name Paul had for him,” Cardinal Etchegaray said.
“The name Paul was chosen after the Apostle Paul, the missionary apostle. I have a very precise memory of this Pope who seemed to be shy, to be discreet, and who had at the same time this missionary zeal.”
“If I had to summarize Paul VI with two adjectives, I would say that he was mystic and prophetic” Cardinal Etchegaray underscored.
“Paul VI has been considered a cold Pope, but he was really a mystic, and I can testify to it; to deepen in his spirituality would do one so much good.”
Cardinal Etchegaray also stressed that “Paul VI had the courage and the spiritual strength to carry forward the Second Vatican Council.”
“I was a peritus at the Second Vatican Council, and I had many times the occasions to meet him with a circle of periti. He wanted to be informally informed of the debate. In his very discreet way, he was very attentive to others and to the opinion of others. He did not want his ideas to be imposed,” Cardinal Etchegaray recounted.
The cardinal said that Paul VI was “a very discreet, very reserved Pop, who became a wanderer Pope, the first Pope to take the plane, the first Pope to go to the Holy Land, the first Pope to go to the United Nations.”
Paul VI prophetic nature lies in the fact that “he had taught the truth of humanity to all men, and he went toward the poorest.”
“Once, in the Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, in a very popular block of Rome, Paul VI took with his fragile hands a paralyting and embraced him very strongly. He told him: ‘My friend, my friend, you cannot walk, but I will look for you, and in Heaven we will dance together in front of the Lord.’”
Cardinal Etchegaray said that “Paul VI is not well known, even because of his persona. I already spoke about his discretion, his modesty, his absolute respect toward others. He did not want to impose faith, since faith is a gift of God; it does not come from a logic argument. Faith is a light that comes from God.”
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