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The Papacy - A Historical Perspective

1939-1978 A.D.

Pius XII : 1939-1958 A.D.

260. Born in Rome. Elected March 2, 1939 - died October 9, 1958.

He fought against the persecution of Marxism. During the excavations below the Basilica, the Sepulchre of St. Peter was discovered.

He celebrated the 24th Jubilee Year (1950) and proclaimed the Dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Which gave origin to the custom of blessing the statue of the Virgin Mary in Piazza di Spagna on December 8th.

During his pontificate, Pius XII never left Rome or Castel Gandolfo, his residence.

His longest journey was to Santa Maria di Galeria, on October 27th 1957, to inaugurate the new Vatican Radio Station (more than 1,000 KW of power). This town is 27 kilometres from Rome.

He is buried in the Vatican Grottoes. His pontificate lasted about 18 and a half years.

John XXIII : 1958-1963 A.D.

261. Born in Sotto il Monte (Bergamo). Elected October 28, 1958 - died June 3, 1963.

With his Bull "Humanae salutis" he called the 21 st Ecumenical Council Vatican II (October 11th 1962).

The subject of the council was: Liturgical life and social relationships, the Church and the modern world. His beatification is under way.

The new Pope, endowed with a good and simple looking attitude, as opposed to the detached and ascetic Pius XII, revealed himself immediately as a Pope of transition and balance between the two different trends of traditionalists and the supporters of a great opening of the Church.

Soon after the consecration, which took place on November 4th, he began to visit parishes, hospitals and jails.

Even during his pontificate, John XXIII continued to shock the conservatives when he received the son-in-law of Kruschev, the Russian Head of State, therefore ignoring the excommunication launched to the communists by Pope Pacelli.

John raised the number of cardinals to 75, instead of the 70 previously established by Sixtus V. He ordered the revision of the list of saints, which underwent a careful critical control.

The death of John XXIII caused great emotion all over the world.

He is buried in the Vatican Grottoes. His pontificate lasted 4 years and 8 months.


Paul VI
: 1963-1978 A.D.

262. Born in Concesio (Brescia). Elected June 21, 1963 - died August 6, 1978.

He celebrated the 25th Jubilee Year (1975).

He was the first Pope to leave Europe.

He allowed the clergy the use of a suite.

He created the "Episcopal Synod". Paul VI established that the Mass had to be said in the mother language of the country and not in Latin - except for solemn ceremonies.

He gave the new form of mensa to the altar, which in new churches had to be placed towards the faithful and at the actual centre of the building.

Pope Montini aimed for the reform and the internationalisation of the Curia, the enlargement of the Sacred College from 103 to 120 members and the participation of cardinals from the third world.

He wrote a letter to the members of the "Red Brigades" in which he begged for the liberation of Aldo Moro, president of the Christian Democrats, who was condemned to death by them.

He ordered the building of the famous Sala Nevi, which bears the name of the architect that projected it, to be used during papal hearings held on Wednesdays.

He renewed the legislation concerning the conclave and the Vacancy of the See. He was buried in the Vatican Grottoes.

His Pontificated lasted about 15 years and 2 months.


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