The title to this paper “In the Name of Two Popes”, summarizes in a significant way what the Apostle Paul wrote, stating that in the same body – the Church, community of saints and the saved, “there are differences of charisms, but only one is the Spirit; there are differences in ministries, but only one is the Lord; there are differences in operations, but only one is God, who works all in everybody. And each one is given a particular manifestation of the Spirit for the common good “.[1]

In the life of Saint Paul VI and of Saint John Paul II, we can grasp, even in the diversity of the richness of action of the Holy Spirit, the permanence of the promise of God’s fidelity to his People, to be close to him and to reveal his inner mystery.

San Paolo VI Papa

In different periods, even if chained by many similar historical vicissitudes, the two Pontiffs have been, and are, the testimony of how Christianity has contributed and contributes, in an excellent way and beyond any other form, to unveil man to according to the famous expression of the Pastoral Constitution of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Gaudium et Spes: “only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man find true light” [2].

In fact, St. Paul VI and St. John Paul II shared the same passion for Christ, for man and for the Church, developing the theme of the mission of Christianity in the midst of humanity as a “mission of friendship, understanding, encouragement, promotion, elevation; a mission, the one of the salvation” [3].

Their programmatic encyclical letters from the Petrine ministry, Ecclesiam Suam of St. Paul VI and Redemptor Hominis of St. John Paul II, are ideally and concretely the continuity of the same mission entrusted by Christ to Peter and his successors to confirm their brothers in faith; a faith, however, incarnated, historical, not aseptic to the contingent reality, capable of reviving and changing the fate of the same human race, if constantly listened and faithfully practiced.

Both heirs and proponents of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, have contributed, with their word and their testimony of life, to keep up the discussion on the dignity of man too often plagued by economic, political and social interests; they pushed the Church to the necessary updating in view of the new and ancient challenges launched by many parties to the faith; they defended the rights of the poor and the sad oppression of the powerful; strong of the Faith and, animated by Charity, their voice has risen to support hope for a better future, capable of attracting and motivating the action and commitment of the new generations.

Of St. John Paul II and of St. Paul VI we can, begging for the non-trivialization of the example, to be “the two sides of the same coin”: where the coin, or the medal, is Christ, of Whom, the two Popes have been able to maintain their living contemporaneity immersed in our humanity by presenting it with the richness of their existence, their social belonging, expressive of historical, cultural and family life.

The Magisterium of their pontificates is united by the same luminous testimony: testimony of memory and prophecy.

St. Paul VI, in Ecclesiam Suam, before two momentous events in contemporary history, such as the upsets of the ’60s and’ 70s and the fall of the Berlin Wall, wrote asking and questioning the world: “Up to what degree the Church must conform to the historical and local circumstances in which it carries out its mission? How should we protect ourselves from the danger of a relativism that damages its dogmatic and moral fidelity? How can we make everyone fit together to save everyone? “And he set out the answer:” The world is not saved from the outside; it is necessary, as the Word of God who became man, to identify himself, to a certain extent, in the forms of life of those who want to bring the message of Christ, we need to share, without a distance of privileges, or diaphragm of incomprehensible language, the common custom, as long as human and honest, that of the little ones especially, if we want to be heard and understood [..] But the danger remains. The art of the apostolate is risky. The solicitude of approaching brothers should not result in an attenuation, a diminution of the truth, […] Irenism and syncretism are basically forms of skepticism regarding the form and content of the Word of God, which we want to preach. Only those who are fully faithful to the doctrine of Christ can effectively be an apostle. And only those who live in fullness the Christian vocation can be immunized by the contagion of errors with which it comes into contact”. [4]

How can we not read, subsequently and crowned, in the pontificate of Saint John Paul II, the answer to these questions and projects that Paul VI had prophetically presented forty years before?

  • The art of the Apostolate of the Pope “came from a distant country… but always so close for communion in faith and in the Christian tradition” [5];
  • The Pontifical solicitude to approach man, every man – beyond his ethnicity or religious affiliation – without ever failing to proclaim the Truth;
  • The radical fidelity of Pope Wojtyla to the Doctrine of Christ and his consequent apostolic effectiveness in the interventions in favor of man.

St. John Paul II, in turn, recalling his predecessor several times, gave testimony of prolonging over time the “ancient and ever new” action [6] of the Successor of Peter.

During the audience of 25 June 2003, on the 40th anniversary of the election of Cardinal Giovan Battista Montini to the throne of Peter, St John Paul II, he said: “Having also had the grace to take part in the conciliar and living the post-Council period, I was able to personally appreciate the commitment that Paul VI did not stop to deploy for the necessary ‘updating’ of the Church to the needs of the new evangelization. By succeeding him on the Chair of Peter, it was my care to continue the pastoral action begun by him, inspiring him as a Father and a Master”.

And a few days later, in the Audience of 6 August 2003, commemorating Pope Benedict XVI’s death, he continued: “Twenty-five years after his departure, his high stature as a teacher and defender of faith in a dramatic hour in the history of the Church and the world. Thinking back to what he himself wrote about our age, that is to say, there are more witnesses to the witness than to the masters (see Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 41), with devout gratitude we want to remember him as a true witness of Christ the Lord, in love with the Church and always careful to scrutinize the signs of the times in contemporary culture”.

San Giovanni Paolo II Papa

The apostolic commitment of St. Paul VI and St. John Paul II is united, as well as by this passion for God, also by the passion for man and for his historical event. We are known of the many particular interventions (speeches, homilies, audiences …) and universal (Encyclicals, Motu Proprio, Letter and Apostolic Exhortations) of both in favor of the Defense of the Rights of Peoples; the radical choice for Peace; the warnings in defense of the double institution; the calls to safeguard the gift of life from its natural conception to its natural term; respect for the dignity of man. Their was and is, as a prophecy and faithfulness to Tradition, a tireless work in favor of man in the name of the Christian Faith, a bearer of culture and generative of modern European and international society. To deny this fact is to deny history and man himself in it.

How can we forget, for example, by reading them in synopsis, the encyclical Humanae Vitae by Paul VI and the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae by John Paul II? And yet, the passion and concern of both for the work and social reality of man, well expressed in the Sollicitudo Rei socialis and Centesimus annus of John Paul II and in the Octagesima adveniens and Populorum Progressio of Paul VI? How can we not find in the speeches held in the General Assemblies of the United Nations the height of their Magisterium in favor of peaceful coexistence among peoples, not to mention their active commitment to favoring the resolution of various ethnic, social and political and religious controversies?

In his homily for the beginning of his Pontificate, St John Paul II affirmed, recalling the carelessness of the world “Do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power! Help the Pope and all those who want to serve Christ and, with the power of Christ, serve man and whole humanity! Do not be afraid! Open, indeed, open the doors to Christ! To his salvation power, open the borders of states, economic systems such as political, the vast fields of culture, civilization, development. Do not be afraid! Christ knows “what is inside man”. Only he knows it! Today, so often, man does not know what he carries inside, in the depths of his soul, of his heart. So often he is uncertain of the meaning of his life on this earth. It is invaded by doubt that turns into despair. Allow, then – I beg you, I implore you with humility and trust – allow Christ to speak to man. Only he has words of life, yes! of eternal life”. [7]

In the Name of St. Paul VI and St. John Paul II, the world has the possibility of reducing the boundaries between man and man, re-establishing the natural and human laws which, knowingly illuminated by the Christian and faithfully applied application, can contribute to the building up of Civilization of love where the primacy of the dignity of the human person far exceeds the narrow confines of the logic of interests, taking root in that Absolute and Unique Truth, of which our two Holy Pontiffs have been, are and remain a shining witness.

A final mention, before concluding, I would like to dedicate it to the marked sensitivity of the two Pontiffs towards Beauty, Aesthetics, Culture and Art. Sensibility that further binds these two Pontiffs in their ministry and that traces their finesse and sharpness of spirit.

In the Letter to the artists, John Paul II noted this stupendous passage: “Beauty is in a certain sense the visible expression of good, just as good is the metaphysical condition of beauty. The Greeks understood this very well and, merging the two concepts together, they coined a phrase that embraces both of them: “kalokagathía”, or “beauty-goodness”. It is living and working that man establishes his relationship with being, with truth and with good”.

And Paul VI, in the encounter with the artists, May 7, 1964, recalled: “we must re-establish friendship between the Church and the artists … We must return to our allies. We must ask all of the possibilities that the Lord has given you and, therefore, in the sphere of functionality and finality, which fraternize the art to the worship of God, we must leave to your voices the free and powerful song of which you are capable of. And you must be so good as to interpret what you have to express, to come to draw from us the motive, the theme, and sometimes more of the theme, that secret fluid called grace, which is called the charism of art”.

The Church is the custodian of this excellent means of communication through which, over the centuries, by the Pontiffs and the various monastic orders, the world has enriched itself in culture and artistic history, softening its own nature. Through the centuries, from the contemplation of the Beauty of the Creator, a source of works has emerged that still today speaks to us, educating us. Deputies also of this patrimony, the saints Pontiffs, to it have wisely drawn to indicate to man, a seeker of truth and beauty, the way of the Aesthetics as the most appropriate road to the human heart, begging the Eternal.

Our contemporaneity, above all turning the thought to the new generations, heir of what in this field our Pontiffs have transmitted to us, has the difficult but satisfying task of making man return to the taste of Beauty, Good and True; task of bringing man closer to art. Countless works, besides being a testimony of Faith, are an expression of the culture that the encounter between Christ and man can produce. In this sense, art can become an interesting element of inter-culturality, as well as dialogue and mutual knowledge among peoples, a meeting place for different cultures and expressions of faith.

I would like to conclude, with the double but univocal word of Paul VI, contained in his First Apostolic Exhortation Gaudente in Domino. and of John Paul II in his Discourse during the first pilgrimage to Assisi. I believe that these wonderful words symbolize the intrinsic union of the Petrine Magisterium in favor of man and in the fidelity to God of these two great men of our contemporary history:

“The technological society – Paul VI wrote – has been able to multiply the opportunities for pleasure, but it hardly succeeds in procuring joy. Because joy comes from the other side. It is spiritual. Money, comfort, hygiene, material security are often not lacking; and yet the boredom, the melancholy, the sadness remain unfortunately the portion of many. This sometimes leads to anguish and despair, which the apparent carefreeness, the frenzy of present happiness and artificial paradises can not make disappear. Perhaps one feels powerless to dominate industrial progress, to plan society in a human way? Perhaps the future appears too uncertain, human life too threatened? Or is it not, above all, solitude, a thirst for love and unsatisfied presence, for a badly defined void? On the other hand, in many regions, and sometimes in our midst, the sum of physical and moral suffering becomes heavy: so many hungry, so many victims of sterile fights, so many marginalized! These miseries are perhaps not deeper than those of the past; but they take on a planetary dimension; they are better known, illustrated by the “mass media”, no less than the experiences of happiness; they oppress the conscience, without a human solution to their dimension very often appearing. However, this situation can not stop us from talking about joy, hoping for joy. It is in the heart of their anguish that our contemporaries need to know joy, to hear its song “[8]

Help us! These times await Christ with great anxiety, although many men of our age do not realize it. We are approaching the year two thousand after Christ. Will it not be times that will prepare us for a rebirth of Christ, a new Advent? Every day, in the Eucharistic prayer we express our expectation, addressed to him alone, our Redeemer and Savior, to him who is the fulfillment of the history of man and of the world. Help us, St. Francis of Assisi, to bring Christ closer to the Church and to the world of today. You, who brought into your heart the vicissitudes of your contemporaries, help us, with the heart close to the heart of the Redeemer, to embrace the events of the men of our age. The difficult social, economic, political problems, the problems of culture and contemporary civilization, all the sufferings of today’s man, his doubts, his negations, his disarray, his tensions, his complexes, his disquietude … Help us to translate this into simple and fruitful language of the Gospel. Help us to resolve everything in an evangelical key so that Christ himself may be “Way, Truth, Life” for the man of our time. This asks you, the holy son of the Church, son of the Italian land, Pope John Paul II, son of the Polish land”. [9]

Minister Templi

Padre Abramo Camisani



[1] 1 Corinzi, 12, 4 – 7

[2] Concilio Ecumenico Vaticano II, Cost. Past. Gaudium et spes, 22

[3] Giovanni Paolo II, Angelus, 6 gennaio 20041

[4] Paolo VI, Ecclesiam Suam

[5] Giovanni Paolo II, primo discorso ai fedeli, 16 ottobre 1978

[6] Cfr S.Agostino, Le Confesisoni

[7] Giovanni Paolo II, Omelia per l’inizio del Pontificato, Vaticano 22 ottobre 1978

[8] Paolo VI, Gaudente in Domino, 9 maggio 1975

[9] Giovanni Paolo II, Discorso nella Basilica di San Francesco d’Assisi, 5 novembre 1978