It is always fascinating when a Pope comments on a predecessor. The comment will almost always be laudatory in nature, but it can also be revealing. Such was the case when Pope Francis made this comment in his homily at the beatification mass of Paul VI at the close of the Synod on the Family:
In his personal notes, the great helmsman of the Council wrote, at the conclusion of its final session: “Perhaps the Lord has called me and preserved me for this service not because I am particularly fit for it, or so that I can govern and rescue the Church from her present difficulties, but so that I can suffer something for the Church, and in that way it will be clear that he, and no other, is her guide and saviour” (P. Macchi, Paolo VI nella sua parola, Brescia, 2001, pp. 120-121).
Go here to read the rest of the homily. Well, Paul VI certainly did suffer during his manifestly unhappy pontificate as did the Church under his rule. Regarded as a “progressive” and “pastoral” Cardinal, he destroyed any following among liberal Catholics that he enjoyed with Humanae Vitae, the most significant event in his pontificate. Personally appalled by the chaos within the Church in the aftermath of Vatican II, he was too weak of a Pope to do much of anything about it. Although personally holy, and fully deserving of canonization, it is hard to view his pontificate as anything other than a failure. That the Church did not suffer even more damage under him can only be attributed to the truth of his comment that Christ is the true head of the Church and has been shielding the Church from the full impact of human weakness and folly in her leaders since Peter. PopeWatch believes that the selection by Pope Francis of this suffering quote is significant and will doubtless be recalled by historians of the current pontificate.