The title of this writing “In the Name of Two Popes“, significantly summarizes what the Apostle Paul wrote, stating that in the same body – the Church, community of the saints and the saved -, “there are diversity of charisms, but only one is the Spirit; there are diversities of ministries, but only one is the Lord; there are diversities of operations, but only one is God, who works all in all. 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, despite the diversity of the richness of action of the Holy Spirit, the permanence of the promise of God’s fidelity to his People, of being close to him and revealing their interior mystery.

In different eras, albeit linked to each other by multiple similar historical vicissitudes, the two Popes have been, and are, the testimony of how Christianity has contributed and contributes, in an excellent way and beyond any other form, to revealing man to man, 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; that is, a mission of salvation ”[3].

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

Both heirs and supporters of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, they contributed, with their words and their testimony of life, to keep up the discourse on the dignity of man too often plagued by economic, political and social interests; they have pushed the Church to the necessary updating in view of the new and ancient challenges launched by many to the faith; they defended the rights of the poor and the sad oppression of the powerful; strong in the Faith and, animated by Charity, their voice has raised 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 one can, begging for the non-trivialization of the example, to be “the two sides of the same coin“: where the medal is Christ, of whom the two Popes have been able to maintain the living contemporaneity immersed in our humanity presenting it with the richness of their existence, of their social belonging, expressive of historical, cultural and family life.

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

Saint Paul VI, in Ecclesiam Suam, before two epochal events in contemporary history, such as the turmoil of the 1960s and 1970s and the fall of the Berlin Wall, wrote questioning and questioning the world: “To what extent the Church must conform to the historical and local circumstances in which it carries out its mission? How must he guard himself against the danger of a relativism that affects his dogmatic and moral fidelity? How can we make ourselves suitable for all to approach for all to save? “. And he set the answer as follows: “The world is not saved from the outside; it is necessary, like the Word of God who became man, to identify oneself, to a certain extent, in the forms of life of those to whom the message of Christ is to be brought, it is necessary to share, without placing a distance of privileges, or a diaphragm of incomprehensible language, the common custom, provided it is human and honest, that of the little ones especially, if one wants to be listened to and understood [..] But the danger remains. The art of the apostolate is risky. The solicitude to approach brothers must not translate into an attenuation, a diminution of the truth, […] Irenism and syncretism are basically forms of skepticism with respect to 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 the Christian vocation to the full can be immunized from the contagion of errors with which they come into contact “. [4]

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

The art of the Pope’s Apostolate “who came from a distant country … but always so close for communion in faith and in the Christian tradition” [5];

The Pontiff’s solicitude to approach man, every man – regardless of his ethnicity or religious affiliation – without ever failing to proclaim the Truth;

The radical fidelity of Pope Woytjla to the Doctrine of Christ and his consequent apostolic efficacy in interventions on behalf of man.

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

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

And a few days later, in the Audience of 6 August 2003, commemorating the 25th death of Pope Montini, he continued: “Twenty-five years after his death, his high stature as a teacher and defender of the faith appears ever more radiant. a dramatic hour in the history of the Church and of the world. Thinking back to what he himself wrote about our age, that is, that witnesses have more credit in it than teachers (cf. Ap. Es. Evangelii nuntiandi, 41) in love with the Church and always careful to scrutinize the signs of the times in contemporary culture”.

The apostolic commitment of Saint Paul VI and Saint John Paul II is united not only by this passion for God, but also by the passion for man and for his historical event. We know the many particular interventions (speeches, homilies, audiences …) and universal (Encyclicals, Motu Proprio, Letter and Apostolic Exhortations) of both in favor of the Defense of Peoples’ Rights; the radical choice for Peace; the warnings in defense of the Marriage Institute; the calls to safeguard the gift of life from its natural conception to its natural end; respect for the dignity of man. Theirs was and is, as a prophecy and fidelity 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 the man himself in it.

How can we fail to recall, for example, being able to read them in synopsis, the encyclical Humanae Vitae by Paul VI and the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae by John Paul II? And again, the passion and concern of both for the work and social reality of man, well expressed in John Paul II’s Sollicitudo Rei socialis and Centesimus annus and in Paul VI’s Octagesima adveniens and Populorum Progressio? How can we fail to find in the speeches given 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 as well as religious disputes?

In his homily for the beginning of his pontificate, Saint 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 all humanity! Do not be afraid! Open, indeed, open wide the doors to Christ! To his saving power open the borders of the states, the economic systems as well as the political ones, the vast fields of culture, civilization, development. Do not be afraid! Christ knows “what is inside man”. Only he knows! Today so often man does not know what he carries inside, in the depths of his soul, of his heart. So often he is unsure of the meaning of his life on this earth. He is filled with doubt that turns into despair. Allow, therefore – please, 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 Saint Paul VI and Saint John Paul II, the world has the possibility of reducing the boundaries between man and man, re-establishing the natural and human laws which, wisely enlightened by the Christian Event and faithfully applied, can contribute to the building 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 were, are and remain a shining witness.

One last mention, before concluding, I would like to dedicate it to the marked sensitivity of the two Popes towards Beauty, Aesthetics, Culture and Art. Sensitivity that further binds these two Pontiffs in their ministry and that outlines their refinement and sharpness of spirit.

In the Letter to the artists, John Paul II noted this wonderful 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 well and, merging the two concepts together, they coined a phrase that embraces them both: “kalokagathía”, or “beauty-goodness”. It is by living and working that man establishes his own relationship with being, with the truth and with the good “.

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

The Church is the custodian of this excellent means of communication through which, over the centuries, thanks to the work of the Popes and the various monastic orders, the world has enriched itself in culture and artistic history, softening its nature. Through the centuries, from the contemplation of the Creator’s Beauty, a source of works has sprung that still today speak to us, educating us. Also depositors of this heritage, the holy Pontiffs have wisely drawn on it to indicate to man, a seeker of truth and beauty, the path of Aesthetics as the road most in keeping with the human heart, begging the Eternal.

Our contemporaneity, especially by turning our thoughts to the new generations, heir to what our Pontiffs have transmitted to us in this field too, has the difficult but satisfying task of making man return to the taste for Beauty, the Good and the True; the task of bringing man closer to art. Countless works, in addition to 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 between peoples, a meeting place for different cultures and expressions of faith.

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

Technological society – wrote Paul VI – has been able to multiply the opportunities for pleasure, but it is difficult to procure joy. Because joy comes on the other hand. It is spiritual. Money, comforts, hygiene, material security are often not lacking; and yet boredom, melancholy, sadness unfortunately remain the portion of many. This sometimes reaches the point of anguish and despair, which the apparent light-heartedness, the frenzy of present happiness and the artificial paradises are unable to make disappear. Perhaps we feel 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, loneliness, a thirst for love and an unsatisfied presence, a poorly defined void? On the other hand, in many regions, and sometimes among us, the sum of physical and moral suffering becomes heavy: so many hungry, so many victims of sterile fighting, 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 appearing very often. However, this situation cannot prevent us from talking about joy, from hoping for joy. It is in the heart of their anxieties that our contemporaries need to know joy, to hear its song “[8]


“You, who have brought Christ so close to your age – said John Paul II – help us to bring Christ closer to our age, to our difficult and critical times.

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. Won’t they be times that will prepare us for a rebirth of Christ, for a new Advent? We, every day, in the Eucharistic prayer 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 today’s world. You, who carried the vicissitudes of your contemporaries in your heart, help us, with your 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 contemporary culture and civilization, all the sufferings of today’s man, his doubts, his denials, his confusion, his tensions, his complexes, his anxieties … Help us translate all of this into simple and fruitful language of the Gospel. Help us to resolve everything in an evangelical key so that Christ himself can be “Way, Truth, Life” for the man of our time. This is what Pope John Paul II, son of the Polish land asks of you, the holy son of the Church, son of the Italian land “. [9]


[1] 1 Corinthians, 12, 4 – 7

[2] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Const. Past. Gaudium et spes, 22

[3] John Paul II, Angelus, January 6, 20041

[4] Paul VI, Ecclesiam Suam

[5] John Paul II, first address to the faithful, October 16, 1978

[6] See St. Augustine, Le Confessioni

[7] John Paul II, Homily for the beginning of the Pontificate, Vatican 22 October 1978

[8] Paul VI, Gaudente in Domino, 9 May 1975

[9] John Paul II, Address in the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, November 5, 1978