Vatican Radio: Propagation by the Airwaves

By Marilyn J. Matelski | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Messages for "The Disciples": c. 1978

Pope Paul VI, after decades of physical and emotional vulnerability, finally succumbed to the specter of poor health on Sunday, August 6, 1978. While many mourned his death, author David Yallop reports that the funeral (broadcast via Vatican Radio) was uncharacteristically sterile and unemotional, perhaps because of the pontiff's own personal distance as well as his controversial stance on such issues as birth control and abortion: "It may be a cruel epitaph, an unfair encapsulation of a sometimes brilliant and often tortured mind, but what transpires in the marital bed is of more import to ordinary people than the fact that Paul flew in many airplanes, went to many countries, waved at many people, and suffered agonies of the mind." 1

Paul VI's fifteen-year pontificate seemed weak and indecisive to many Vatican observers, mostly because of his deference to the conservative wing of the Roman Curia in the wake of a liberal Vatican II Council. 2 Yallop once described Paul VI's diplomatic style as a "papal dance he had invented since ascending to the throne of Peter: one step forward, one step back." 3

Despite his seeming indecisiveness over certain issues, however, the pope was adamant about ecclesiastical reform. Much of his efforts were directed toward this goal; as a result, Paul VI may be best remembered for his attempts at internationalizing the Curia and the College of Cardinals, as well as for his establishment of new papal election procedures.

In the area of Curia reform, Paul VI worked diligently to break the "Italian monopoly" that had existed for over four centuries within the Holy See. Between 1963 and 1978, the pontiff named 110 cardinals, most of whom were non-Italian. 4 The result of these appointments was dramatic: shortly before his death in August 1978, the Italian constituency of the Sacred College was reduced to about one-fourth its previous size. 5

As for his influence in future papal conclaves, Pope Paul created a set of new rules in 1975 that was to take place after his death. First of all, the

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