A pope remembered
Catholics remember Blessed Pope Paul VI for a number of key reasons – he oversaw and closed Vatican II, introduced the new rite of Mass, was the first pope to travel globally, and issued the immensely unpopular and widely rejected encyclical Humanae Vitae.
Many faithful Catholics hold the encyclical as the jewel in the crown of his pontificate, but also a thorn of sorrow – he never wrote another encyclical for the 10 years left of his pontificate, such was the backlash against it, including from within the church by bishops, priests, and laity.
But there’s a real gem from Paul VI’s papacy that still, 47 years on, remains largely unknown, but it shouldn’t be.
Paul VI’s Year of Faith
On February 22 1967, Paul VI announced a Year of Faith, on the occasion of the nineteenth centenary of the martyrdom of the apostles Sts Peter and Paul.
Paul VI’s Year of Faith concluded in Saint Peter’s Square on June 30 1968. It was then that the hidden gem, the “solemn utterance” was given by this pope to the Church – his Credo of the People of God. The Credo was published an Apostolic Letter in the form of motu proprio, with the Latin title Solemni hac liturgia.
In the midst of disorientation and confusion in the Church, and at a time when society was in the throes of the sexual revolution and the influence of atheistic communism, Blessed Pope Paul VI pronounced his Credo.
“Today we are given an opportunity to make a more solemn utterance.
“As once at Caesarea Philippi the apostle Peter spoke on behalf of the twelve to make a true confession, beyond human opinions, of Christ as Son of the living God, so today his humble successor, pastor of the Universal Church, raises his voice to give, on behalf of all the People of God, a firm witness to the divine Truth entrusted to the Church to be announced to all nations,” he said in his introduction to the Credo,” he announced.
A catastrophic time for the Church and the World
Paul VI was fully aware of the dire situation the Church and the world found itself in. Perhaps today’s Catholics will sympathise, as they look around at the rampant rates of abortion, rising cohabitation, divorce, the legalising of same-sex marriage, and declining practice of the faith.
“We see even Catholics allowing themselves to be seized by a kind of passion for change and novelty,” he said, and lamented the “disturbance and perplexity in many faithful souls” because of harm being done to the deposit of faith.
The Credo he professed is based on the Creed of Nicea, which Catholics around the world recite every Sunday at Mass, “the creed of the immortal tradition of the holy Church of God” as Paul VI called it.
Building on the Creed of Nicea, Paul VI’s Credo deliberately sought to be “to a high degree complete and explicit” because at a time of such terrible confusion and heterodoxy, clear teaching was more necessary than ever.
Special emphasis is made around the divinity of Christ, the doctrines on the Blessed Virgin Mary, the nature, structure, and authority of the Church and her pastors, original sin, the inspired nature of sacred scripture, the sacrificial nature of the Mass and the doctrine of transubstantiation – in short, all the teachings of the Church at that time being doubted, rejected, and “revised,” as exemplified by the Dutch catechism, published in 1966, and with the blessing of the Dutch bishops.
How the Credo came to be
In 2008, leading Italian Vatican reporter, Sandro Magister, wrote an article on the interesting history of how the Credo came about.
The French Thomist philosopher Jacques Maritain had the idea of Pope Paul VI issuing a profession of faith, spurred on by the publication of the Dutch catechism. Magister quotes a letter of Maritain to Cardinal Charles Journet.
“The Sovereign Pontiff should draft a complete and detailed profession of faith, in which everything that is really contained in the Symbol of Nicea would be presented explicitly. This will be, in the history of the Church, the profession of faith of Paul VI.”
Cardinal Journet photocopied the letter and gave it to the Pope when he next met him.
Two days after Paul VI announced the Year of Faith, Maritain wrote, “Is this, perhaps, the preparation for a profession of faith that he himself will proclaim?”
Magister tells us that at the request of Paul VI, Maritain drafted a profession of faith. He finished it on 11 January 1968, and on the 20 January he sent it to Journet. The following day, Journet sent it to Paul VI. With a grateful acknowledgement, and a few amendments, the draft was became the Credo.
The Credo today
Since then, St. Pope John Paul II has given the Church the Catechism of the Catholic Church, publishing in 1992. Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI made his own contribution in 2005, with his Compendium to the Catechism, and Catholics still profess the Creed of Nicea each Sunday at Mass.
47 years on this month, let us join and make our own, the words and sentiments of Blessed Pope Paul VI, the next time we’re at Sunday Mass:
“To the glory of God most holy and of our Lord Jesus Christ, trusting in the aid of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, for the profit and edification of the Church…we now pronounce this profession of faith.”