2013-06-22 Pope Francis greeted a group of pilgrims from the Diocese of Brescia, who had just celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the 50th anniversary of the election of Pope Paul VI, who was from the area.

In his address, Pope Francis spoke of his predecessor’s love for Christ, love for the Church, and love for mankind.Pope Francis began his tribute to Paul VI by recalling his witness, “in difficult years”, to faith in Jesus Christ. He said this “deep love” was not possessive, but compelled him to announce it, recalling his words in Manila during his apostolic journey to the Philippines: “Convinced of Christ: yes, I feel the need to proclaim him, I cannot keep silent,” Pope Paul VI had said. “He reveals the invisible God, he is the firstborn of all creation, the foundation of everything created. He is the Teacher of mankind, and its Redeemer... He is the centre of history and of the world; he is the one who knows us and who loves us; he is the companion and the friend of our life. He is the man of sorrows and of hope. It is he who will come and who one day will be our judge and - we hope -the everlasting fullness of our existence, our happiness.”

“Dear friends,” asked Pope Francis. “Do we have the same love for Christ? Is He the center of our lives? Do we witness this in our everyday actions?”Turning to Pope Paul VI’s love of the Church, Pope Francis said his predecessor had a “clear vision that the Church is a Mother who carries Christ and leads to Christ.”

He quoted the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi:“After the Council and thanks to the Council, which was a time given her by God, at this turning-point of history, does the Church or does she not find herself better equipped to proclaim the Gospel and to put it into people's hearts with conviction, freedom of spirit and effectiveness?... Is she firmly established in the midst of the world and yet free and independent enough to call for the world's attention? Does she testify to solidarity with people and at the same time to the divine Absolute? Is she more ardent in contemplation and adoration and more zealous in missionary, charitable and liberating action? Is she ever more committed to the effort to search for the restoration of the complete unity of Christians, a unity that makes more effective the common witness?”

Pope Francis said these questions are also the ones which confront today’s Church.“All of us, we are all responsible for the answers; and we should ask ourselves: Are we really a Church united to Christ, prepared to go out and announce Him to everyone, even, and especially, in what I call the ‘existential suburbs,’ or do we close in on ourselves, in our groups?” Pope Francis asked.

Finally, looking at Pope Paul VI’s love of mankind, Pope Francis said this is also linked with Christ. “It is the same passion of God that compels us to meet the man, to respect him, to recognize him, to serve him,” Pope Francis said.

He then quoted extensively from his predecessor’s address at the close of the Second Vatican Council:“Secular humanism, revealing itself in its horrible anti-clerical reality has, in a certain sense, defied the council. The religion of the God who became man has met the religion (for such it is) of man who makes himself God. And what happened? Was there a clash, a battle, a condemnation? There could have been, but there was none. The old story of the Samaritan has been the model of the spirituality of the council. A feeling of boundless sympathy has permeated the whole of it. The attention of our council has been absorbed by the discovery of human needs … But we call upon those who term themselves modern humanists, and who have renounced the transcendent value of the highest realities, to give the council credit at least for one quality and to recognize our own new type of humanism: we, too, in fact, we more than any others, honor mankind.”

Pope Francis concluded his address by saying the testimony of Paul VI “feeds us the flame of love for Christ, love for the Church, and gives us the momentum to announce the Gospel to the people of today, with mercy, patience, courage, and joy.”