ROME – During his trip to Uganda in 1970, Pope Paul VI put the blood of Muslim martyrs on a par with that of Christian ones.
The magazine ‘Mondo e Missione’ called the speech by the pope, born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini, the ”most open one ever by the Church towards Islam”.
The relations that Montini – the pope who will beatified this Sunday – had with Islam is one of the most unknown aspects of a papacy known mostly for debate surrounding the Second Vatican Council.
A recent book published in Italy by EMI, “Paolo VI, Destinazione Mondo, i Viaggi di Montini Incontro ai Popoli” (“Paul VI, Destination: The World. Montini’s Travels Among the People”) provides a fresh outlook on the papacy. From 1964 to 1970, Pope Paul VI took nine international trips, visiting 19 countries on five continents.
The book offers a surprising look at his relations with Islam, even though his trips to the Holy Land and the UN headquarters are well known. Pope Paul VI, the first missionary pope to leave Italy in 150 years and the first to ‘put the Church on a plane’ in the hope of thereby reaching out far and wide, met with Muslims on several of his trips abroad. His last international mission, in 1970, began with a stop—the first and only one of a Roman Catholic pope ever—in Shia Iran, which was in those times under Shah Reza Pahlevi…
Pope Paul VI’s era was 1963-1978. The relations with the world of Islam have gone nowhere but downhill in the interim. He likely hastened the downfall of the Shah by visiting Iran.