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Paul VI

Paul VI

The Divided Pope

By Yves Chiron

Foreword by Henry Sire

384 pp

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About the Book

Following after brilliant authoritarian Pope Pius XII and good-humored Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI seemed hesitant, anxious, even tormented. Yet the impact of his fifteen-year-long papacy was colossal: not a single aspect of Church life was left untouched in the whirlwind of change unleashed by the Ecumenical Council he guided and sought to implement. Who was this man, Giovanni Battista Montini (1897–1978), who so altered the face, the voice, the bearing of Catholicism? Versatile historian Yves Chiron is equal to the challenge of portraying this multifaceted and in many ways enigmatic figure, who was ordained a priest without passing through the seminary and never held a simple parish assignment.

Taking advantage of hitherto untapped archival sources and the testimony of numerous witnesses, Chiron builds up a faithful portrait of a figure controversial at every stage of his career: from his anti-fascist activities as university chaplain to his work in the diplomatic corps, which would create tensions with Pius XII; from his heavy years as Archbishop of Milan to his Janus-like role at the Second Vatican Council, when his interventions alternately delighted and devastated both progressives and conservatives; from his intimate involvement in the recasting of the Roman Catholic liturgy to his adamant rejection of contraception, which left him abandoned by bishops and theologians who held the world’s willing ear. Paul VI emerges as a pope torn between conflicting interpretations of aggiornamento and overwhelmed by crises in the Church as he tried to reconcile fundamental principles of dogma with pressures from modernist reformers.


“Regardless where one stands, it is impossible to understand the state of the Church today or the battles that rage inside it without coming to terms with Paul VI. Yet this enigmatic figure has been ill-served by his biographers, mostly journalists unequal to the complexities of the task, progressive ideologues who praise and damn him by turns, or more recently hagiographers, who sugar-coat their subject’s unedifying aspects. It has taken a master of the historian’s craft, Yves Chiron, to furnish a vivid literary portrait, critical but not unsympathetic, that both explains Montini’s paradoxical legacy and offers a valuable key to modern Catholic history, politics, and theology. The title of this fair-minded and superbly researched biography could not be more apt, for it brings us into close contact with a man—a university chaplain, Vatican diplomat, cardinal archbishop of Milan, and finally Supreme Pontiff—divided by conflicting and perhaps ultimately incompatible allegiances.”


author of Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright


“This new English translation of Yves Chiron’s hard-hitting 2008 biography of Paul VI challenges many of our notions of this pope and saint. He is presented as one who courageously strove to suffer for his beloved Church in one of her stormiest seasons; but these pages also insist that much of the silliness arising out of misinterpretations of Vatican II can be attributed to Paul VI’s confusion, if not complacency. Arguments laid out, assumptions made, conclusions drawn—this work will shock as well as stir readers to appreciate the complexity that was the pontificate of St. Paul VI.”


author of Encyclicals in Times of Crisis


“Shakespeare wrote: ‘What’s past is prologue.’ If we wish to see how the history of the 21st-century Church began to be written in the 20th century, we would do well to read this careful, sober, and well-documented book about Pope Paul VI, one of the pivotal figures of modern Church history.”


host/producer of “The Catholic Current”


“Every biography has a context larger than the life described, and this is especially true of Yves Chiron’s biography, Paul VI: The Divided Pope. On the one hand, the author carefully details the life of Paul VI and identifies his multileveled personal struggle for resolution which, as Chiron well illustrates, finds itself in the forefront of his papacy. On the other hand, the perceptive reader comes to understand the impact of the divided Pope on the life of the Church today and for years to come.”


Rector, Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, Philadelphia

About the Author

YVES CHIRON, born in 1960, has written dozens of influential biographies, mostly of Catholic figures and movements, including Urban V, Pius IX, Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius XI, John XXIII, Annibale Bugnini, Dom Gérard Calvet, Frère Roger of Taizé, Charles Maurras, and Padre Pio.

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