As news of the death of Pope Paul VI sent the Catholic world into nine days of traditional mourning, members of the Harvard community yesterday praised the late Pontiff as a moderate reformer who tried to awaken the Roman Catholic Church to social issues without permanently dividing it along political lines.
The doors to Saint Paul Church in Cambridge remained open yesterday, although the poor weather kept down the number of worshippers who came to pray for the Pope, who died of a heart attack Sunday at the age of 80.
Father Thomas F. Powers of the Harvard-Radcliffe Catholic Students' Center said the local church will not hold any special services to honor Pope Paul, but will "remember him in the regular parish Masses" during the week.
Humberto Cardinal Medeiros, archbishop of Boston, will leave for Rome today after concluding a tour through France, a spokesman for the archdiocesan chancellery said yesterday. There Medeiros will attend the Pope's funeral--which will take place Saturday--and then participate in the conclave of cardinals that will elect Paul's successor.
Krister Stendahl, dean of the Divinity School, yesterday credited Pope Paul with having created a "more diversified leadership" within the Church, which could lead to future liberalization of the Catholic stand on priestly celibacy and other issues.
The impetus for future reform of the Church will come from a realization of the great diversity of the many local branches of the Church throughout the world, Stendahl said. Noting Pope Paul's efforts to carry out the Second Vatican Council's call for a loosening of the rigid Church hierarchy, he added, "The machinery for such diversity was laid during Paul's pontificate."
Stendahl would not speculate on the possible choice of Paul's successor, who must be chosen by two-thirds of the 116 voting members of the College of Cardinals.
He did, however, contrast Pope Paul's style with that of his predecessor, Pope John XXIII. John "had a very deep, religious, rather than Church-political, view of the Church," he said. He added that he would be "much more comfortable" if the next Pope shares John's "more religious" approach, rather than Paul's "less obviously spiritually-based" style of leadership.
Powers said he believes Pope Paul will best be remembered for his "very deep, very strong concern for social issues." He noted that as chaplain of the University of Rome in the mid- 20s, Paul--then Father Giovanni Battista Montini--"was very conscious of, and involved in, some of the dominant social issues of the day. That concerned involvement continued to mark his work."
The next Pope will probably be a moderate reformer like Paul, rather than a member of either the extreme liberal or conservative wings of the Church, Powers said. The new Pontiff "must be sensitive to many different elements within the Church," he added.
Arthur J. Dyck, Saltonstall Professor of Population Ethics at the Divinity School, said Paul had a "very perceptive and very humane grasp of the issues" of population control, an issue that created tremendous controversy during his 15-year reign.
Dyck said he believes Paul was "sadly out of step" with the times when he forbade Catholics to use artificial means of contraception--a decision that brought considerable criticism from liberal Catholics--but added that the Pontiff rightly "saw population problems as largely problems of social justice," and encouraged governments to work together to solve them.
The decision against artificial contraception was "the result of a disagreement over the means" of population control that "cost the Pope a lot of support, and cost the Church in terms of adherence, in terms of people who remained active and faithful," he said.
He added that although no one can predict the course that the next Pope will take, population control "remains one of the areas that are ripe for a change" of Church policy