The date is not his day of death, which is often chosen for saints, but the anniversary of his priestly ordination.
“Pope Francis, assenting to the petitions and desires of the People of God, has decreed that the celebration of Pope Saint Paul VI, should be inserted into the Roman Calendar on 29 May with the rank of optional memorial,” reads a declaration from the Vatican’s liturgy congregation.
The date thus recognizes the anniversary of priestly ordination of this pontiff (1897-1978), who was elected as pope in 1963.
Feast days usually correspond to the saint’s birth into eternal life (their day of death), but there are some notable exceptions.
Some of these are the feast of St. John Paul II, celebrated each October 22, the anniversary of his election as pope; or the feast of Sts. Zelie and Louis Martin, celebrated on the date of their wedding anniversary; or St. John Henry Newman, celebrated on the date he was received into the Catholic Church. There are various reasons that can come into play for choosing a feast day, including the liturgical season.
Lover of life
Francis canonized Paul VI in October 2018.
Paul VI is most known for bringing the Second Vatican Council to its completion and for his landmark encyclical on artificial contraception, Humane Vitae, published in 1968.
It seems the saintly pontiff has a special affection for life, as the miracles that led the way to his canonization both involved unborn babies.
In February of 2018, the recognition of a miracle attributed to the prayers of Paul VI was unanimously approved by the Vatican panel, leading the way to the pontiff’s canonization.
A baby in the fifth month of pregnancy being carried by a mother who had a disease that put the life of both of them at risk was born in good health and is now a healthy, growing girl.
The miracle approved for the beatification of Pope Paul VI (Giovanni Battista Montini) was also related to a difficult pregnancy.
A woman was encouraged to abort her child because the baby was disabled. She refused the abortion and entrusted the baby to Paul VI’s intercession, because of his encyclical Humanae Vitae. The infant survived without any health concerns whatsoever.
Paul VI was beatified on October 19, 2014, at the conclusion of the first Synod on the Family.
Lover of the Church
The Vatican document for his canonization describes him thus:
Paul VI shines out as one who united in himself the pure faith of Saint Peter and the missionary zeal of Saint Paul. His consciousness of being the Successor of Peter is evident when we recall that on 10 June 1969, during a visit to the World Council of Churches in Geneva, he introduced himself by saying “My name is Peter.” …
The Church was always, indeed, his constant love, his principal concern, the object of constant reflection, the first and most fundamental thread of his whole pontificate.
He wished nothing other than the Church would have a greater knowledge of herself in order to be ever more effective in proclaiming the Gospel.