Pope Paul VI was ordained a priest on May 29, 1920, and was sent to Rome to study at Gregorian University and the University of Rome. In 1922 Pope Paul VI transferred to the Accademia dei Nobili Ecclesiastici to study diplomacy while continuing his canon law studies at Gregorian University. Pope Paul VI went to Warsaw as attaché of the nunciature, but due to the effect of the severe Polish winters on his health, Pope Paul VI was recalled to Rome just one year later in 1924. Having obtained his degree in canon law, Pope Paul VI was assigned to the office of the Secretariat of State where he remained for the next thirty years. Pope Paul VI was named chaplain to the Federation of Italian Catholic University Students, a decisive assignment vital to his future relations with the founders of the post-war Christian Democratic Party. In 1937 Pope Paul VI was named Substitute for Ordinary Affairs.
A real danger to the papacy existed during World War II. Some believed that the Germans would take the pope and his chief aides north. Throughout this period, Pope Paul VI organized extensive relief work and directed the care of political refugees and prisoners of war. In 1953, Pope Paul VI was appointed Archbishop of Milan without the title of cardinal. He took possession of his new See on January 5, 1955, and soon became known as the "Archbishop of the Workers."
Pope Paul VI revitalized the Archdiocese of Milan, preached the social message of the Gospel, worked to win back the working class, promoted Catholic education at every level, and supported the Catholic press. Worldwide attention was given to the Archbishop of Milan because of his strong impact on the revitalization of Milan. Pope Paul VI was appointed to the Central Preparatory Commission for Vatican II and also to the Technical Organizational Commission.
Pope Paul VI was elected pope on June 21, 1963, with a determination to hold firm to basic Catholic teaching on faith. Pope Paul VI was a strong supporter of collegiality, the collective responsibility of all the bishops under the pope for the general welfare of the Church. Throughout the pontificate of Pope Paul VI the tension between papal primacy and the collegiality of the episcopacy was a source of conflict. On September 14, 1965, Pope Paul VI announced the establishment of the Synod of Bishops called for by the Council fathers. Celibacy, removed from the debate of the fourth session of the Council, was made the subject of an encyclical, June 24, 1967; the regulation of birth was treated in Humanae vitae July 24, 1968, his last encyclical. The controversies over these two pronouncements tended to overshadow the last years of Pope Paul VI's pontificate.
Those who knew Pope Paul VI describe him as a brilliant man, deeply spiritual, humble, and gentle, a man of "infinite courtesy." His successful conclusion of Vatican II has left its mark on the history of the Church. History will also record his well received address to the United Nations in 1965, his encyclical Populorum progressio (1967), his second great social letter, Octogesima adveniens (1971), and his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii nuntiandi, his last major pronouncement which touched on the conception of liberation and salvation. Pope Paul VI supported all efforts for social advancement in the emerging nations of the Third World. Pope Paul VI's first papal visit was to the United Nations headquarters in New York on October 4, 1965, and he was the first pope to visit all five continents, and the first since Saint Peter to visit the Holy Land. Pope Paul VI will be remembered for his work toward the reunion of all Christians, his reaching out to the multitudes of non-Christian religions, his internationalizing the Roman Curia and his untiring work for peace. Pope Paul VI had an exceptional capacity for work which lasted until the end. Pope Paul VI died on the Feast of the Transfiguration, August 6, 1978, at the pope's summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. Pope Paul VI requested a simple funeral with no catafalque (a raised and decorated platform on which the coffin of a distinguished person lies in state) and no monument over his grave.