Born Giovanni Battista Montini, Pope Paul VI was the son of a prominent newspaper editor. He was ordained in Bescia on 29 May 1920, studied in Rome and entered the Vatican secretariat of state in 1922. He became one of two presecretaries to Pope Pius XII, and from 1954 to 1963 was Archbishop of Milan. He worked to improve relations between workers and employers and social relations more generally. In 1958 he became a Cardinal. He was elected pope by the College of Cardinals on 21 June 1963 and died on 6 August 1978.
As Pope he continued the reforms of John XXII, reconvening the Second Vatican Council and supervising reforms including the vernacularisation and reform of the liturgy. Rules on fasting and abstinance were relaxed, and restrictions on intermarriage were lifted. Bishops were asked to establish councils of priests in their own dioceses, powers of dispensation were given to bishops and a international synod of bishops and a commission to revise cannon law were established.
Pope Paul VI was the first pope in 150 years to travel outside Italy, and soon was travelling widely, establishing a new tradition for popes. He visited the Holy Land, USA, Africa and Southeast Asia. He visited Australia in 1970, and a medal was issued to commemorate that occasion (NU 16463). He was the first Pope to visit Australia, arriving in Sydney on November 30. His duties included blessing the foundation stone of St Lucy's school in Sydney, speaking to Aboriginal communities and delivering sermons. He reached out to other churches, and addressed the World Council of Churches. Limited doctrinal agreements were reached with the Anglicans and Lutherans. He oversaw improvements in relations with Communist countries, and Communist leaders visited the Vatican for the first time. He enlarged the College of Cardinals and added cardinals from developing countries.
Although facing growing dissent from the Catholic Church for his frequent assertions of Papal Primacy, Paul reaffirmed the Church's ban on contraception, disappointing many liberals. He also maintained traditional church positions on the celibacy of priests, divorce and the role of women.
Pope Paul VI died on 6 August 1978.