Everything Pope Francis does seems unprecedented and unmatched, but when he stands before the General Assembly of the United Nations this week, the image of another pope will intrude. The U.N. speech delivered by Pope Paul VI in 1965, almost exactly fifty years ago, resonated across the world. Closer to home, the Pope’s words opened a breach between me and my father, and though our situation was particular, our sad conflict was not unique, but typical of a generation. For people of a certain age, Paul VI at the U.N. remains the unlikely measure of the difference a pope can make, of the pain that can come when a pope speaks the truth, and of the tragedy that can follow when that truth is ignored.
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