During Pope Paul’s reign (1963-1978) more changes were introduced in the
Catholic Church than in all previous centuries combined, not least due
to the Second Vatican Council. His pontificate defined the papacy’s new
role and, amid great socio-political upheaval on a worldwide scale,
safeguarded the substance of the Catholic faith intact - for example, in
his much ignored encyclical on birth control, Humanae Vitae, now widely
accepted as a prophetic document. Naturally diffident and shy, all that
he achieved had a considerable spiritual and personal cost.