It seems fitting to recall this today:
ROME, Sept. 18—Pope Paul VI received the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this evening.
The American civil rights leader said afterwards:
“The Pope made it palpably clear that he is a friend of the Negro people, and asked me to tell the American Negroes that he is committed to the cause of civil rights in the United States.”
Quoting the Pontiff as advocating nonviolent methods in the struggle for Negro rights, Dr. King said he was deeply encouraged by his meeting with Pope Paul.
Dr. King, a Baptist minister, said he believed that the United States civil rights movement had received “the endorsement of the most influential religious leader in the world and the head of the largest church in Christendom.”
He said he had reported to the Pope that the Negroes in the United States were making “significant strides” in their struggle against segregation and discrimination. Dr. King reported that he had told the Pontiff that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was being “implemented all over the South, and that we are surprised at the degree of compliance in Southern communities.”
However, Dr. King said, he had also told the Pope that Negroes in large urban areas in the North were confronted with difficult discrimination problems in housing and other fields, “and in these counties the Catholic Church is very strong and a reaffirmation of its position [on civil rights] would mean much.”
Pope Paul, according to Dr. King, showed himself well informed on racial problems in the United States, said he was remembering the Negro people daily in his prayers, and promised to issue a public pronouncement on his views on interracial relations.
Dr. King expressed confidence that “the vast majority” of other American civil rights leaders would approve his visit to the Pope.
With a smile, Dr. King observed:
“I think new days have come when a Pope meets a fellow who happens to have the name Martin Luther.”
Dr. King came to Rome from Berlin, where he had been a guest of Willy Brandt, Mayor of West Berlin. After the papal audience the civil rights leader flew to Madrid for a two‐day holiday. He is scheduled to visit London before his return to the United States. Dr. King is accompanied by the Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy of Atlanta, Ga., a close associate.
The papal audience for Dr. King was arranged by the Most Rev. Paul J. Hallanan, Catholic Archbishop of Atlanta. Dr. King and Dr. Abernathy saw Pope Paul for 25 minutes in the Pontiff’s private library in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace. Msgr. Paul Marcincus, an American prelate serving in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, acted as interpreter.
The Pope presented his two Negro visitors with silver medals commemorating the present Ecumenical Council in the Vatican.
Second, from April 5, 1968: