A humble, holy man, but one whose actions will earn him a revered place in history.
That is the way Catholics view Pope Paul VI, who was buried in Rome yesterday.
"The basis for all his judgments was the awesome decision to do everything to please the Lord," said Msgr. John J. Murphy, pastor of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Msgr. Murphy spoke at a memorial mass at the shrine for the repose of the soul of the late pontiff, which coincided with funeral services in Rome.
Msgr. Murphy told some 600 worshippers gathered for the mass that Pope Paul, as Christ's representative on earth, "tried to help us to keep our sights high . . . is to see life from God's point of view."
After the service, worshippers shared with a reporter their impressions and memories of Pope Paul and their hopes for the future of the church.
Agnes Vaghi, Kensington, who described herself as a "pope watcher," predicted that "he will go down in history as one of the greatest popes, certainly of this century . . . I think the world will come to think more highly of Paul in death than when he was alive."
"He lived through the most difficult period in contemporary church history," interjected her husband, Joseph, an architect.
"He kept the church together through the transition from the violent upheavals after Vatican II - with priests and nuns leaving, and all that - to the relative tranquility that exists now. The person who follows him will have a much easier time of it," Vaghi speculated, because of Paul's pioneering in such controversial realms as ecumenical relations, liturgical reform and modernizing the church generally.
Worshippers selected at random for questioning after yesterday's massreflected a Catholic laity well informed about and deeply interested in the affairs of their church - a phenomenon that is in itself one of the fruits of Vatican Council reforms and the late pope's efforts to implement them.
"I remember him most for his tireless effort to keep the church (involved) in a turbulent modern world," said Immanuel Wakhweys, a Ugandan who works at the World Bank.
"I remember him for his efforts to bring Christians of various faiths together to follow in the footsteps of Jesus; for the way he opened up the church - it used to be that everything was in Latin, and the people who were not so eloquent, the liturgy was all a mystique to them," continued Wakhweya, who attended the service with his wife and five of their seven children.
"He tried to lead the world under the point of view of God," said Sister Maria Rosa, a Spanish-born nun who teaches at Sacred Heart Parish school. "The rubic of his life has been humility."
Langston Chick, not a Catholic, said he came to the service because "I live in the neighborhood," and was attracted by the massive banners of black and gold, the colors of mourning for the pope, draped over the shrine's front doors.
"I'm not a Catholic, but I found him (Pope Paul) the kind of person you could look up to as a spiritual leader. He wasn't just somebody over in Italy."
Most of those interviewed had clear ideas on the kind of pope who was needed to succeed Paul.
"The next pope won't be an Italian," was the firm prediction of John West of Alexandria.
"I don't know about this time, but maybe in the future," countered Agnes Vaghi, who pointed out that Pope Paul, during his 15 year pontificate, had "internationalized the church" to such a degree that a non-Italian pope was at least thinkable.
Italian-Americans themselves, the Vaghis would be content for the papacy to remain in Italian hands. "I think (Cardinal Giovanni) Benelli would be a good choice," said Mrs. Vaghi of the archbishop of Florence - a man generally given little chance because, at 57, he is considered too young a candidate.
"For the future we need a middle-of-the-roader," said the Rev. A. J. McGinley, professor of psychology at Marymount College in Arlington and Georgetown University Medical School.
Father McGinley, who had attended the service as a worshipper rather than a celebrant, explained: "I'm deathly afraid of someone who is overly conservative or overly liberal."
He characterized Pope Paul as "a man of tremendous strength and courage. He probably suffered more than any man in history" in facing the extremes of criticism some of his actions evoked.
But because Pope Paul blazed the trail in adapting the church to the modern world, Father McGinley said. "The next pope will fare better and suffer less."