The Foundation was established at Villa Cagnola by Archbishop Giovanni Colombo by the encouragement of the Holy See on 13 September 1976, and had Bishop Carlo Colombo as a promoter and president until 1989, when the responsibility of the institute, named after Paul VI, passed to the new President, H. E. Bishop Pasquale Macchi.
With this grafting into the old “trunk”, Villa Cagnola became a qualified laboratory for study and research about Catholic culture, and with this new Institute Bishop Carlo Colombo intended to revive its cultural activity, bringing new life into it.
His project was to set up in Gazzada a “Centre for Christian Europe” with the aim of stimulating the ideal of the European Unification, especially among young people; the project was greatly appreciated by Pope Paul VI who judged it challenging, although “not easy to implement”.
Considering the memorable speech made by Archbishop Montini on 12 September 1958 (on the occasion of the blessing of the statue of “Our Lady of Europe” at Motta Campodolcino) as a sort of magna charta, and drawing inspiration from it, the first conference on “Christian Europe: a project” outlined the objective of the foundation: the recovery of the Christian roots and a rediscovery of the contribution of the Christian tradition to the unification of the Continent, in search of a “supplement of soul” for Europe.
All subsequent work was done in perfect harmony and collaboration with Villa Cagnola Institute; conferences, seminars, interdisciplinary research on key issues of the Christian culture have been organised, with the participation of scholars from many European countries. Moreover, the Foundation has carried out an original initiative, unique in its genre, “The weeks of religious European history”, aimed at studying and supplying evidence of the decisive contribution of Christianity to the constitution and growth of different peoples' identity.
Among the most important achievements of the Foundation should be mentioned the series of “Religious History of Lombardy” (12 volumes, Editrice La Scuola), and the qualified initiatives which have been promoted, in collaboration with other cultural and religious institutions, in order to study Paul VI’s teachings in depth and keep his memory alive, emphasizing in this way the peculiar and the still effective bond with Montini, who proved decisive for the origins and the future developments of Villa Cagnola and its two institutes.