The Council, in its reality. is an act of faith in God, of obedience to His laws, of sincere endeavour to correspond with the plan of redemption according to which the Word was made flesh of the Virgin Mary. And as today we pay reverence to the most pure stem of the root of Jesse from which the flower has sprung, "The flower from his root shall rise up," our hearts are filled with a joy that is all the greater in that we see this flower blossoming in the season of Advent, Now that the Bishops of the five continents are returning from this hall to their beloved dioceses to continue the pastoral service and guidance of their flocks, we should like to dwell a little on what has so far been done and, encouraged and enlightened by this, to map out the future whilst waiting for the fulfilment of what yet remains to be done to bring the great enterprise to a happy conclusion.
We will consider these three points: the beginning of the Ecumenical Council, its continuance, and the fruits which are expected of it in the way of spreading faith and holiness and apostolic activity in the Church and in modern society. 1. The opening of the Ecumenical Council is still vivid in our minds—the vast assembly of Bishops of the entire Catholic world, a gathering unique in history. The One, Holy, Catholic. and Apostolic Church was revealed to all humanity in the splendour of her perennial mission, in the solidity of her organisation. in the persuasiveness and attractiveness of her teaching. Furthermore it is with pleasure that we recall the delegations from various nations representing their Governments in the solemn inauguration of the Council. On this subject we would once again like to express our thanks for the way in which the whole world has been an admiring witness of these events, and for the reports that have come to us from all over the world in expressions of respect, esteem. and gratitude.
Since this is the end of the first phase of the work begun on that memorable day, October 11. it is only fitting to reflect on what has been accomplished.
The first session was like a slow and solemn introduction to the great work of the Council—a generous willingness to enter into the heart and substance of Our Lord's plan. it was necessary for brothers, gathered together from afar around a common hearth, to make each others closer acquaintance. It was necessary for them to look at each other squarely in order to understand each others' hearts. They had necessarily to describe their own experiences, reflecting the conditions of the apostolate under the most varied climates and circumstances, in order that there should be a thoughtful and profitable interchange of views on pastoral matters.
In such a vast gathering it is understandable that a few days were needed to arrive at art agreement on a matter on which in all charity there existed with good reason sharply divergent views. But even this has a providential place in the triumph of truth, for it has shown to all the world the holy liberty that the sons of God enjoy in the Church.
It was not by chance that the first schema to be considered was on the sacred liturgy. which defines the relationship between man and God. Since it is the highest form of relationship, it must be based on the solid foundation of Revelation and the Apostolic teaching, so as to proceed for the gm.' of souls with that broadness of vision free from the superficiality and haste which sometimes characterise the relationships between men.
And then five more schemata were presented, a fact which alone makes one realise the extent of the work thus far completed.
Indeed it is right to conclude that a good beginning has been made.
2. Continuation of the work: And now, Venerable Brethren. one's glance turns trustingly to that phase of the work. seemingly silent. but nonetheless important. which opens up during these nine months of interval after your return to your Sees.
Meanwhile it pleases us to contemplate each of you in your separate diocese, and a deep satisfaction tills our heart. for we know that, returning from Rome. you bring to your Christian peoples the shining torch of confidence and of charity, and that you will remain united with us in fervent prayer.
This calls to mind the words of Ecclesiasticus, referring to the
High Priest Simon : " . . he himself stood by the altar, and about him was the ring of his brethren" (ECCLES1ASTICUS 50: 13). It is thus that our activity continues now, in this mutual blending of prayers and wills.
Today's celebration does not bring the work to an end, rather the work that awaits all of us is of the greatest importance, which certainly was not the case during the recesses of previous Councils. The conditions of modern life, however, make it easy to have rapid communications on all types of business, personal and apostolic.
That activity will continue is made clear by the institution of a new Commission composed of members of the Sacred College and of the Episcopate and representing the universal Church. This Commission's duty is to pursue and direct the work during these months and. along with the various Conciliar Commissions, to lay the firm foundations for the happy final outcome of the Ecumenical sessions. Thus the Council really remains open during the next nine months of SUSpension of the Ecumenical sessions properly so called.
Each bishop, although preoccupied with his pastoral administration, should continue to study and investigate the schemata provided and whatever else may be sent later. In this way the session which will begin in the month of September of next year—at the new, hoped-for meeting in Rome of all the Fathers of the Church of God—will proceed more surely, more steadily and with greater speed, thanks to the experience of these two months of 1962, so that there is hope that the conclusion awaited by all our faithful children may be reached in the glory of the Incarnate Son of God in the Joy of Christrhas in the centenary year of the Council of 1 rent.
The vision of this grand prospect. which reveals the whole course of the coming year so rich in promise. stirs up in the heart a more ardent hope for the realisation of the great goals for which we have convoked the Council: namely that "the Church, founded on faith, strengthened in hope, and more ardent in charity, may flourish with new and youthful vigour, and, fortified by holy ordinances, may he more energetic and swift to spread the kingdom of Christ." (Letter addressed to the German Episcopate, January I I, 1961).
3. Fruits of the Council: Even if the stage of putting the Council into effect is not imminent— for that we must wait until the work of the Council is over—it is nonetheless consoling to turn one's gaze towards the benefits that are anticipated—benefits for the Catholic Church, hopes for our brethren who treasure the name of Christian, renewed attention on the part of all those countless children of ancient and glorious civilisations, which the Light of Christianity does not desire to destroy, but in which she could—as has happened at other times in history—develop the richest seeds of religious vigour and human progress.
Our heart casts its glance in that direction. Venerable Brethren. and we know also that your heart has the same solicitude as our own.
It will then be a question of extending to all departments of the life of the Church, social questions included, whatever the conciliar assembly may decide, and to apply its norms to tl.em with "generous assent and prompt fulfilment" (Prayer for the Ecumenical Council).
This most important phase will see pastors united in a gigantic effort of preaching sound doctrine and applying the laws, which they themselves desire, and for this task will be called forth the collaboration of the forces of the diocesan and regular clergy, of the congregations of religious women, of the Catholic laity with all its attributes and potential, in order that the acts of the Fathers may be seconded by the most joyous and faithful response.
It will he a New Pentecost indeed. which will cause the Church to renew her interior riches and to extend her maternal care in every sphere of human activity. It will be a new advance of the Kingdom of Christ in the world. an elevated and persuasive reaffirmation of the good news of Redemption, a clarion call of God's Kingship. of the brotherhood of men in charity, of the peace promised on earth to men of goodwill in accordance with God's good pleasure.
These. Venerable Brethren, are the feelings of our heart, which issue in hope and prayer. Now that the labours of this first session of the Council are over, you are going back to your own countries and to the precious flocks committed to your care. As we now wish you "Godspeed", we desire that you should be our faithful messengers in expressing to your priests and people the greatness of our affection.
On this occasion there come to mind the words of greeting and hope which Pius IX addressed one day to the Bishops of the first Vatican Council: 'See, brethren, what a blessed and joyful thing it is to go forward in harmony in the House of God. May you always so progress. And as Our Lord Jesus Christ gave peace to his Apostles, so I also, his unworthy vicar, give you peace in his name. Peace, as you know. casts out fear; peace shuts its ears to what is said without real knowledge. May this peace be with you all the days of your life." (Mansi. 1869-70, p. 765, 158).
THREE-FOLD CHARACTER In these past months of companionship here together we have experienced the savour of these words of Pius IX. There is much yet to be done, but you know that the Supreme Shepherd will have loving care of you in the pastoral activity which you exercise in your own dioceses, an activity which will not be dissociated from the preoccupations of the Council.
in drawing your attention to the three-fold activity, which is the task of all, it was our intention to stir up your enthusiasm: the glorious opening of the Council provided the first introduction to the great enterprise. In the coming months the work will go on unflaggingly, as also will the earnest reflection, so that the Ecumenical Council may he able to bestow upon the family of mankind those fruits of faith, hope and charity which are so ardently expected from it.
This three-fold character clearly shows the unique importance of the Council.
A heavy responsibility therefore rests upon our shoulders. but God himself will sustain us on the way.
May the Immaculate Virgin be with us always. May Joseph, her most chaste spouse. Patron of the Ecumenical Council, whose name from today shines in the Canon of the Mass all over the world, accompany us on our journey in the same way that he accompanied the Holy Family with his support in accordance with God's will. And with them Saints Peter and Paul. and all the Apostles, with John the Baptist, and all the Popes, Bishops, and Doctors of God's Church.
We are in this Basilica of St. Peter in the centre of Christianity, at the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles. But with pleasure we recall that the Cathedral of the diocese of Rome is the Lateran Basilica, the mother and foundation of all churches, dedicated to Christ, the Divine Saviour.
To Him, therefore, who is the immortal and invisible King of all ages and all peoples be glory and power forever (CF. I. Tim. 1, 17 Apoc, 1. 6). In this hour of heartfelt joy, it is as if the Heavens are opened above our heads and that the splendour of the heavenly court shines out upon us. filling us with superhuman certainty and a supernatural spirit of faith, joy and profound peace.
In this light, as we look forward to your return. we salute all of you, Venerable Brothers, "with a holy kiss" (CF. Rom. 16, 161. whilst at the same time we call down upon you the most abundant blessings of our Lord. of which the apostolic blessing is the pledge and promise. By PATRICK McLAUGHLIN A former Anglican Vicar ROME, Wednesday THE Vatican Council has I finished its first "term" (as one prelate called it, saying that at the beginning he felt just like a small boy who had arrived at his public school after being head boy at his prep.!). Few events have enjoyed such wide coverage, by Press and Radio and Television, or excited so much interest even outside the Catholic Church. What has made the biggest impression on such "outsiders" in Great Britain ?
First, beyond all doubt, the sheer spectacle—the number, and still more the variety, of the Council Fathers.
The Council has publicly shewn the Church to he as varied as the human race. not only in colour but also in custom: here are Bishops. even Patriarchs. wearing strange clothes of more than oriental splendour. talking in tongues (and in whole categories of ideas) far removed from the Latin, and actually celebrating Mass in St. Peter's according to rites of widely differing character and origin.
The British. traditionally suspicions of everything Latin, but temperamentally sympathetic with the East, can no longer couple "Catholic" only with "Roman" ...
Then, the Church today has emerged as one no longer concerned with defending its rights against invaders or its doctrines against heretics, but simply with its primary mission to save and serve men. Indeed the whole idea of Defence has gone. Of course. it was. in fact, thrown out by that great and far-sighted Pope, Len XIII; but it has taken till now (80 years) to bring this fact up to general consciousness.
This change of attitude, from the 'defence of a beleaguered city' to the sacrificial service of men, was made yet more explicit by the Pope himself in his address at the Opening of the Council: "The Church has always been opposed to error. and has often condemned it with extreme severity. Today, however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to use the medicine of mercy rather than severity; she thinks that she can supply the needs of this present time by chewing the positive value of her teaching rather than by repeating condemnat ions".
This note of pastoral concern. which Pope John XXIII has indeed sounded from the moment of his election. is heard again and again in this Council; in the discussion of reforms in the Liturgy to ensure greater understanding of the real mystery therein represented and reenacted; in the rejection of schemas drafted in too scholastic or abstract terms. and the demand for their revision in terms closer to the Bible and to modern categories of thought: in the discussion of the schemas on unity between Christians and the deep concern fur the healing of schism through a greater and more evident conformity with the truth as it is in Christ Jesus".
Many Anglicans and other Christians in Great Britain have for a long time been estranged from the Church of Rome because she seemed to be so far removed on all these points from what they read in the Gospels, and also so unwilling to admit even the case for reform.
Those who knew the Catholic Church more intimately knew that in fact she was continually renewing herself. and that behind the rather baroque façade there was a constant effort towards new thinking. new method, even new organisation. But it has to be admitted that this was not too easy to discern from outside.
Now the façade is being cleaned. even reconstructed : as the Pope himself declared with a significant gesture of flinging open his study window. "the Church needs some fresh air". She's getting it.
No less impressive is the Pope's avowed concern that the Church should take seriously the great changes in scientific knowledge, in technology and in social organisation.
The Pope also told the Council in his inaugural address: "Our duty is not only to preserve the priceless treasure of the Faith as though our concern were only with the past; but to devote ourselves resolutely and fearlessly to the task which our age demands. continuing thus alone the same road that the Church has followed for twenty centuries".
This Passage made art enormous imnression on the Council Fathers. Many grouns of bishops are said to have taken it as the main line of the whole Council. and to have redrafted their interventions accordingly.
It made a great impression also on the Observers and on the Press. "Pctre, due in altum" wrote one distinguished reporter. It cannot fail to impress particularly the neople of Great Britain with their long-standing preoccupation with emnirical knowledge and technological progress.
Finally they will be impressed (Perhaps more than by anything else) by the unfettered freedom of discussion in the Council. It has been one of the great objections of Anglicans, and of most other Christians in Great Britain outside the Catholic Church, that both speech and thought were controlled, even fettered. by a censorship which was as obscurantist as it was tyrannical. This is an issue which stirs all British people deeply. ever since Milton. It could be objected in turn that the British exalt freedom of speech to an Absolute which is almost idolatrous. But whatever the rights of the argument, hostility to Rome has been based mainly on this charge of uniformity, not from interior conviction, but imposed from above. This charge is no longer possible.
Things can never be quite the same again. Anglicans and other Christians separated from Rome will note this: and their attitude to Rome can never be quite the same again, either.