POPE PAUL VI'S OPENING ADDRESS
From Desmond Fisher
THE basic theme of Pope Paul's address to the Council Fathers on Monday was that Vatican II would go down in history as the Council which completed the work of Vatican I.
This stress on the collegiality of the bishops will have great repercussions on the government of the Church and should • help greatly in the ecumenical movement. In making it, Pope Paul underlined once again the humility and simplicity which are becoming the hallmarks of his pontificate.
Monday's ceremony began with the Popes entry into the Basilica after vesting in the Vatican apartments. Ile was carried on the sedia gestatorio, the portable throne, and Was accompanied only by the concelebrants. As he entered the Basilica, the assembly of 2,400 bishops already in their places took up the refrain to es petrus.
The Pope, looking calm ' and composed in contrast with his strained and anxious appearance on previous occasions of the kind, extended his hands in blessing to the congregation, giving a special greeting to thc patriarchs, the press and the non-Catholic observers among whom, for the first time, was a representative of the Patriarchate of Constantinople along with the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Anglican communion.
The Pope alighted quickly and unfussily from the portable throne and the other concelebrants ranged themselves behind him at the foot of the altar. Without any preliminaries, the Pope began the introductory prayers which were answered in unison by the whole congregation.
Then the Pope walked up to the altar alone except for the assistants and the Kyrie and Gloria were sung by the choir and congregation in what one musical expert described as "The plainest of plainchant".
After the Epistle and Gospel, recited aloud on a monotone by two of the concelebrants, the whole
congregation sang the Credo which was followed by the prayers of the faithful, an innovation which is expected soon to be introduced at all Sunday Masses.
The choir sang a short Litany of Intercession for the Pope, the bishops, the whole Christian world, the needs of the world and peace, and the Pope said a short prayer for the same intention.
Then the concelebrants went up the steps to a dais built around the papal altar over the tomb of St. Peter, ranging themselves in groups of six around the four sides of the altar. Speaking fairly quickly and clearly, they recited most of the Canon aloud, including the words of consecration.
This was one of tbe most impressive highlights in a ceremony which has not been seen in the western church for eight centuries.
Concelebration was a regular practice in the early church but died out in the west, though it is still common in the east. The Pope's voice dominated the rest of the bishops as was laid down in the old rituals for concelebration.
At the Fraction of the Mass, the Pope broke into twenty-five portions the three large hosts which he had consecrated. Then three times the twenty-lour concelebrants moved in single file round the altar to receive from the Pope, first, the Kiss of Peace, then a portion of the hosts, and finally to sip with long individual spoons a portion of the precious blood from the chalice.
"We are the Church", the Pepe told the bishops. "We represent here the entire Church, not as delegates or deputies of the faithful towards UK-1m our ministry is directed but as father and brothers who personify the communities entrusted to the care of each one of us and as a plenary assembly legitimately convoked by the Holy Father".
The Pope said that the spirit was among them, "not yet to confirm with sacramental grace the work which all of us, united in the council, are bringing to completion, but rather to illuminate and guide our labours to the benefit of the Church and all mankind. The spirit is here", the Pope emphasised.
"We call upon him, wait for him. follow him. The spirit is here."
Gesturing with his hands for added emphasis the Pope declared; "The hour has sounded in history when the Church. which expresses herself in us and from.us receives structure and life, must say of herself what Christ intended and 1% flied her to be ...
—thus must be completed the doctrine which the first Vatican Council was preparing to enunciate, but which external obstacles prevented it from defining, except in its first part dealing with the head of the Church, the Roman Pontiff, and his sovereign prerogatives regarding primacy of jurisdiction and infallibility of teaching . . ."
Pope Paul said the discussion on this doctrine remained to be completed so as to explain the mind of Christ on the whole of his Church and especially on the nature and function of the successors of the Apostles.
The Pope went on. "The Council has many other important subjects to treat of but this one seems to us to be the weightiest and most delicate. The Council's deliberations on this subject will certainly he what distinguishes this solemn and historic Synod in the memory of future ages."
He added that the third session had chosen from among its many concerns this central objective: to investigate and clarify the doctrine of the nature of the church, thus resuming and integrating the work done in the first two sessions and making the Council the logical continuation of the first Vatican Council.
"the present Ecumenical Synod'', the Pope went on, "will certainly confirm the doctrine of the previous one regarding the prerogatives of the Roman Pontiff. But it will also have as its principal objective the task of describing and honouring the prerogatives of the Ep i scope te."
Later on, he repeated the same theme: "The integrity of Catholic truth now calls for a clarification consonant with the doctrine of the Papacy which will place in its splendid light the role and mandate of the Episcopacy".
The Pope said that his own poilion as head of the Episcopate did not "defraud" his fellow-bishops. He said such centralisation was rather a service and a manifestation of the unifying and hierarchical spirit of the Church. and strengthened the authority of the bishops. It gave a centre, a principle of unity in faith and communion. a unifying power.
"Similarly," he continued, "we need to have you always nearby, to give more fully to the countenance of the Apostolic See its beauty, its human and historic reality. even to give harmony to its faith, to be an example in the fulfilment of its duties, and a consolation in its times of stress."
Finally, the Pope greeted the observers saying to them: "We shall strive to understand better and to welcome all that is genuine and admissible in the different Christian denominations that are distinct from us, and at the same time we beg of them to try to understand the Catholic faith and life better.
"When we invite them to enter into the fullness of truth and charity which, as an unmerited blessing but a formidable responsibility, Christ has charged us to preserve, we beg them not to take it in bad part, but as being prompted by respect and brotherly love".