From January 6, 1962, the editors of America Magazine comment on Pope John XXIII’s formal convocation of the council:
Almost three years after he announced his intention of calling an ecumenical or universal council, Pope John XXIII on Christmas Day formally convoked the Second Vatican Council. Such a solemn assembly of all the bishops gathered around the Supreme Pontiff has not been witnessed since 1870. In his bull of convocation the Pope said that the council will meet in 1962. Speculation presently centers on Dec. 8 as the opening date.
The bull of convocation was noncommittal as to the agenda. Its intent was rather to set the tone of the synod, by placing the event in the context of the moral and spiritual crisis of the contemporary world. Most previous councils have convened at a time of heresy or schism. This one is summoned at an hour of opportunity rather than retreat.
It is not the Church that is threatened, but society. The Holy Father said: “The Church today is watching a society in crisis. While mankind is at the threshold of a new era, grave and immense tasks await the Church, just as in the most tragic epochs of its history.”
Technological progress that has outrun moral growth, the threat of destruction by man’s own creatures, a militant atheism operating on a world scale, these are some of the crises society faces. Historically, the Church has led mankind out of similar impasses, with credit to herself and benefit to civilization. The challenge of the Church-in-council seems therefore clear. In the Pope’s own words, it is this: by adapting and renewing itself, “to put the modern world in contact with the vivifying and lasting energies of the gospel.” This positive, optimistic outlook will be the mood of Vaticanum II.
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