Cardinal Montini: ‘Pensiamo al Concilio’ Part VII

The seventh and final installment of Cardinal Montini’s Lenten pastoral letter, written from Rome, where he is serving on boards and commissions that are making preparations for the upcoming council. See also Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, and Part VI.

55- Therefore, the Church celebrating the coming council is planning to get in touch with the world. Think about it carefully: this is a great act of love. The Church will not only think about herself, the Church will think about the whole of mankind. She will think about it, bearing in that She is the continuation of Christ, the incarnate Word, who entered the world to save it, whatever situation he would have found (Cfr Congar..: “the Church “does not exist just to be beautiful and to look at herself in the mirror saying: how beautiful I am, I am the bride of the Lord, I am the queen. The church exists propter nos et propter nostram salutem” trans. Ed. “for us and for our salvation”). For this reason she will try to become sister and mother to mankind: she will try to be poor, simple, humble and lovable, in her speech and attitude. For this reason she will try to be intelligible, and provide people of our times the ability to listen to her and to talk to her using an easy and ordinary language. For this reason she will repeat to the world her wise words of human dignity, of loyalty, of freedom, of love, of moral rectitude, of courage and of sacrifice. For this reason, as we said, she will take into consideration an “update”, and if necessary, she will get rid of a somewhat old queenly robe still on her royal shoulders, to wear more simple apparel according to the modern taste. For this reason she will summon the Laity, her good and faithful Catholic laymen, to act as a liaison between her supernatural sphere, totally religiously canonized, and the sociological and earthly sphere, where they live, almost assigning to their meek and talented participation the hard and beautiful task of consecratio mundi (Cfr. Pius XIII Discorsi… III, 460; XIII, 295; XV, 590, etc.), that is, to penetrate the wide profane world sphere with Christian principles and strong natural and supernatural virtues.

Father Yves Congar, OP with Fr. Joseph Ratzinger

56. Will this attempt succeed? Will the world understand there is an institution on earth only trying to make it good, healthful, peaceful and happy? Will the world understand its agnosticism, its materialism, its atheism must be finally overcome through a bold and wise rediscovery of God and Christ? Will it remain silent before the Church’s great invitation to pray together? Will it at least reply, moved by a new spiritual and revealing experience, uttering timidly, “Amen”? will its victorious song to the God of the Universe, to the Christ of the true civilization, ring again on earth?

the Church “does not exist just to be beautiful and to look at herself in the mirror saying: how beautiful I am, I am the bride of the Lord, I am the queen

57. It is legitimate to expect that. At least we must strongly hope. We must pray for that. We must work for that. First: making profound and sincere our Christian profession. Second: trying, by all means, to infuse it with vigor and diffusive splendor. Thus, we are truly on the path of the highest purpose of the council. Let us listen to the pope: “In the modern era of a world whose physiognomy has changed profoundly, barely standing among fascinations and dangers of research aiming almost exclusively at material goods, in the oblivion and languishing of spiritual and supernatural principles, which had characterized the penetration and expansion of the Christian civilization throughout the centuries, in our modern era we have to be more concerned about providing value and splendor to the essence of the human and Christian life and thinking, of which the Church has been the depository for centuries, rather than one item or the other of the doctrine and discipline more relevant to connect to the pure sources of the revelation and tradition. However it is serious and also legitimate, a disapproval of the aberrations of the human spirit, tempted and pushed solely towards the enjoyment of earthly goods, easily offered to the children of our times by the modern scientific research. God forbid that we exaggerate, up to the point we start thinking the heavens of God are closed above our heads definitively. And the only thing we can do is to shed our tears over our tiresome path. But we have to cheer up!” (Discorso alle Commissioni preparatorie del Concilio, 14 November 1960). Thus the pope, with his invigorating optimism is exhorting and encouraging us to hope, and he seems to be preparing us for a council, where after having deplored evil and mistakes, good will be most emphasized, rather than men guilt of anathema . Even those far away will be considered beloved.

58. Thus, we are led to offer a thought to the vast number and various categories of our brothers and sisters, who are Christian, who still merit such a name, but who are separated from the unity of the Catholic Church. It is a most sensitive and complicated issue, but, as we all know, the pope wanted, boldly and lovingly, to include it in the perspective of the next council ever since his very first announcement during his speech to the Sacred College in the hall of the Saint Paul monastery on 25 January 1959, on which occasion he stated openly the ecumenical council was supposed to be “constructive for the whole of the Christian people,” but also a “renewed invitation to the faithful of the separated communities” to follow him “and to involve themselves lovingly in this research of unity and grace, for which so many souls are longing from all places on earth.” 1

59. We cannot now dwell on this problem, which is raised every year during the octave for the unity of the Church through thoughtful and friendly discussions. We must remember that this a very difficult problem, yet so important and so urgent, is the main goal of the council. It is a problem that it most likely cannot solve. Perhaps we have not deserved so great a miracle. But the ecumenical council will help prepare for an auspicious solution. In this respect the council will be a preparation laboratory, a council of desire. And God willing, we Catholics will be able to have a properly working state of mind! We must desire that the Lord will grant this tearful vow to reward a position of unity among Christians around Peter and the apostles in communion with him! We must desire our behavior to be able to modify the judgment of the dissidents on the pope and the Catholic Church! We must desire to be able to welcome with honor and true fraternity the separated Christians, should they show up on the threshold of their house and ours, the Catholic Church! We must desire to understand them better and to appreciate what is present in their religious heritage that is true and good!

Cardinal Montinin of Milan

We must hope and pray that the council will pave the obstacles that litter the only way for a happy encounter, namely that of faith, truth, and the reality of the one religion of Christ. May the council dissolve the bonds of so many sad memories of the past, still jamming, with discussions of historical exegesis and of honorific prestige,he dynamic, which the solution of the great problem, must take at some point. May the council finally light up our hearts with more love, which eventually will be up to make us take he steps for solving meetings.

[Ecumenism] is a problem that it most likely cannot solve. Perhaps we have not deserved so great a miracle. But the ecumenical council will help prepare for an auspicious solution

60. Therefore if the next council will not have the highest fortune to go beyond the desire and the preparation for a future ecumenical reconciliation in the unity of the Church, as a consequence, it will be a fated prelude to another future council, the one that will have the possibility to celebrate the feast of all Christians, finally brought together as brothers and sisters in one fold with one Shepherd! (Gv 10, 16; Cfr. Prof. Nicola Jaeger, Il Romano Pontefice, il Concilio ecumenico ed i lontani, Varese, 1959. Küng, Concile et retour à l’unité, Ed. du Cerf, Paris, 1961, Les voies de l’unité chrétienne, Ed. du Cerf, Paris, 1954. Schlier, Volk, De Vries, Unité de l’Eglise et tache oecuménique, Ed. de l’Orante, Paris, 1961. Decarreaux, Catho¬liques et Orthodoxes devant le problème de l’unité, in Revue des deux Mondes, 15 Juin 1959, Card. Léger, Chrétiens désunis, lettre Pastorale, Montréal, 1962).

61. This whole view would force us to subsequent reflections, which each of us, according to one’s own capability, will personally develop about the real and profound meaning of this ecumenical council. There are those who said that this is the principal moment of the love of God that governs the Church, the most prominent religious affirmation in a world that is losing the religious sense, the great hour when the Church finds herself, the greatest effort of Catholicism to understand, attract, and revive the modern world, the total coordination of forces and modern apostolic and missionary proclamation of the principles on which the modern world, built on the cornerstone (cf. Ps 117: 22, Mt . 21: 42, Acts 4: 1, Ephesians 2:20, 1 Pt 2:6), can find stability, peace and progress, the Church’s most challenging affirmation of its fidelity to Christ and of its mission of salvation. The sheer variety of these attempts to judge/evaluate synthetically the council indicates the magnitude of the event from which comes our first duty: to think about the council (Cfr. la lettera collettiva dell’Episcopato Olandese: Le sens du Concile, Ed. du Cerf, Paris. L. Jaeger – Arciv. di Paderbom -, Das oekumenische Konzil, die Kirche und Christenheit, 1960. Cardo Frings, Il Concilio ecumenico Vaticano II di fronte al pensiero moderno, discorso del 20 nov. 1961. Autori diversi; I Concili nella Vita della Chiesa, Vita e Pensiero, Milano, 1961. Autori diversi, Il Concilio ecumenico, Vita e Pensiero, Milano, 1960. Così le Lettere pastorali dell’Arcivescovo di Avignone, dell’Arcivescovo di Cambrai, ecc.).

St. Charles Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan and Church Reformer

62. From such a great event other duties arise, which are described with simple words as follow:

1 – In order to inform about the upcoming ecumenical council, this is the first purpose of our pastoral letter. It is a big event. It is an event which concerns us all. Books, articles, conferences dealing with the subject are now in profusion. Take care first of all of being well informed. Pastors, teachers, priests, Catholic associations of executives and publicists are all encouraged to give the council the best advertisement.

May their [Sts. Ambrose and Charles Borromeo] protection, with the ever invoked intercession of the Virgin, make us worthy of “Thinking with the Church and the pope” the next historical event, and enable us to obtain for ourselves and the wide world a harvest of spiritual fruit

2- Let’s see how everyone, both collectively and individually, we can and must contribute to the success of the council. It summarizes the expression of all Christian people, so everyone should at this time revive his act of faith and Christian life to present his best form. The renewal that we expect from the council starts today, let’s start it well because it begins with us. So the pope exhorts us: “We do not hesitate to say that because the council will be a large event Our diligence and Our studies could be vain if there was not an unanimous, decisive, and collective effort of sanctification. The prayers, the virtues of the individual, the inner spirit become an instrument of immense good …” (From the allocution by the pope delivered during the liturgy of the Byzantine-Slavic Rite in St. Peter’s 13 November 1960).

Intellectuals, children, the suffering, priests (See the tracts of papal speeches given by Bishop S. Garofalo, La grande ora della Chiesa e del mondo, Ed. Paoline, Roma) are invited by the pope, according to the forms to each category of persons, to bring their contribution for the preparation of the council. Every class, every soul should hear the invitation as addressed to himself: the whole Christian community must work together spiritually and morally for the success of this event.

3- Prayer for the council will be the easiest way to spiritually contribute to the council. As we prescribed, a prayer of the Holy Spirit for the council will be added to Masses, but not festive. So we recommend that in public ceremonies and private prayers that we often make mention of this great cause. The prayer, dictated by the Holy Father for this purpose, may well suggest to us happy words and feelings. 2

63. We conclude by recalling our patron saints, Ambrose and Charles, both related to the solemn moments of the conciliar Church. St. Ambrose, as a defender of the faith of Nicaea, and as president of the Council of Aquileia 3 (to say nothing of similar references), shows us how much confidence he had in this solemn expression of the life of the Church, and St. Charles, from Rome validly contributed to the fertile conclusion of the Council of Trent, and in Milan, with provincial councils and diocesan synods, and unsurpassed pastoral work all made to apply, enforce and carry out the laws issued at Trent among our people, taught us what we have to do, especially us, their late children, but not unmindful of the council for which we are preparing. May their protection, with the ever invoked intercession of the Virgin, make us worthy of “Thinking with the Church and the pope” the next historical event, and enable us to obtain for ourselves and the wide world a harvest of spiritual fruit.

We confirm these insights with our pastoral blessing.

End of Lenten pastoral letter

  1. Cfr. Discorsi Messaggi Colloqui del Santo Padre Giovanni XXIII, I, pp. 129-133
  2. Oratio ad Spiritum Sanctum pro Oecumenici Concilii felici exitu indulgentiis ditatur Trans. Ed. Prayer to the Holy Spirit for the happy conclusion and for the enriched indulgences of an ecumenical council [cfr. AAS, LI (1959), 832
  3. Celebrated in 381, which finally closed the Arian question

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