From the July 21,1962 issue of America:
How will historians judge the preparatory phase of the Second Vatican Council? Three and a half years have gone by since Pope John startled the world on Jan. 25, 1959, with his plan to convoke an ecumenical council. Now the opening date of Oct. 11, 1962, is less than three months away. If the verdict of history cannot be made at this time, it is possible to review the immediate accomplishments of the preparatory period, to speculate on the long-range impact of some events now ineradicably recorded in the life of the Church, and to spell out our duties in the brief span before the council assembles.
The Holy Father himself recently spoke in wonderment and praise of the “intelligent, fervent, joyful effort” of prelates, clergy and laymen of every country in the past three years. As a result of their labors, the “fathers” of the council will soon have at their disposal a miniature library of background information, carefully gathered, discussed, revised and collated, on topics likely to come up for their consideration.
No one questions (despite the fears some expressed earlier on) that the council will meet in October, barring some absolutely overriding international complication. However, even if the council never meets, it will have left its mark. One can never wipe out, for instance, the fact that on July 5, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Arthur Michael Ramsey, announced the appointment of three delegate-observers to represent the Anglican communion at the council. Nor will anyone deny that Cardinal Bea’s scheduled visit to Lambeth Palace to lunch with Dr. Ramsey on Aug. 5 is another unprecedented consequence of the Pope’s original initiative. Moreover, the council’s impact—in anticipation—is being felt on all levels and in all corners of the Church. In Florence, Italy, at the end of June, the Archbishop met with 200 laymen of his archdiocese for a wide-ranging, open and vigorous discussion. For four hours they discussed the liturgy, social questions, the apostolate and other themes of the council. At the end, the Archbishop promised to include their thoughts in his own suggestions for the council. He said he hoped for more such meetings after the council.
With three months to go, public interest in the council will inevitably increase. More important, however, will be the continuing activity of Catholics in anticipation of this historic event. For the bishops, this means the arduous task of digesting and meditating on an enormous mass of preliminary material. For all Catholics, there is the challenge of Pope John’s call (see p. 518) for inner preparation by prayer and penance.
Everyone, finally, can take to himself a suggestion made by the Holy Father at the closing session of the Central Preparatory Commission on June 20. Read, he urged all, three sections from St. John’s Gospel: in the first chapter, the passage where “the heavens are opened, as it were, and the mystery of the Word of God is exposed to contemplation”; in the tenth chapter, the parable of the Good Shepherd, which the Pope had cited at his coronation as his own ideal of the true Christian pontiff; finally, in the seventeenth chapter, Christ’s prayer at the Last Supper “that they may all be one.”
Here surely is a safe clue to what the Pope hopes for from the council. God grant the Church, he asks, renewed understanding and love of the truths of faith, increase in pastoral concern and apostolic effectiveness, the openness to the working of the Spirit, in order to hasten the unity asked by Jesus—hopefully in our time.