This is an English translation of the motu proprio of John XXIII, Appropinquante concilio. The document, dated Aug. 6, was made public Sept. 5.
With the advent of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, our soul is filled with a great joy thinking of the now close and marvelous spectacle which will be offered by the multitude of bishops gathered together in the beloved city of Rome, coming from all parts of the world to study, together with us, near the tomb of St. Peter, the most grave problems of the Church.
Therefore we give deep thanks to God, not only because He has benevolently given us the inspiration to initiate such important work but also because He has continually guided with His help the preparatory labors of the council. This confirms us constantly more in the confidence that the abundance of divine blessings will not be wanting for the completion of the work begun, just as they were abundant at the happy beginning.
The Catholic Church expects multiple fruits from this great gathering. And she, who is the most holy spouse of Christ and the mother and teacher of all peoples, desires above all else that the light of truth reaches all her sons, including those who live far distant from her, so that they may always be more fired by the ardor of charity. It is, in fact, the heavenly values of truth and charity which help to the greatest extent in achieving peace and unity. That which the coming council proposes to achieve is found in that mandate which Jesus Christ entrusted to the Apostles and which echoes in all places and at all times: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28, 10). There are, therefore, three tasks which are expected of the Bishops, the successors of the Apostles, that is, teaching, sanctifying and governing. So that they might carry out this mandate in a worthy manner, Jesus Christ has benignly promised to be with them until the end of time.
Men must be taught that which concerns the true Faith and good morals, and there must always be remembered more what the intimate nature of the Church is and what are her tasks and her ends. In fact, the more radiantly the face of Mother Church shines, with so much more intense ardor will men love her, and with all the more docility of mind will they use the means of salvation offered by her and be obedient to her laws.
Moreover, new inventions have enlarged the dominion of men over nature, and since there is also in this, a similiarity to the appearance of divine wisdom which “is the brightness … of eternal light and the unspotted mirror of God’s majesty and the image of His goodness” (Wisdom 7, 26), it is to be hoped that men may draw encouragement from this to improve with more attentive study their morals and to achieve that intimate perfection of life toward which the human mind tends by its nature.
The approaching ecumenical council, by virtue of the number of those who will participate in its meetings, evidently will be the greatest of the councils held by the Church thus far. And this fact, while a reason of comfort, engenders also in the mind worries and concern, since, as it is clear, it will not be an easy thing to store up wisely for use the counsels of an assembly so numerous, to follow the voices of so many speakers, to examine in depth the wishes and desires of all and to put into effect all that has been established.
What inspires confidence in our mind is the certainty that the Fathers of the council, though they differ according to nation, race and language, are all our brothers in Christ and all act in one single and similar spirit, so that truly according to the words of Jesus Christ they will be able to shine as the light of the world and will be able to produce fruits “in all goodness and justice and truth” (Eph. 5, 8-9).
In order that these fruits may be abundant, we will be helped above all by Almighty God, whom we have invoked with all our prayers through Jesus Christ, the one and only Mediator between God and men, and through the Most Blessed Virgin Mary and her spouse, St. Joseph, under whose special patronage we have wished to place the council. The common work of all those who take part in the council will also help, so long as it is in harmony and proceeds according to the prescribed order. This is why we have deemed it opportune to establish certain norms which, taking into account the special nature and circumstances of this council, favor the beginning and the honest progress of the work of such a vast assembly and consequently “let all things be done properly and in order” (Cor. 14, 40).
Therefore, after mature reflection, through this motu proprio and on our apostolic authority, we decree and promulgate the following provisions and we order that they be observed faithfully by all at the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.
We prescribe therefore that all that which is established in this our motu proprio remain definitely established and he observed irrespective of any other provisions to the contrary, however worthy of special attention.
Given in Rome, at St. Peter’s, the 6th of August, the feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, of the year 1962, the fourth of our pontificate.
From Council Daybook: Vatican II, Sessions 1 and 2, Floyd Anderson, ed. © 1965 by The National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. Used by permission of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the successor organization to the NCWC. All rights reserved.