Pope’s Address to World Month Before Council Opens

Following is the text of an English translation of the address made by Pope John XXIII on Sept. 11, 1962, in which he asked for recitation of the prayer of the Mass for the 12th Sunday after Pentecost for the Second Vatican Council. The broadcast was carried by radio networks in Italy, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Ireland and Monaco. Delayed broadcasts were carried in Germany, Austria and Canada. Radio Free Europe broadcast it to communist-controlled Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Rumania and Bulgaria.

Pope John XXIII delivers a radio address one month before the opening of the Second Vatican Council.

The great anticipation of the ecumenical council, just a month away from its official opening, is shining in the eyes and the hearts of all the children of the holy and blessed Catholic Church.

In the course of three years of preparation, an array of chosen minds assembled from all parts of the world and of every tongue, united in sentiments and in purpose, has gathered together so abundant a wealth of doctrinal and pastoral material as to provide the episcopate of the entire world, when they meet beneath the vaults of the Vatican basilica, themes for a most wise application of the Gospel, teaching of Christ which for 20 centuries has been the light of humanity redeemed by His blood.

We are therefore, by the grace of God, proceeding satisfactorily.

The prophetic words of Jesus, pronounced in view of the final consummation of the world, inspire the good and generous dispositions of men—especially at certain periods in history—to a fresh start toward the highest peaks: “Lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand” (cfr. Luke 21, 28-33).

Considered in its spiritual preparation, the council which is to meet in a few weeks, seems to merit that invitation of Our Lord: “Behold the fig tree, and all the trees. When they put forth their buds, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things coming to pass, know that the kingdom of God is near.” (ibid.)

This phrase, “Regnum Dei,” (The Kingdom of God)—expresses fully and precisely the tasks of the council. Regnum Dei signifies and is in reality the Church of Christ: one, holy, catholic and apostolic.

He is continually renewing the ancient miracle

Just as Jesus, the Word of God made man, founded her, for 20 centuries He has preserved her, and still today vivifies her by His presence and His grace. Through her, He is continually renewing the ancient miracle which during successive ages, at times harsh and difficult, bore her in adversity and in prosperity, thus multiplying the victories of the spirit: Victories of truth over error, of good over evil, of love and peace over divisions and opposition.

Terms of the Contradiction

Good and evil are with us still and will remain with us in the future. This is because the free will of man will always have the freedom to express itself and the possibility of going astray. But the final and eternal victory will be with Christ and His Church in every chosen soul and in the chosen souls of every people.

It seems happy and opportune to us here to recall the symbolism of the Easter candle. At one point in the liturgy, see how His name resounds: “Lumen Christi.” The Church of Christ, from every point of the earth, responds, “Deo gratias, Deo gratias,” as though to say: ‘Yes. Lumen Christi; Lumen ecclesiae; Lumen gentium.”

What else has a council ever been, in fact, but a renewal of this meeting with the countenance of the risen Christ, glorious and immortal King, radiant for the whole Church, for the salvation, the joy and the splendor of mankind?

It is in the light of this apparition that the ancient psalm comes very seasonably: “O Lord, let the light of your countenance shine upon us! You put gladness into my heart” (cfr. Ps. 4).

What else has a council ever been, in fact, but a renewal of this meeting with the countenance of the risen Christ, glorious and immortal King, radiant for the whole Church, for the salvation, the joy and the splendor of mankind?

A true joy for the universal Church of Christ is what the ecumenical council intends to be. Its reason for existence is the continuation, or better still the most energetic revival, of the response of the entire world, of the modern world, to the testament of the Lord, formulated in those words which He pronounced with divine solemnity and with hands stretched out toward the farthest ends of the world: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (cfr. Matt. 28, 19-20).

The Church wishes to be sought again as she is, in her internal structure—vitality in her own behalf—in the act of presenting anew, above all to her children, the treasures of enlightening faith and of sanctifying grace, which take their inspiration from those final words of Christ. They are words which express the preeminent task of the Church, her tides of service and of honor, namely, to vivify, to teach and to pray.

Considered in the relations of her vitality in her own behalf, that is, in face of the needs and demands of peoples—those human circumstances which turn them toward the esteem and enjoyment of earthly goods—the Church considers it her sacred duty to live up to her teaching: “To pass through earthly goods in such a way as not to lose those which are eternal” (cfr. Third Sunday after Pentecost; Collect).

It is from this sense of responsibility before the duties of the Christian called to live as a man among men, as a Christian among Christians, that so many others, who, although not Christians, in reality ought to feel themselves drawn by good example to become Christians.

This is the door that leads to that so-called activity, exterior yes, but entirely apostolic, of the Church, from which those words take their vigor and radiating power: “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

The world indeed has need of Christ, and it is the Church which must bring Christ to the world.

The world indeed has need of Christ, and it is the Church which must bring Christ to the world. The world has its problems and it is with anguish at times that it seeks a solution. It goes without saying that the busy preoccupation to solve them with timeliness, but also with rectitude, can be an obstacle to the spread of the whole truth and of that grace which sanctifies.

Man seeks the love of a family around the domestic hearth. He seeks daily bread for himself and for his dear ones, his wife and his children. He aspires toward and feels the duty to live in peace both within the national community and in relation with the rest of the world. He is aware of the attractions of the spirit which leads him to educate and raise himself. Jealous of his liberty, he does not refuse to accept its legitimate limitations in order to correspond more fully with his social duties.

These most grave problems press ever upon the heart of the Church.

Hence, she has made them an object of attentive study. The ecumenical council will be able to present, in clear language, solutions which are demanded by the dignity of man and of his vocation as a Christian. Here are some of them: The fundamental equality of all peoples in the exercise of rights and duties within the entire family of nations; the strenuous defense of the sacred character of matrimony (which imposes upon the married couple an understanding and generous love, from which results the procreation of the children), considered in its religious and moral aspect, within the framework of the gravest responsibilities of a social nature, in time and for eternity.

Those doctrines which favor religious indifference or denial of God and of the supernatural order and those doctrines which ignore Providence in history and exalt out of all proportion the person of the individual man, with the danger of removing him from his social responsibilities, should hear again from the Church those courageous and sublime words already expressed in the important document Mater et Magistra, in which is summed up the thought of 2,000 years of the history of Christianity.

Another Point of Enlightenment

She wishes to be the Church of all, and especially the Church of the poor.

Where the underdeveloped countries are concerned, the Church presents herself as she is. She wishes to be the Church of all, and especially the Church of the poor.

Every offense against and violation of the Fifth and Sixth Commandments of the Holy Decalogue; the neglect of tasks which flow from the Seventh Commandment; the miseries of social life which cry for vengeance in the sight of God; all this must be recalled and deplored.

The duty of every man, the impelling duty of the Christian, is to look upon what is superfluous in the light of the needs of others, and to see to it that the administration and distribution of created goods are placed at the advantage of all.

This is called the spread of the social and community sense which is innate in true Christianity. And this is to be energetically put into action.

What is to be said concerning the relations between the Church and civil society?

We are living in the midst of a new political world. One of the fundamental rights which the Church can never renounce is that of religious liberty, which is not merely freedom of worship.

We are living in the midst of a new political world. One of the fundamental rights which the Church can never renounce is that of religious liberty, which is not merely freedom of worship.

The Church vindicates and teaches this liberty, and on that account, she continues to suffer anguishing pain in many countries.

The Church cannot renounce this liberty, because it is inseparable from the service she is bound to fulfill. This service does not stand as the corrective or the complement of what other institutions ought to do, or have appropriated to themselves, but it is an essential and irreplaceable element of the design of Providence to place man upon the path of truth and liberty which are the building stones upon which human civilization is raised.

A worker prepares the seating for the world's bishops in St. Peter's Basilica in preparation for the Second Vatican Council.

The ecumenical council is about to assemble 17 years after the end of the Second World War. For the first time in history, the Fathers of the council belong, in reality, to all peoples and nations. Each of them will bring his contribution of intelligence and of experience, to cure and heal the wounds of the two conflicts which have changed profoundly the face of all countries.

The mothers and fathers of families detest war.

The mothers and fathers of families detest war. The Church, mother of all without distinction, will raise once more that plea which rises from the depth of the ages and from Bethlehem and from there on Calvary, in the hope that it may spread abroad in a prayerful precept of peace: a peace that prevents armed conflicts; peace which should have its roots and its guarantee in the heart of each man.

It is natural that the council in its doctrinal structure, and in the pastoral action it promotes, should wish to express that yearning of peoples to travel upon the path which Providence has assigned to each one; to cooperate in the triumph of peace and to render it more noble; more just and more meritorious for all this earthly existence.

The bishops, pastors of Christ’s flock, “devout men from every nation under heaven” (cfr. Act. 2, 5) will recall the concept of peace, not only in its negative aspect, which is the detesting of armed conflicts, but even more in its positive demands which require from every man a knowledge and constant practice of his own duties: hierarchy, harmony and service of spiritual values open to all; possession and use of the powers of nature and science, use which is directed only and exclusively to the aim of elevating the standard of the spiritual as well as the economical welfare of all nations.

Living together, coordination and integration are the noblest of ideals which echo in the international gathering, bringing hope, instilling courage.

The council desires to exalt, in a holier and more solemn form, the deeper application of fellowship and love which are natural needs of man and imposed on the Christian as rules for his relationship between man and man, between people and people.

The council desires to exalt, in a holier and more solemn form, the deeper application of fellowship and love which are natural needs of man and imposed on the Christian as rules for his relationship between man and man, between people and people.

O mystery of Divine Providence, by which the imminent celebration of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council once again uncovers and exalts, in an incomparable light, the duty of service and spiritual dominion of the apostolic chair, a duty which embraces the destiny of all humanity!

Rightly did Prudentius, the ancient Christian poet, sing in his day of the triumph of the Divine Redeemer in the act of designating Rome the center of the new era in the history of the world, an era which had taken its inspiration and name from Christ (cfr. Prud. Peristeph. Hymn II, W 461-470:P.L. 60, Col. 324).

During this preparation for the council, it has been possible to prove this.

The precious links in the chain of love, which already from the first centuries of the Christian era, the grace of Our Lord had forged with the different countries of Europe and of the then-known world for the perfection of Catholic unity, and which through various circumstances seemed, later on, to grow weak and in fact to break, now attract the attention of all those who are not insensitive to the new breath which the project of the council has aroused here and there, in anxious desire of fraternal reunion in the embrace of the ancient common mother, Sancta et universalis mater ecclesia.

“Deign to grant peace and unity to a united Christian people.”

Here is the reason of our serene joy which surpasses the first spark which we had when we first began the preparation of this world gathering.

O the beauty of the petition in the liturgy: “Deign to grant peace and unity to a united Christian people.”

O the overflowing joy of the heart on reading the 17th chapter of St. John: “That all may be one” Unum: one in thought, in word and in work.

The ancient bard of the glorious deeds of Christendom (cfr. Prud. ibid.) returning to his stimulating motive for universal cooperation in justice and fellowship among all the nations, with telling force loves to recall to all the children of the Church that at Rome the two princes of the apostolate, Peter and Paul, are always in attendance.

Paul is the great vessel of election specially reserved to announce the Gospel to those who have not yet received it and Simon Peter, who for 20 centuries, seated in the first chair, is ready to open and to shut the door of heaven: to open, you understand, dear children, to open the door in this life and for eternity.

With forceful words, he addresses the pagan idols— begone from your places, leave the people of Christ in perfect liberty. It is Paul who drives you out. It is the blood of Peter and Paul which cries out against you.

In milder tone, the humble successor of Peter and Paul in the government and apostolate of the Catholic Church, on this vigil of the council, loves to address all his children throughout the world, from the East and the West, of every rite, of every language, with the prayer of the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost.

It would not be possible to find a happier expression more in accord with the individual and collective preparation for the success of the ecumenical council.

We desire all throughout the world to repeat and to get others to repeat with insistence this prayer during these weeks from Sept. 11 to Oct. 11, the opening day of that great conciliar assembly. These words seem to come from heaven.

They give the note to the choral chant of the Pope, the bishops, the clergy and the people. One canticle alone rises up, mighty, harmonious, penetrating: “Lumen Christi, Deo gratias.” This light shines and will shine throughout the ages. Yes, Lumen Christi, Ecclesia Christi, Lumen gentium.

“Almighty and merciful God, through whose grace your faithful are able to serve you with dignity and joy, grant, we beseech you, that we may run without any hindrance toward the attainment of your promises. We, from all parts of the earth and from heaven, thus implore you. Through the merits of Jesus Christ, Master and Savior of all. Amen” (cfr. Prayer of 12th Sunday after Pentecost).

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.

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