The first general meeting of the ecumenical council lasted less than an hour and then adjourned to give the council Fathers time to study the qualifications of candidates for 160 important council offices.
According to council regulation, the Fathers must elect 16 of their number to each of the 10 commissions which will draw up the final decrees and constitutions which will be passed by the council. Pope John XXIII names the other eight members of each commission.
Preliminary council plans called for the beginning of voting for the officers at the first general meeting.
Before business began, however, Achille Cardinal Lienart, Bishop of Lille, France, asked to speak. He presented a motion asking for a delay in the voting. He gave as his reason the need for prior consultation, especially among members of different ecclesiastical regions, and also to give the Fathers time to gain a fuller knowledge of the candidates.
Joseph Cardinal Frings, Archbishop of Cologne, Germany, announced that he associated himself with the French Cardinal’s statement.
As a result, the first general meeting was adjourned shortly before 10 a.m. and was not convened again until Oct. 16, thus giving the Fathers the weekend and the following Monday to consult on the choice of candidates.
The meeting had opened at 9 a.m. while rain pelted down outside the vast Basilica of St. Peter. Mass was offered at the special council altar by Archbishop Ermengildo Florit of Florence, Italy. After Mass, Archbishop Pericle Felici, secretary general of the council, read the prayer, Adsumus, which opens each session of the council.
Then those Fathers who had not yet received them were given three pamphlets. One contained a full list of the council Fathers, another the names of the Fathers who had served as members or consultants of the council’s preparatory commissions, and the third contained ballots for voting for the 160 offices on the council commissions.
It was at this point that Cardinal Lienart made his motion.
Immediately after the adjournment of the session the Presidency of the Council — composed of 10 cardinals appointed by Pope John XXIII — met in private session.
These cardinals are: Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, French-born dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals; Cardinal Lienart; Ignace Cardinal Tappouni, Syrian Rite Patriarch of Antioch; Norman Cardinal Gilroy, Archbishop of Sydney, Australia; Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York; Enrique Cardinal Pla y Deniel, Archbishop of Toledo, Spain; Joseph Cardinal Frings, Archbishop of Cologne; Ernesto Cardinal Ruffini, Archbishop of Palermo, Italy; Antonio Cardinal Caggiano, Archbishop of Buenos Aires; and Bernard Cardinal Alfrink, Archbishop of Utrecht, The Netherlands.