A newly created central committee is directing and coordinating the work of the various commissions of the Second Vatican Council during its nine-month recess.
Announcement of the creation of the committee, and a description of its duties, was given in a document called “Norms for the Work During the Interval Between the First Session of the Council and the Beginning of the Second.”
The document was distributed to the council Fathers (Dec. 6), just two days before the close of the council’s first session.
Head of the new central commission is Amleto Cardinal Cicognani, Papal Secretary of State, who is president of the council’s Secretariat for Extraordinary Affairs.
The initial announcement said only that the commission would include “several cardinals and bishops.”
The six norms for the interim work were set down by the council secretariat, under the authority of Pope John XXIII, as follows:
1. “It is necessary [during the long interval] to provide for a reexamination and a perfecting of the projects, taking into due account the work already done.” In carrying out this work, the document said, the council commissions will be helped by the special subcom- missions on mixed material.
2. The stress is on the pastoral, rather than doctrinal or juridical, nature of the council. The document quoted from the speech of Pope John XXIII at the opening of the council (Oct. 11), when he said: “The salient point of this council is not therefore the discussion of one article or other of the fundamental doctrine of the Church which has repeatedly been taught by the Fathers and by ancient and modern theologians, and which is presumed to be well known and familiar to all. For this, a council was not necessary . . .
“The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of the Faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another. And it is the latter that must be taken into great consideration, with patience if necessary, everything being measured in the forms and proportions of a magisterium which is predominantly pastoral in character . . .”
3. Projects must deal with general principles, “leaving aside particular problems.” Anything concerning a future revision of canon law “should be referred to the competent commission.”
Under this third point there is reference to the “commissions which will be set up after the council” to study “certain special arguments.”
4. A new central committee is created “to direct and coordinate the work of the council.” The committee’s president, Cardinal Cicognani, will inform the Pope “of what is being treated in the council.”
The tasks of the new committee — “which should be carried out in agreement with the presidents of the council commissions” — include coordination of the work of the commissions, and “to follow it and discuss with the presidents of the commissions, not so much problems of competence, but all that concerns the purpose of promoting and ensuring the conformity of the projects with the aim of the council.”
The fourth part also provides for calling experts to help commissions.
5. Projects should be sent to bishops as soon as they are prepared by the commissions and approved by the Pope. Bishops are asked “to examine them and return them within a time limit to be set later to the general secretariat of the council.”
6. ‘The council commissions, after receiving the observations of the bishops, will see to the amendments of the projects, taking into account the suggestions and closely assessing the reasons for and against, so that the projects may, at the end of an adequate relaboration, be submitted to the general congregation [of the council].”
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.