Yves Congar Reflects on the Death of John XXIII

Since I wrote these last things, great events have taken place, but I have not written anything here about them. There was the last suffering and the death of John XXIII. In this, the Church and even the world have been through an extraordinary experience. All at once, one became aware of the immense impact this humble and good man has had. It has become clear that he has altered the religious map and even the human map of the world, simply by being what he was. He did not operate by great expositions of ideas, but by gestures and a certain personal style. He did not speak in the name of the system, of its legitimacy, of its authority, but simply in the name of the intuitions and the movement of a heart which, on the one hand, was obedient to God and on the other loved all people, or rather he did both these things in a single action, and in such a way again, the divine law has proved true: God alone is great; true greatness consists in being docile in the service of God in himself and in his loving plan. God raises up the humble. Blessed are the meek for they shall possess the land. Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called children of God. Everyone had the feeling that, in John XXIII, they had lost a father, a personal friend, someone who was thinking of and loving each one of them. Continue reading

Thomas Merton Mourns John XXIII


Pope John died yesterday. A holy and good man, and he was both because he was first of all a man — that is to say, human. This is the great meaning of his papacy, of the Council, of Pacem in Terris. Not humanism, “but the bare statement of the fundamental value of humanity.” Pacem in Terris is not theological. It simply says war is unhuman, and therefore a sin — (not war is a sin and therefore you must not use the bomb). Certainly everyone loved him, and statements to this effect, despite the fact that language is too exhausted to convey it, are probably sincere. May he rest in peace, this great and good Father, whom I certainly loved, and who had been good to me, sending me the stole and many blessings. And I don’t think he has stopped being a father to us, to me. He will one day be canonized, I think (if we last that long), and I do not hesitate to ask his intercession now.

Turning Toward the World: The Journals of Thomas Merton, Volume Four, 1960-1963, edited by Victor A. Kramer

The Death of Pope John

There many explanations why John XXIII had so unparalleled a number of individuals and different religious bodies praying for him in his last illness-why peoples of various religious persuasions throughout the world manifested a deep personal concern when it became known that his death was near. Pope John had a most engaging personality. In his dealings with his fellow men of every rank and station he was genial, warm, solicitous and human, humble, simple and direct. The anecdotes about his simple friendliness are legion. He strongly impressed all, most appropriately, as wholly benign and fatherly.

Pope John XXIII

Pope John’s strong personal appeal had a lot to do with the wide and eiithusiastic acceptance of his many statements that directly carried on and developed principles expounded by his predecessors, notably Pius XII. It was Pius who instituted, for instance, maior liturgical reforms that led to the further changes recently approved by the Fathers of the Vatican Council. Continue reading

Commission to Guide Work During Recess

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.” Continue reading

Complex Issues Plague Relations with Orthodox

The many obstacles standing in the way of Christian unity were stressed at least implicitly when the Orthodox Churches of Greece and of the Near East declined the invitation to send observers to the Second Vatican Council.

But the stand of the Greek Orthodox could stimulate the council Fathers to study with special attention the problems concerning the Eastern Churches — of both those in communion with the Holy See and those separated from it.

One of the problems concerning Eastern Rite Christians is that because 97% of all Catholics follow the Latin Rite, it is often assumed that this is the best, and that others are somehow suspect.

To many Latin Rite Catholics, it seems strange to find other Catholics whose Mass is in languages other than Latin, whose laity receive Holy Communion under both species, whose Baptisms involve plunging the child entirely into water three times, and who have married men who are ordained priests.

Such customs mark most of the Eastern Churches, separated as well as Catholic. Some separated Eastern Christians fear that if they came into unity with the Holy See in a body such customs would result in their being considered second-class Catholics. Continue reading

The Human Side of the Council

While the grave problems of the universal Church are being examined in the Second Vatican Council, there is a side-play of human activity reminiscent of congresses and parliaments around the world.

The general meetings of the council begin at 9 sharp every morning. At that hour the bishops find their assigned places and attend Mass.

The Mass, with which each day’s work begins, is in a different Rite almost every day. The ancient tongues chants provide a daily education in the fact that all is not Western and Latin in the Catholic Church.

After the Mass is over, the ceremony of enthroning the Gospels on the center of the altar is repeated everyday. Some bishop, each day chosen from a different part of the world, carries the book the full length of the council hall accompanied by two candle bearers.

Perhaps 40 minutes has been required for all this. Now there is the muffled coughing and shuffling of papers which is the sign everywhere on earth that the assembly is settling down for the work of the day. Continue reading