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

Council Fathers Consider How to Describe Tradition

The ecumenical council may adopt one of two views as a result of its discussions on the relationship between Scripture and Tradition, an official council expert said here last month.

Father Georges Tavard, A.A., of the Pittsburgh diocese, told reporters at a meeting of the U.S. bishops’ press panel that the two views are:

1.That Scripture and Tradition appear as two sources of Faith (or as two sources of Revelation).

2.That Tradition and Scripture are not two sources standing side by side, but that Tradition is the explanation of Scripture by the Church.

Father Tavard also noted that the council’s stand on the matter can affect the movement for Christian unity. Prior to the council’s opening the priest was a consultor of the Preparatory Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity and is now one of the experts named by Pope John XXIII to advise council Fathers. Continue reading

Protestant Scholar Says Council Observers Pleased

Non-Catholic observers at the Second Vatican Council are pleased at the concern shown by the council Fathers for the Catholic Church’s relations with other churches, according to a leading Protestant scholar.

“I am not betraying any secrets when I tell you how glad we are to note how a concern for ecumenism pervades these discussions,” said Prof. Oscar Cullmann of the Universities of Paris and Basel (Switzerland).

“Yet even here,” the noted Scriptural and patristic scholar told newsmen, “we must be on our guard against illusions. We certainly hope with all our hearts that this renewal [of the Catholic Church] will be realized. For we are convinced that if it is, it will make so much easier the dialogue between Catholic and non-Catholic that will go on after the council. Continue reading

The First Saint of the Council

From America, December 15, 1962:

Three years ago, after Pope John XXIII had called the Second Vatican Council, he delivered a message, “Light on the Council,” in which he summed up its goal. He chose the words of St. Paul; words, he said, which deserve to be inscribed on the Council’s doors:

Rather are we to practice the truth in love, and so grow up in all things in him who is the head, Christ. For from him the whole body (being closely joined and knit together through every joint of the system according to the functioning in due measure of each single part) derives its increase to the building up of itself in love. (Eph. 4:15-16) Continue reading

Bishops and the Common Bible

From America, December 8, 1962, by Walter M. Abbott, S.J.: The Fathers of the Council discuss the Bible as a common Christian heritage

Each day at the Second Vatican Council begins with a dialogue Mass. The celebrant faces the Fathers of the Council. After the Mass there is a ceremony that impresses all who behold it, including the Protestant and Orthodox delegate-observers. An archbishop carries a book containing the Gospels up the aisle of the Council hall, the nave of St. Peter’s Basilica. In the address he gave on the fourth anniversary of his coronation, Pope John referred to the ceremony in these words:

With happy thought, and following what was done at the First Vatican Council, our general meetings begin with the enthronement of the Gospels, so that the sacred code of the teaching and laws of Christ may continue to shine and have its central place at our meetings. . . .

The Gospel book lies open on the altar all during the Council Fathers’ deliberations.

As the bishops and the delegate-observers know, the text of this Gospel book is in Latin. They know, too, that the Latin text with its many gold letters and gold titles was made into a book during the Italian Renaissance by Matteo de’ Cantugi di Volterra. What is more important, they know that the Latin text dates back to a time when Latin was the common language of the Western world. The Bible in those early days was, truly, a common Bible—common to all who professed Christianity. Continue reading

Eyewitness Impressions of the Role of the American Hierarchy in Rome

A few cynics have taken a bankrupt view of Vatican II. In their eyes, it was a failure before it began on October 11, 1962, and this because it bad set itself the task of doing too much in too short a time, with inadequate preparation and against forces of traditionalism too entrenched to be overcome by the Holy Spirit Himself. The correct and realistic view, on the other hand, is that the Council was a success before it met in the first general congregation of its first session.

This hopeful appraisal is supported by several considerations. Vatican II, besides focusing the eyes of the world on the Church assembled in all her impressive solemnity and solidarity, has, by the very fact of being convoked, created a new atmosphere of amity and urgency with respect to the unity of all Christians. It has opened windows locked for centuries. It has provided an immense showcase for a display of the democratic side of the Church’s life. It has ventilated questions long shut away unanswered. And it has done this in a setting of overwhelming evidence of the faith, devotion, zeal, general competence and amazing catholicity of the bishops of the whole earth. Continue reading