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

3,000 to Participate In ‘Largest Council’

Second Vatican Council by Lothar Wolleh

History is in the making here.

The greatest meeting of Church dignitaries in all the Christian era is in session in St. Peter’s basilica.

In many ways already one of the great assemblies of all time, its full impact is expected to be felt far in the future. Events of enormous importance, probably unfolding slowly over many years, will be traced to it. Continue reading

The Bishops of Holland: ‘The Sense of the Council’ III

This is the third and final installment of the first-ever translation of “the banned pastoral letter,” the document of the bishops of Holland to their people in preparation for the Council. Cardinal Ottaviani of the Holy Office had the Italian translation banned from the bookshops of Rome in the weeks leading up to the Council. The translation is by Janice Poss. See Part I and Part II.

Chapter III: The Ecumenical Council

The sense of faith and the council

Against this backdrop we understand more clearly what a council is. What passes more or less imperceptibly in the life of people of God under the daily teaching, pastoral care and administration of the global episcopate in communion with the pope, receives from a council a particular expressive form. A general council is then a concentration of grace in action visible from the Holy Spirit, that we send to the Head of the Church, Christ. The Holy Spirit ‘recalls’ to us what Christ did and taught when he lived on the earth. Under this aspect the council is like a sacrament: a sacred sign of the action of the Holy Spirit in the doctrinal magistrate and in the pastoral direction of the Church. Strictly speaking, the council is an act of ecclesiastical hierarchy and an act only of this hierarchy: this is an authoritarian, prophetic, and normative judgment, an act of authority, to what participates in principle as the representatives of the jurisdictional function in the Church, that is to say the hierarchy, always sustained by grace of which Christ provides it and possessing the discernment to distinguish the collective conceptions of believers of earthly hopes and human considerations not always exempt from sin. This power of discernment, gift of the Spirit, permits, not only to define the truth of faith, but to again fix ecclesiastic organization, to direct ecclesial and liturgical life, to formulate the exigencies of Christian life in confrontation with the world and its problems. From antiquity it was clear that a council was as such “the business of the bishops”, as what was said at the start of the Council of Ephesus.1 But what preceded showed sufficiently that this Episcopal activity presupposed the entire faith life of the lay community. This was not only in a general manner, but in particular in the immediate preparation of a council. Continue reading

  1. J. Harduin, Conciliorum collection regia maxima, Paris FR, 1715, Vol. II, col. 71.

Can the Council Succeed?

From the October 6, 1962, issue of America, a balanced appraisal of the prospects for the Council:

To question the Second Vatican Council’s chances for success on the eve of its opening may seem to be inappropriate, at the very least, if not misguided or even disloyal. Yet the subject deserves airing precisely because it continues to be raised—for a variety of reasons —in some circles. What grounds exist, then, for reasonable confidence in the Council’s outcome?

Looking at the preparations made for it, even in purely human terms, there is ample reason to be hopeful about its deliberations. Despite fears expressed at the beginning, the preparatory stage of the Council’s history proved to be unique for breadth and thoroughness. In reply to 2,812 individual requests sent from Rome for suggestions on conciliar agenda, 2,150 responses came from bishops and theologians all over the world. Their proposals ran to 9,424 pages of print in a set of 14 volumes. Continue reading

John XXIII First Pope in More Than 100 Years to Leave Vatican

John XXIII met by throngs at a station along the route of his pilgrimage, October 4, 1962

Today at 6:30 a.m. Pope John XXIII left the Vatican’s train station on a pilgrimage to Loreto and Assisi to pray for the success of the Second Vatican Council.

In doing so, he became the first pope to leave the confines of the Vatican City State since 1857, when Pius IX made his last visit to the Papal States before the unification of Italy by King Victor Emmanuel II, which ended the absolute monarchical secular power (including taxation) of the papacy over some three million people, earned the king an excommunication and caused subsequent popes to remain in the Vatican as a protest. In this way, they avoided contamination by the secular state of Italy and kept alive their claim to ownership of a large swath of modern Italy. Continue reading

Lifeless Skeletons


Most of these schemata are lifeless skeletons, due to their juridical, canonical and sometimes repressive approach. We will try in our plan to give them some life and breadth of approach and make them contribute to an overall whole.

—Cardinal Léon-Joseph Suenens

From a letter to John XXIII commenting on the draft documents sent to the Council Fathers for review in advance of the Council opening. From Vatican II Revisited by Those Who Were There, ed. Alberic Stacpoole, Minneapolis, Winston Press, 1968. Hat tip to Fr. Joseph Komonchak.

An Institution Under Siege?


Several schemata consider the Church too much as an institution under siege which the Council must defend; they do not see in it enough the radiant depositary of the salvation to be shared. In them the Church has the aspect of an institution more juridical than missionary. They don’t show the courage to turn frankly to the present world, toward its needs, toward its new and legitimate demands. They seem to believe, instead, that it will be enough to repeat, with more insistence but without deepening the doctrine, formulas which already the world no longer can understand. They seem to believe that the losses of faith, the deterioration of morality, the failures of the apostolate have no other causes than the inattention of men or the malice of the times; they do not ask if the obsolete character of certain forms of the Church’s thought and action also play some role in it.

—Cardinal Paul-Émile Léger, archbishop of Montréal

From a letter to Pope John XXIII, August 1962, as quoted in Alberigo and Komonchak, The History of Vatican II, Volume I.

The Bishops of Holland: ‘The Sense of the Council’ II

What did the Holy Office find so threatening about the encyclical of the Dutch bishops that Cardinal Ottaviani felt the need to confiscate it from the bookshops of Rome? Here for the first time in English is the second installment of the complete text of their encyclical, promulgated on Christmas Eve, 1960, translated by Janice Poss of Los Angeles from the French, Le Sens du Concile: Une Réforme Intérieure de la Vie Catholique. Read Part I.

Chapter II: The Sense of Faith in the Ecclesial Community and Hierarchical Direction

Revelation and Faith

The revelation of God in Christ is the gift of the personal self of the living God who makes himself known and intimately experienced in personal gesture, by which he comes to meet man, inviting him to living communion with himself. This is why the salvific reality of revelation, addressed to men and women, is not understood solely by divine acts of salvation that are historically dated (“public revelation”) but also by the interior word of God, in and by the grace of faith, or “the light of faith”, by which we can personally perceive in our heart the gracious offer of God’s salvation. This is the “salve of the heart”, of which spoke the apostle St. John, who made in a way “faith by hearing” or the truth preached about salvation can be equally perceived by the believing heart.1 Continue reading

  1. I Jn 2:20-27.