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. Continue reading →
The account of Cardinal Léon-Josef Suenens, archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, of his famous memo to Pope John XXIII which led to the basic structure and approach of the Council. The Cardinal also provides the actual text of the memo.
During an audience with the Pope in March 1962, I complained to John XXIII about the number of schemata prepared for discussion at the forthcoming Council, which seemed quite excessive. There were, I believe, seventy-two of them, very uneven in value, and in any case so overwhelming in volume that a priori they prevented fruitful and worthwhile work at the Council itself. John XXIII asked me to clear the ground and submit to him a plan based on the prepared schemata.
After studying these documents, I sent him a preliminary note designed to cut out a lot of dead wood and set the Council on a truly pastoral course. The note was both negative and positive: idem nolle as well as idem velle were both needed as a basis for more detailed work to follow. This note is given below as Appendix I. John XXIII approved this verbally to me; and it then paved the way for future work. Continue reading →
Several times [during the preparatory meetings], resolutions to abolish the Congregation of the Holy Office outright were brought to the floor. In the sessions that took place last June, after Cardinal Ottaviani had ordered that the Italian translation of a pastoral letter on the Council written by the Dutch bishops be withdrawn from circulation, the Indian cardinal—vehemently supported by Cardinals Doepfner, or Munich; Koenig, of Vienna; and Lienart, of Lille—came to the aid of Cardinal Alfrink, of Utrecht, by informing the Holy Office, and the Roman Curia in general, that while ecumenical councils usually ended with someone in schism, this time, for once, it would not be the outsiders, because they happened to represent not merely the majority of the Church but the senior pars, and they expressed their disdain for the freemasonry (a nasty word in European ecclesiastical circles) of Italian prelates, who have held the Church in thrall for too long.
—Xavier Rynne, The New Yorker, October 20, 1962
What did the Holy Office find so threatening about the encyclical of the Dutch bishops that Ottaviani’s minions had to confiscate it from the bookshops of Rome? Here for the first time in English is 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.
Pope John XXIII has put the finishing touches on preparations for the Second Vatican Council by appointing the council’s major officers and spelling out its rules and procedures.
He did so only five weeks before the council’s opening by issuing a motu proprio—the technical name for a document drawn up and signed by the Pope on his own initiative.
One of the Pope’s acts was to name a presiding council of 10 cardinals who will take turns in presiding over plenary sessions of the ecumenical council in the Pope’s name when he is not present. The 10 are from nine nations. Among them is Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York.
With the release (Sept. 5) of the motu proprio, the Pope also:
Named cardinals of the Roman Curia to head 10 council commissions which in general parallel the preparatory commissions he set up for the council two years ago.
Appointed Amleto Cardinal Cicognani, his Secretary of State and former Apostolic Delegate to the United States, president of a Secretariat for Extraordinary Affairs which will deal with any unforeseen problems. Among its seven other members is Albert Cardinal Meyer, Archbishop of Chicago.
Required a two-thirds majority—plus his own approval—for enactment of decrees of the council.
Stated that non-Catholic delegate observers may attend not only the solemn public sessions of the council, but also the working sessions in which all the Catholic bishops take part.