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 →
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.
The seventh and final installment of Cardinal Montini’s Lenten pastoral letter, written from Rome, where he is serving on boards and commissions that are making preparations for the upcoming council. See also Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, and Part VI.
55- Therefore, the Church celebrating the coming council is planning to get in touch with the world. Think about it carefully: this is a great act of love. The Church will not only think about herself, the Church will think about the whole of mankind. She will think about it, bearing in that She is the continuation of Christ, the incarnate Word, who entered the world to save it, whatever situation he would have found (Cfr Congar..: “the Church “does not exist just to be beautiful and to look at herself in the mirror saying: how beautiful I am, I am the bride of the Lord, I am the queen. The church exists propter nos et propter nostram salutem” trans. Ed. “for us and for our salvation”). For this reason she will try to become sister and mother to mankind: she will try to be poor, simple, humble and lovable, in her speech and attitude. For this reason she will try to be intelligible, and provide people of our times the ability to listen to her and to talk to her using an easy and ordinary language. Continue reading →
The sixth installment of Cardinal Montini’s Lenten pastoral letter, written in Rome where he is serving on preparatory commissions for the upcoming council. See also Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V.
46. From these considerations, our wait is curious to other perspectives, first of all on those matters of faith. Will the council, as earlier expected, reveal some new teaching on revealed truth, some new dogma? We do not know, and this already indicates that the definition of some new dogma, as part of revelation, it seems improbable. There seems a rather widespread awareness in the Church that desires some sage admonition, some loving advice today on how we can preserve and deepen our profession of the faith, that faith which is the beginning of our salvation and spiritual heritage which is most threatened by a mentality created by the errors of modern thought and morality. Continue reading →
The fifth installment of Cardinal Montini’s Lenten pastoral letter, written in Rome where he is serving on preparatory commissions for the upcoming council. See also Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.
37. When we are talking about a reform related to an ecumenical council we usually think both about serious, ineradicable, and widespread infirmities and some extraordinary action. This happened during various previous councils. However the next council –even if it is likely to approve some outstanding reforms- will be characterized, as the reason for its call, by a desire for good rather than an escape from evil. In fact today, thanks to the divine mercy, the Church cannot be accounted for mistakes, scandals, aberrations, abuses requiring the exceptional action of calling a council. Today the Church, by the grace of God and thanks to many good and holy Christian people, is more in suffering and weakness rather than in scandal and decay. The general appearance of the Church shows more wounds than sins; more needs than infidelities. It makes us even more grateful and joyful, that the pope himself, without any external pressure, has announced the council spontaneously, inspired by his love for Christ and by the desire to promote more and more the Church’s process of perfection. Therefore the council will concentrate on positive reforms rather than punitive actions; on exhortations rather than anathemas. Continue reading →
The fourth installment of Cardinal Montini’s Lenten pastoral letter of 1962 written in Rome, where he is helping to prepare for the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. In this installment, His Eminence begins to address what we might expect from the council. See Part I, Part II, and Part III
28. All this is remembered and made almost evident in the celebration of the ecumenical council. The assistance of Christ to his Church is manifest in the fact that such an event is realized in full consistency with the original word of Christ. It is the thought around which the Bull by which Pope John XXIII announced the council is woven. “The divine Redeemer Jesus Christ, who before ascending into heaven conferred on the apostles He had chosen the mandate to bring the light of the Gospel to all peoples, and at the same time promised them extensive support in order to guarantee their mission: “Behold, I am with you all days even unto the consummation of the world” (Mt 28:20). This comforting assistance , which has been alive and active in all times in the Church, was noticeable above all in the gravest periods of humanity (Humanae salutis, 25 December 1961). As we said, (no. 13) the marks of the Church here stand out: here in the council, as never before, it shows itself one, holy, catholic and apostolic. As ever the divine-human consciousness of the Church holds: “It is the decision of the holy Spirit and of us not of us” (Acts 15:28), as spoken by the apostles in the first Council of Jerusalem, so say the fathers of the Second Vatican Council. Continue reading →
The third installment of Cardinal Montini’s pastoral letter, written in Rome, explains the Church as mystery, as a pneumatic synthesis of all who are joined to her. See Part I and Part II
19. Therefore the council is not like a parliament elected by people, but a body composed of clergymen invested of their own authority; it is not an assembly of experts, professors, theologians and canonists, but pastors and doctors of the Church of Christ; they are appointed to such office not because of a particular personal qualification, nobility or dynastic succession, historical or local privilege, but because they are legitimately appointed to succeed the apostles, if they are bishops, and they are given power and dignity, assuming a call from above which could fall on any individual’s shoulders [who is] considered suitable to such highest and important service, regardless of class, nation or race. Church authority comes from above, that is, derives from Christ only, not from the community, but it is not afraid to lower down through the freest choice of its elected. This is how the Church is. Also this feature about the Council composition will deserve our meditation in order to admire God’s work in a spectacular human event. Continue reading →
This is the second installment of Cardinal Montini’s lenten pastoral letter to his diocese of Milan written from Rome where he is participating in preparations for the upcoming ecumenical council. See Part I.
8. The ecumenical council would be a great topic for a manifold and lengthy talk. For the purposes of our simple pastoral letter it suffices to remember the deep and august 1 complexity of the subject so that none of us would too easily deliver a hasty or superficial judgment. It suffices again to mention a few of its features so that some definite idea will help us join our devotion spiritually to the great event, to find out and mediate what about the council we consider to be important for our growth as the Church’s faithful and children of our present century. Continue reading →
Alternative translations: majestic, grand, magnificent —Ed. ↩