From the August 11, 1962 issue of America by Eugene C. Bianchi, S.J.: What are the problems that will be discussed at the coming Vatican Council?
Out on Rome’s Via Aurelia, in a modest study on the second floor of the Brazilian College, works a man who reflects a vitality, optimism and foresight that belie his 81 years. Augustin Cardinal Bea, as president of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, is one of the truly outstanding personalities in pre-conciliar Rome. People marvel that this quiet biblical scholar, once confessor to Pope Pius XII, has become the dynamic and articulate champion of the cause of Christian unity.
As teacher and superior of the Pontifical Biblical Institute for more than a quarter-century, Father Bea, SJ., contributed much to the renewal of scriptural studies among Catholics. His many scholarly works and his inspiring direction have left their mark on a whole generation of Rome-trained exegetes. It seems eminently fitting that the Cardinal’s escutcheon should feature a dove hovering over a book. For the dove unintentionally symbolizes his very important contribution to Pius XII’s epoch-making encyclical. Divino Afflante Spiritu, the modern Magna Charta for Catholic biblical research.
But it is since 1960, when the scholarly Cardinal became head of the Unity Secretariat, that he has shot into the forefront of the world religious scene. The purpose that Pope John wished to engrave on the coming Council—that of a renewal of Catholic life in view of greater Christian unity—is perhaps best mirrored in the tireless activity of Cardinal Bea. His secretariat was established to keep non-Catholics abreast of Council preparations, to receive their suggestions, and to see to the delicate task of inviting non-Catholic observers to Vatican II. The secretariat also formulates proposals for the Council on such important topics as religious liberty, membership in the Mystical Body and the dialogue with the non-Catholic world. Continue reading →
From the very first announcement, Orthodox and Protestants have looked with great interest on the forthcoming Second Vatican Council. After some early enthusiasm, however, most ecumenicists have taken a more cautious view of the results that may be expected from the Council. In a recent talk given at the Jesuit Seminary in Toronto, Canada, Father Gregory Baum, O.S.A., discussed some of the misgivings now felt by non-Catholics. The text of Fr. Baum’s talk, reprinted here from the weekly The Catholic Messenger(407 Brady St., Davenport, Iowa, $5.), follows:
In the year after the convocation of the ecumenical council by Pope John in 1959, the ecumenical climate surrounding the Catholic Church reached a level of unprecedented friendliness. The Pope had declared that the purpose of the council was the reunion of Christians. It was explained immediately, it is true, that the council would be an affair of the Catholic Church alone, but the aim of the endeavor to renew and adapt Catholic life to the needs of the modern world was to prepare the way for Christian unity. Continue reading →
From February 1959, Robert A. Graham, S.J., an associate editor at America, looks at Protestant and Orthodox reactions to Pope John XXIII’s announcement of an ecumenical council:
World reaction to the prospect of an ecumenical council on behalf of church unity must have been extremely encouraging to the Pope. The dramatic decision of John XXIII, which burst upon the public on January 25, was in the main interpreted quite favorably by those who have no particular reason to indulge in perfunctory applause. Orthodox and Protestant leaders, as well as editorialists in the secular press, displayed their unmistakable interest in the Pope’s plan and their sincere respect for his motives. His announcement was taken as something to be expected from one whose personality had already established itself in the popular mind as that of an amiable man who wants to be friends with everyone.
Indeed, from all indications, the proposal was the Pope’s own idea; it is certainly stamped with his generous and expansive character. There is every reason to expect that the Holy Father will try to start the Fathers of the council off in a mood of conciliation comparable to his own. In the meantime it is already evident that the mere anticipation of a general council under the sign of unity has put this old and much-argued problem on an entirely new basis in everyone’s mind. Of itself, the Pope’s decision indicates that the Catholic Church believes the time is ripe for serious new initiatives to resolve the tragic historic division of Christians.