Thursday, October 25, 2012

 Fifty Years Later

          Never before in the long history of the Church’s twenty ecumenical, world-wide Councils, had five Popes – present and future -- been gathered together in one Council aula.
          They were present in St. Peter’s Basilica during Vatican II’s first session (October to December, 1962) : the Pope who called the Council; the Cardinal who would be elected Pope and bring the Council to its completion; two diocesan Bishops who would also become Popes; and a young priest-theologian who, fifty years later, presides as Pope over a “Year of Faith” to commemorate the Council.
         Pope John XXIII (Angelo Guiseppe Roncalli) was nearly 77 years old when elected Pope in 1958. Thought to be a mere “care-taker”, he stunned the Church when – within the first 100 days of his papacy -- he called for a Council. Born to poor parents in a small village, one of 13 children, he was ordained in 1904, serving as his Bishop’s secretary and as a chaplain in the Italian army. A scholar of Church history, he became head of the Propagation of the Faith in Italy and, beginning in 1925, spent nearly three decades as a diplomat of the Holy See to Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, and finally France. In 1953, Pope Pius XII created him Cardinal Patriarch of Venice. He succeeded Pius as Pope, his papacy lasting only four – eventful -- years. Acclaimed for his “goodness”, he was beatified -- as Blessed John XXIII -- in the year 2000.
           Giovanni Battista Cardinal Montini, Archbishop of Milan, was born in 1897, ordained in 1920, and – always in frail health - spent almost his entire priesthood in the Roman Curia, working closely with Pope Pius XII. While in Milan, he was created the “first” Cardinal of John XXIII, and succeeded him in 1963 – taking the name Pope Paul VI. Montini had been an important figure at the Council’s first session (John XXIII kept him close, with residence in the Papal apartments) and Papa Montini guided the Council’s last three sessions. Sometimes described as “Hamlet-like”, he was perhaps too quickly and unfairly berated for his 1968 encyclical letter Humanae Vitae (On Human Life). Paul died in 1978 –after 15 years as Pope.
Bishop Albino Luciani was, in 1962, the 50-year-old Bishop of Vittorio-Venetto. Consecrated a Bishop by Pope John himself, he had been a professor, pastor and catechist; he urged the Council to preserve “the fundamental elements of the Faith.” At 57, he became the Patriarch of Venice and, as Cardinal, he was elected to succeed Pope Paul on August 26, 1978, taking the names of his two predecessors as Pope John Paul I. Known as “the smiling Pope,” he held that “the Church that comes out of the Council is still the same as it was yesterday, but renewed. No one can ever say ‘We have a new Church, different from what it was’”. He died on September 28, 1978 – Pope for only 33 days.
           Auxiliary Bishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow participated in the first three sessions, returning for the fourth as a young Archbishop. A very active Council Father, he took part in the debates and in the writing of the decrees Lumen Gentium (“The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church”) and Gaudium et Spes (“The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World”). He returned to his native Poland – formerly under Nazism and then under Communism - and set about implementing the Conciliar decrees. He was created a Cardinal by Paul VI; after the sudden death of John Paul I, Wojtyla was elected the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years. As Pope John Paul II he proclaimed, “Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ.” During his 26-year pontificate, he became a pilgrim throughout the world. He promulgated a “Catechism of the Catholic Church”, which included the teaching of the Council. John Paul “the Great” died in 2005 and was beatified in 2011.
Father Josef Ratzinger – 35 year old German priest and professor of dogmatic theology -- was the main peritus (expert) to Cardinal Frings of Cologne and, like Cardinal Wojtyla, was a major influence on the writing of several of the Council documents. A decade after the Council, he was called away from academia to become the Cardinal Archbishop of Munich, and then called to Rome in 1981 to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, working closely with John Paul II for over 20 years. At age 78, he was elected Pope, taking the name Benedict XVI. His vision of the Council is the Church’s “renewal and continuity” (rather than its “discontinuity and rupture”) -- the Church which “grows in time and develops, remaining however always the same, the one People of God on their way.”
           With that understanding of ecclesial continuity, one might say they were “all” present at Vatican II: Pius XII… Pius XI … Benedict XV … Pius X … Leo XIII … Pius IX … back to Trent … to Ephesus … to Peter and Paul meeting in Jerusalem.

          -- Monsignor John T. Myler
October 1962

Early Discussion on the Sacred Liturgy

      Near the end of October, 1962, the very first general topic taken up by the Council Fathers was the Sacred Liturgy, discussing an early draft of the document which would eventually become known as Sacrosanctum Concilium.

     On each Council day, always beginning at 9 AM, as many as two dozen Bishops would speak (for a maximum of 10 minutes each). During the early discussions on the Liturgy, various Bishops could be heard giving brief addresses -- called interventions, some of which were submitted as written, rather than oral texts -- requesting that:

• local languages should be used instead of Latin in the teaching parts of the Mass
• the Scriptural texts proclaimed at Mass should be more varied
• the laity of the Latin Rite should be able to receive Holy Communion under the appearance of both bread and wine
• there should be a wider provision for priests to concelebrate Masses

      In historical perspective, these proposed liturgical changes were not impulsive and revolutionary – but had been preceded throughout the 20th century by both papal initiatives and liturgical scholarship. A “Liturgical Movement” which began during the 19th-century among Benedictine monks in France, slowly spread to other monasteries and countries. Some of the reforms proposed by this movement received papal support, especially from Popes St. Pius X and Pius XII. Always in fidelity to the Church, liturgical scholars attempted to share the profound meaning of various rites – especially the Mass – with the laity, leading to the publication of missals, scholarly and popular journals, a rediscovery of authentic Church music, even national “liturgical congresses.”

      As late as1948, Pius XII had convened a Commission for the Reform of the Liturgy; a newly-revised Holy Week liturgy was im¬ple¬mented in 1955 – a fruit of the “liturgical movement” – of which most Catholics were unaware.

      So, while there was indeed serious debate in the Council aula regarding proposed liturgical changes, these were not new, unheard of suggestions. Speaking to reporters in the Council press center, Fr. Hermann Schmidt, SJ (of the Gregorian University) and Fr. Frederick McManus (of the Catholic University of America) summarized the discussion with two deeper questions: “First, whether the texts and rites should be changed to express more clearly the divine things they signify, paving the way to full, actual, and community participation; and second, how the liturgy could be an effective influence on society, not divorced from modern civilization and the existing social situation.”

      They hoped that the liturgy of the monasteries would find its way into the cathedrals and parish churches. renewal of the Divine Office and of the Psalter were also Conciliar topics, along with a discussion of liturgical needs in mission lands.

      The Council discussions on the Sacred Liturgy would continue for more than a year. As one observer on Catholics in American culture later noted, “Perhaps more dramatically than any other decree issuing from the Council, the decree (on the liturgy) would touch the folks in the pews in immediate and understandable ways.”

      As the Council Fathers entered a brief recess from November 1st to 4th – to observe the traditional days of All Saints and All Souls, and in observance of the 4th anniversary of John XXIII’s papacy – a “renewed” liturgy was surely in their thoughts. Fidelity, the place of Sacred Scripture, heart-felt reverence, a “ressourcement” (the study of Patristics, the teaching of the early Fathers of the Church), and the recent “Liturgical Movement” would all be factors in a reformed liturgy.

      There would be renewal – yet it was surely intended to be renewal within tradition.

(Next Week:  Five Popes at One Council)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

October 21, 1962 – Fifty Years Later


        Press coverage of the first Council in nearly a century was a challenge for the hundreds of journalists who had been assigned to Rome -- and for the Church itself.

       “The first few days of the Council sessions (mid- October of 1962) were hectic and frustrating experiences for the press and media.  The correspondents who came to Rome were at a loss on how to report the happenings of each day.  The journalists were informed that texts of what was said by the various speakers were unavailable,” reported Bishop Albert R. Zuroweste of Belleville, IL, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Communications Committee.  Additionally, some writers mistakenly expected an “ecumenical” Council to include the equal participation of non-Catholics.

        Many Council Fathers from European nations sent weekly newsletters to the their diocesan papers, but “the U.S. Bishops’ ‘Press Panel’, sponsored by the hierarchy of the United States, was the answer to the appeal of newsmen for a competent and reliable source of information.”

        The Press Panel was set up by the National Catholic Welfare Council (NCWC, later called the NCCB, and today the USCCB – United States Conference of Catholic Bishops).  The committee for the Press Panel was chaired by Bishop Zuroweste who, as a priest, had been editor of his diocesan newspaper.  The press met almost daily with the panel’s priest-experts in theology, scripture, ecumenism, canon law, liturgy and church history – among them young Father William Keeler of Harrisburg, PA (later Bishop there, eventually Cardinal Archbishop of Baltimore).

      Newsweek and Time reporters stated: “Nothing can substitute for interviews for more accurate reporting…What the press needs is access to Bishops and theologians who can speak frankly about the great event (of the Council).”

        One American Redemptorist, Fr. Francis X. Murphy - writing under the pseudonym “Xavier Rhynne” – sent periodic reports to The New Yorker magazine.  His unofficial, behind-the-scenes commentaries were called “frank, and sometimes irreverent”, perhaps too simplistic in labeling “progressives” and “conservatives” -- but were very popular.

       Pope John XXIII, at an audience for 807 international journalists, urged the press to stress the religious aspects of the Council.  Gathered in the Sistine Chapel with the huge throng of reporters (some of whom had not been inside a Church for a long time), the Pope asked for their “loyal cooperation in presenting this great event in its true colors … (not) more concerned with speed than accuracy”, nor “more interested in the ‘sensational’ than in the objective truth.”

        “You will be able to see and to report the true motives which inspire the Church’s action in the world.”

        During these October days, the attention of millions of people was focused on a Cuban missile crisis between the US and the USSR; historical research has shown that, diplomatically, John XXIII played no small part in averting nuclear war.  The missile crisis was likely in the Pope’s thoughts, as he urged the members of the press to work for “the interior disarmament which is the necessary condition for the establishment of true peace on this earth.”
(Next week: The Sacred Liturgy – First Topic)                                               

Friday, October 12, 2012

October 13 - 20, 1962
Fifty Years Later 


Saturday, October 13 -- the first “working day” (General Congregation) for all the Council Fathers – began at 9:00 am in the Council aula in St. Peter’s Basilica.  It lasted only fifty minutes!
             Ten “commissions” had been established to prepare the Council’s final texts:

On Doctrine, Faith and Morals   
On Bishops and Dioceses
On the Oriental Churches
On the Sacraments                        
On the Clergy and Laity                                  
On Religious Men and Women
On the Missions                              
On the Sacred Liturgy
On Seminaries and Schools
On the Lay Apostolate, the Press
                         and Entertainment

At the conclusion of the Saturday morning Mass, each Bishop had at his place three booklets: a booklet with a complete listing of all the Council Fathers; a booklet listing those Bishops who had served on each Commission during the preparatory phase (the so-called “Curial list”); and a booklet with blank spaces for voting, in which each Bishop was asked to list, by hand, sixteen candidates of their choice for each of the ten Commissions.

              The German Bishops, led by Joseph Cardinal Frings of Cologne, had discussed alternative candidates – not from the “Curial list” but nominated from each national episcopal conference.  Achille Cardinal Lienart, president of the French Bishops, agreed – and as the voting procedures that Saturday morning were being explained to all the Bishops, Cardinal Lienart rose to ask that the Council Fathers be given more time to study the qualifications of candidates for the 160 important offices on the ten Commissions.  His motion was seconded by Cardinal Frings.

Prolonged applause followed both interventions.

The Council was adjourned until 9:00 am on the following Tuesday, so that on Sunday and Monday, October 14 and 15, the Bishops could meet in their national or regional conferences. 

                By Tuesday morning, a leaflet was distributed to all the Bishops which contained the names proposed by the various national episcopal conferences as candidates for the Commissions.  The well-organized list of the French, German, Austrian and Swiss Bishops was supported by the Bishops of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, as well as those of Poland and Yugoslavia. 

The Bishops from Italy agreed on a list which gave wide representation to the different nationalities.  The United States’ Bishops, after meeting at the North American College, had drawn up their own list of candidates, having consulted with various national hierarchies. The Asian and African Bishops also composed their own lists.

                In the Council hall on Tuesday morning, each Bishop voted independently; after three days of counting the hand-written ballots, the members of the Commissions were announced at the 3rd General Congregation on Saturday, October 20.  Unexpectedly, in the “tumultuous” first days of the Council, the Bishops had elected Commission members international in scope and varied in pastoral experiences -- a step that theologian Fr. Yves Congar called “the first substantive Conciliar action.” African Archbishop (later Cardinal) Bernardin Gantin of Benin said the events of the first days “opened the way to the spirit of collegiality” among the Council Fathers.  Reportedly, Pope John agreed: “You have done right in expressing your thoughts aloud; that is why I have called the Bishops to a Council.” 

                Their next task would be discussion of the schema on the Sacred Liturgy.

( Next Week: The Press at Vatican II )                                                       -- Monsignor John T. Myler

Monday, October 8, 2012

October 11, 1962 – Fifty Years Later


     It was a majestic sight!  Rain had poured down in Rome early in the morning, but then bright sun broke through. 

     And a procession of 2,500 Bishops from 79 countries made its way across the Piazza di S. Pietro, accompanied by the sung Litany of the Saints, then turning to enter the great Basilica.  At the end came Pope John XXIII on the sedia gestatoria, carried so the crowds could see him, joyfully blessing them as the Second Vatican Council opened.

     Thursday, October 11, the feast of the Divine Maternity of the Virgin Mary, was the date chosen by the Pope -- to show continuity back to the Council of Ephesus (431 AD) when Christian belief was upheld in Mary as Theotokos, Mother of God, “Mater Dei” – which upheld Faith in the divinity of her Son, Jesus Christ.

     A young American priest assisting at the Council – Fr. Justin Rigali (later a Bishop, Archbishop and Cardinal) -- would write in perspective that all of what Vatican II endeavored to do was “to speak about Jesus” to the world. 

     Once inside the Basilica, Pope John preached that “the greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more effectively,” for the Church must never depart “from the sacred patrimony of truth received from the Fathers.” 

     Yet, at the same time, the Church “must ever look to the present, to the new conditions and forms of life introduced into the modern world, which have opened new avenues to the Catholic apostolate...”

  “The substance of the ancient doctrine, the Deposit of Faith, is one thing; the way in which it is presented is another.”

     Each in tall miter and white cope, the Bishops listening inside the Council aula were truly “catholic” – meaning “universal”.  38% were European; 31% were from the Americas; 20% came from Asia and Oceania, and 10% from Africa.  Sadly, almost 200 Bishops from the Eastern bloc Communist-controlled countries were not able to attend.

     The Bishops had left their episcopal sees, without clearly knowing when they would return home.  One, the 83 year old missionary Bishop Ashton Chichester, had served since 1929 in Rhodesia (which would later become the country known as Zimbabwe).  The first Archbishop of Salisbury, he had almost reached the main door of St. Peter’s on his way into the Council when he collapsed on the steps leading to the Basilica and died. 

       That night, a brother Bishop remarked on Vatican Radio, how much Bishop Chichester “loved the Holy See.  He longed for a Council, and hoped that he would live to attend one.  Bishop Chichester felt in his heart both the perennial stability and the imperishable youth of the Church”  ...

     ...  like that other octogenarian, John XXIII, who sat in the Chair of St. Peter.

   --     Monsignor John T. Myler

September to October 1962 – Fifty Years Later


               For several years, the commission “Fabbrica di S. Pietro” – the group responsible for the building and administering of St. Peter’s Basilica – had been planning the physical location of the aula or “Council Hall.”

               Room was needed for the historic gathering and deliberations of the world’s nearly 2,500 Bishops.

               Inside the Basilica, the huge central nave of St. Peter’s measures 96 meters x 22 meters (351 ft. long and 72 ft. wide) and was to be arranged for both “practicality and comfort”, not only for the Council’s daily sessions but also for sacred ceremonies, including daily Mass.  At the same time, the art and architecture of the Basilica had to be retained.  Pope John insisted that the entrance to Peter’s tomb remain open and also that a dignified area be found where the Book of the Gospels would be enthroned daily – both visible signs of the Biblical and historical roots of the Church.

               Through the summer and fall of 1962, from May 15 to October 10 (the day prior to the Solemn Opening of the Council), the workers of the Fabbrica erected lengthy tiers on both sides of the main nave – long rows of seating and tables on risers to accommodate more than 1,200 Bishops on each side.

The workers installed an additional 42 floodlights for better visibility; 37 microphones in various locations to facilitate the Bishops’ discussions; 4 tape recorders for the Council’s archives (and for the young priest-assistants who would daily transcribe the exact words of the Council deliberations); closed circuit television (so the Pope could follow the proceedings from the papal apartment); a temporary studio for Vatican Radio; telephone lines for communication among the rotating Council “Presidents”; and even data processing equipment – to be used for tabulating the Bishops’ various ballots.

               Sanitary and first aid needs had to be met.  Additionally, places were erected in the Basilica for days when the Council was “in session”, where the Bishops could gather and converse informally at two stations in the aula for coffee and pastries.  Before long, the Bishops gave the “coffee-bars” clever names based on two Gospel figures: the Bar-Jonah (from the Hebrew name for St. Peter) and the Bar-Abbas.   

               As the “opening day” approached, all plans were for a Council lasting three months – a single session with meetings from October to December 1962. 

In the end, the Council would last four sessions, spread over – not three months – but more than three years. 
--    Monsignor John T. Myler

September 1962 – Fifty Years Later
Prior to 1962, the Bishops of some countries -- especially Germany and France -- gathered to make joint suggestions for topics at the Council.  Individually, the Bishops in the United States sent hundreds of suggestions to the Vatican, including:

Doctrinal Concerns: Christ as the world’s Divine Redeemer; the relationship of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition (in light of Pius XII’s Divino Afflante Spiritu); the role of the Blessed Virgin
The Church: The Mystical Body of Christ (as Pius XII taught); prospects for reunion with the Orthodox and with Protestants; infants who die without Baptism; Church-State relations; religious freedom.
Role of Bishops: as Magisterium (teachers of Faith); Bishops’ relationship with men/women religious; relationship to Roman Curia;  the role of national episcopal conferences; use of social communications.
Priests, Deacons, Religious:  promoting vocations; restoration of permanent diaconate, extended to married men; a year of pastoral ministry for seminarians; a rediscovery of religious’ charisms.
The Laity: offer encouragement to the Lay Apostolate; the nature of the Christian family;  providing laypeople with opportunities to study along with the clergy dogma, philosophy, history and morality.
Liturgical Reform: study of the twentieth-century Liturgical Movement; increased use of local languages, while retaining some Latin in liturgy and Church’s daily life; a reform of the Breviary.
Moral Questions:  the need for obedience to legitimate authority; clearer teaching on the ends of marriage; the relationship between morality and psychiatry; the problem of birth control.
Modern War and Peace: the ethics of nuclear weapons; conscientious objection; theory of “just war”;  international relations; the threat of communism as an obstacle to world peace.
Social Justice: expand teaching of Rerum Novarum and Quadragesima Anno; improve race relations; the poor and elderly; growing materialism; atheism; new  challenges from scientific/technological progress.

While several Bishops had replied they had “nothing to propose”,  others were as specific as “defense of the family farm”; as theoretical as “what do to if the enemies of the Church used an atomic bomb to kill all the Cardinal-electors of the Pope”; and as speculative as salvation for “creatures on other planets.” 
            The Council’s Preparatory Commission – under the leadership of Msgr. Pericle Felici -- worked diligently, categorizing the tens of thousands of recommendations from around the world, as one American Bishop suggested, “rejecting both the stubbornness of the antiquarians and the rashness of the innovators.”  Vatican II was to be a reform Council certainly, yet a Council in continuity with the enduring teaching of Jesus Christ and His Church.
 (NEXT WEEK: PHYSICAL PREPARATIONS FOR THE COUNCIL)                                          --       Monsignor John T. Myler

 September 1962 – Fifty Years Later

               “Bishops, come to Rome!”  Pope John XXIII joyfully called out in the fall of 1962.
               Since January 1959 – when the Pope startlingly announced an Ecumenical (“Universal”) Council for the whole Church – Rome and the Vatican had been getting ready for 3,000 “temporary residents”.  The Catholic Bishops from around the world, their “periti” (expert theologians, specialists in Sacred Scripture, Patristics, Canon Law, Dogma, Moral Theology, Church History and even the Social Sciences) and the officially-invited Auditors and Observers, had all been preparing for the convening of the Second Vatican Council.
               An ecumenical, or general, Council is a solemn assembly of the Bishops of the Catholic world, called by the Pope,  to consider and decide under the presidency of the Pope matters concerning the expression of the Catholic Faith.  In the time of the Apostles, as recounted in the New Testament,  around the year 48 A.D. a conflict arose in Antioch (cf. Gal. 2:4), and the community there sent Paul and Barnabas to consult Peter, the Apostles and Elders of Jerusalem (cf. Acts 15:31).
             In the long history of Christ’s Church, Vatican II would be the 21st and largest Council – 2,540 Council Fathers would participate. 
            The first world-wide Ecumenical Council was held in 325 A.D. at Nicea, where 318 Church leaders gathered; the most recent Council had been Vatican I (from 1869-70), where 744 took part.  The most widely-known act of Vatican I was its definition of papal infallibility. 
             Pope Pius XI had considered a Council in the 1930’s and Pope Pius XII had done the same in the 1950’s.  Pope John’s Council would focus on the role of Bishops and the pastoral ministry of the whole Church: an aggiornamento for the Church “today”, in the modern world – the Church “ever ancient, ever new.” 
             Pope John foresaw a “new Pentecost.”  On every continent, clergy, religious and laity were praying to the Holy Spirit for the success of the upcoming Council: 

Grant that your labors and your work, toward which the eyes of all peoples and the hopes of the entire world are turned, may abundantly fulfill the aspirations of all.  Look down benignly upon the pastors of Thy Church. May the light of Thy supernal grace aid them … Graciously hear the prayers which we pour forth to Thee in unanimity of faith, of voice and of mind.  O Mary, Help of Christians, dispose all things for a happy and propitious outcome.   

The prayer was being offered in parish churches, schools, homes, monasteries, convents and cloisters.

Meanwhile, the thousands of Bishops, along with certain faculties from various theological universities, were suggesting subjects for discussion at Vatican II and forwarding them to the Preparatory Commission for the Council.

                                                       --  Monsignor John T. Myler