This is a translation of Pope Paul’s letter dated Sept. 1, 1964, to Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, dean of the council of presidents of the ecumenical council, asking that the whole Church join in prayer and penance for the council on Sept. 23, 25, 26 and 27.
To our Venerable Brother: Health and Apostolic Benediction.
The resumption of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council is now at hand. The third session, as already decided and announced, will begin on Sept. 14, the day which the liturgy devotes to the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. This date for the resumption of the conciliar work was not arrived at by chance, but, as it were, to indicate the source from whence springs our salvation and whence the Church draws its trust in the happy outcome of this great synod — that is to say, from the Passion of our most merciful and most beloved Redeemer.
Pope Paul VI is pictured at a desk at the Vatican. (CNS photo)
We wish to give due honor to this great mystery, celebrating its perennial and salutary memory, by offering to God at the opening of the conciliar session the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which represents and renews in an unbloody manner the work of our redemption. We intend to perform this sacred rite as a first and essential act of the ecumenical council, which is about to assemble again, by means of a solemn concelebration by 24 conciliar Fathers chosen from various orders and regions, and united to us.
We wish this for the council so that the infusion of hearts and souls may be more evident to all and more efficacious in the sight of God, forming “one heart and one soul” (Acts 4, 32) of all those who are taking part in the holy assembly. We wish also through it to implore divine assistance for our common labors — that assistance which is our supreme guide in the arduous and humble search for the divine will on the part of the whole Catholic Church. In fact, the ecumenical council convened around the successor of St. Peter is, as everyone knows, a true representation of the universal Church, a fact which was stated by the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council.
We write this to you, our venerable brother and dean of the Sacred College, so that you whom we have confirmed in the very high office of first member of the Council of Presidents of the Second Vatican Council, may exhort, in our name and authority, the conciliar Fathers to come punctually to the ecumenical synod itself, and to prepare their souls for it, as for an exceptional moment in the life of the Church.
The Church can hope all the more to be inspired and led by the Holy Spirit the more intensely, the more harmoniously and the more humbly are souls mutually disposed to receive grace. Such an extraordinary moment must be lived with inner meditation, with intense fervor, with humble piety, with absolute faithfulness to the precepts of Christ, with vigilant attention to the needs of the Church and the world. Continue reading