Council Debates Authority of Local Bishops Over Religious Communities

83rd General Congregation
September 18, 1964

Council Fathers began debate on one of the most sensitive areas of the Church’s institutional life, the exemption of certain religious communities from the full authority of local bishops.

Three Jesuit bishops and a Dominican cardinal sprang to the defense of such exemptions at the council’s third working meeting of the current session.

It became clear from their remarks that the schema on the pastoral duties of bishops attempts to give more power to local bishops over the work of priests who are members of exempt religious congregations, while leaving these congregations full autonomy in their internal life.

Debate on this schema began after three final speakers wound up debate on the chapter in the schema on the nature of the Church dealing with Our Lady.

Coadjutor Archbishop Pierre Veuillot of Paris, presenting the report of the Commission for Bishops and the Government of Dioceses, which had drawn up the schema, announced that it contained a new article on the appointment of bishops. This amounted to a declaration of independence from civil authorities in the matter of naming bishops.

The schema urges those who now have the power to name bishops to give it up. (This appeared to refer to the Spanish government. However, the Spanish government’s power of naming bishops is closely circumscribed and qualified.) Continue reading

Posted in Vatican II | Leave a comment

Council Notes Special Status of Jews, Further Debates References to Mary

82nd General Congregation
September 17, 1964

By an overwhelming majority the ecumenical council has passed what might be termed a “little statement on the Jews.” It calls the Jews “the chosen people most dear to God.”

This was included in chapter two of the schema on the nature of the Church. The council passed all eight articles of the chapter by very broad majorities.

In the same voting the council also approved an amendment strongly urged at the last session by Bishop Robert E. Tracy of Baton Rouge, La., making it clear that in the people of God, that is in the Church, there can be no distinction based on race.

Speaking on non-Catholics, the schema says “those who have not yet accepted the Gospel are in various ways oriented to the people of God.

“In the first place is that people to which the covenants and promises were given and from which Christ sprang, the chosen people most dear to God because of the patriarchs.”

The council’s highly publicized statement on the Jews will be debated in the council hall itself — following months of debate in the world press — after the council completes its discussion of the schema on the Church and the schema on the bishops and the government of dioceses.

Discussions on the third session’s fourth day were focused on chapter eight of the schema on the Church, devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The outstanding point at issue was the schema’s use of the title “Mother of the Church.” Continue reading

Posted in Vatican II | Leave a comment

Cardinal Seeks Streamlined Canonizations; ‘Mediatrix’ Also Debated

81st General Congregation
September 16, 1964

Leo Cardinal Suenens of Malines-Brussels, Belgium, appealed to the ecumenical council to streamline and simplify the canonization procedure so that the Church may recognize persons of all classes, nations and callings as saints.

He also suggested that regional conferences of bishops be empowered to beatify holy persons and that canonizations by the Holy See be reserved for saints of international importance.

The cardinal spoke at the third council session’s second working meeting. He was one of three speakers who continued debate on the seventh chapter of the schema on the nature of the Church, despite the previous day’s announcement that all speakers had had their say on that chapter. The chapter deals with eschatology — the last things, such as death, resurrection, immortality and judgment.

Of the 14 council Fathers who spoke on the schema’s eighth chapter — on the Virgin Mary — four said it would be better for various reasons to drop the term “mediatrix” from the council’s treatment of her. Augustin Cardinal Bea, S.J., president of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, was among them.

Ernesto Cardinal Ruffini of Palermo, Italy, defended the use of this title and asked only that it be more fully explained. Continue reading

Posted in Vatican II | Leave a comment

Council Quickly Concludes Chapter on Nature of the Church

80th General Congregation
September 15, 1964

The work of the third session of the ecumenical council got off to a fast start.

The council Fathers wound up debate on the seventh chapter of the schema on the nature of the Church on the very first day of deliberation. The chapter is titled “The Eschatological Nature of Our Calling.” It had been drawn up to express the wish of the late Pope John XXIII, who felt that a treatment of the Church would be incomplete without dealing with the members of the Church who are fully united with Christ in heaven while still united with the Church on earth, thus forming one Church.

Pope John’s wish was pointed out by Michael Cardinal Browne, O.P., of the Roman curia, who presented the report on the draft chapter.

However, the chapter came under heavy fire from several sides.

Three speakers objected that although the chapter deals with eschatology — the doctrine of the last things, such as death, resurrection, immortality and judgment — it made no mention of hell.

Three other speakers objected that the chapter deals with the Church’s calling from an individual and ascetic point of view, omitting the Church’s social, historic and cosmic viewpoints.

A third criticism was that the role of the Holy Spirit was neglected. Both an Eastern-rite and a Latin-rite Father made this point.

The council meeting opened with a Mass of the feast of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, offered by Bishop Charles Vanuytven, O.Praem., a retired Belgian missionary in the Congo. He was celebrating the 40th anniversary of his consecration as a bishop. Continue reading

Posted in Vatican II | Leave a comment

Text of Pope Paul’s Address Opening Council’s 3rd Session

This is a translation of the Latin address delivered by Pope Paul VI to the opening meeting (Sept. 14) of the third session of the ecumenical council.

Under the sign of the Holy Cross, in whose honor we have concelebrated holy Mass, we open today the third session of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. The Church is present here. We are the Church. We are the Church as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, for God has granted us the inestimable favor of being baptized, of being believers united by love and constituting the consecrated and visible people of God. We are the Church since we are ministers of the Church herself, priests invested with a special character received at our sacramental ordination.

On us are conferred marvelous and tremendous powers, making of us a hierarchy entrusted with functions meant to perpetuate in time and to extend on earth the saving mission of Christ. We are the Church, finally, because as teachers of the Faith, pastors of souls, stewards of the mysteries of God (1 Cor. 4, 1), we represent here the entire Church, not as delegates or deputies of the faithful toward whom our ministry is directed, but as fathers and brothers who personify the communities entrusted to the care of each one of us, and as a plenary assembly legitimately convoked by the Holy Father.

The Pope has called the council into session in his capacity, which links him with all of you, as your brother, the bishop of historic Rome, and as the humble but authentic successor of the Apostle Peter — before whose tomb we are devoutly gathered — and therefore as the unworthy but true head of the Catholic Church and Vicar of Christ, servant of the servants of God.

Recapitulating in our persons and in our functions the universal Church, we proclaim this council ecumenical. Here is the exercise of unity, here the exercise of that universality by which the Church gives evidence of her prodigious vitality, her marvelous capacity to make men brothers and to welcome within her embrace the most diverse civilizations and languages, the most individualized liturgies and types of spirituality, the most varied expressions of national, social and cultural genius, harmonizing all in felicitous union, yet always respecting legitimate variety and complexity.

Here is the exercise of the holiness of the Church because here she calls on the mercy of God for the weaknesses and deficiencies of the sinners that we are, and because here as nowhere else do we become aware of the power granted to our ministry to draw from the “unfathomable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3, 8) the treasures of salvation and sanctification for all men.

Here we realize that this ministry of ours has no other purpose than to “prepare for the Lord a perfect people” (Lk. 1, 17). Here, finally, is made manifest the apostolicity of the Church, a prerogative which is a marvel even to us, to us who have experienced our own weakness and who know how history bears witness to the frailty of even the most powerful of human institutions. Continue reading

Posted in Vatican II | Leave a comment

Pope Opens Council’s 3rd Session, Says Chief Task Is to Complete Vatican I

Opening General Congregation
September 14, 1964

Pope Paul VI opened the third session of the ecumenical council with a ringing reassertion of the role of the Church’s bishops as “the teachers, rulers and sanctifiers of the Christian people.”

As if to back up his words by a striking action, he concelebrated the session’s opening Mass with 24 council Fathers, including two Americans, Archbishops Lawrence J. Shehan of Baltimore and John J. Krol of Philadelphia.

Several  times and in several ways he said in his opening address that the principal task of the third session will be the central task of the Second Vatican Council itself — to round out the First Vatican Council’s incomplete teaching on the nature of the Church by explaining the nature and function of the bishops as successors of the apostles.

(The First Vatican Council [1869-70] defined only the primacy and the infallibility of the Pope.)

“The present council’s deliberations on this subject will certainly be what distinguishes this solemn and historic synod in the memory of future ages,” Pope Paul declared.

The Second Vatican Council has already made history by the Pope’s declared intention of bringing women into its deliberations and by the actual presence of delegated observers from other Christian churches and communities. Continue reading

Posted in Vatican II | Leave a comment

Pope Paul’s Letter on Council Reopening

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)

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

Posted in Vatican II | 1 Comment