Following is the text of remarks made Oct. 15 in Rome’s Columbus Hotel by Augustin Cardinal Bea, President of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, to non-Catholic observers delegated to attend the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.
My dear brothers in Christ:
Instead of listing at length your titles, which I certainly do respect, please allow me to address you with these simple yet very profound words, “My brothers in Christ.”
This title plunges us immediately into the profound consciousness of the immeasurable grace of Baptism, which has created bonds that are indestructible, stronger than all our divisions. Christians all over the world are daily becoming more conscious of these bonds.
These bonds have prompted authorities to delegate you as observers to the Council of the Roman Catholic Church. And these same bonds prompted His Holiness Pope John XXIII to create the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, in order that the non-Catholic Christian communities may better follow the council’s work.
Now that this fraternal encounter, longed for by so many baptized persons, has become a reality, I believe that the first and most sincere feeling of all is one of the gratitude that lets us say with St. Paul, “Blessed be the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1, 3).
Indeed it is not the work of man, of flesh and blood, but the work of the goodness, mercy and Grace of our God who, by the merits of our God and Savior Jesus Christ has moved all of us through His Divine Spirit-the Spirit who dwells also in the heart of each one of us-according to St. Paul: “Because you are sons, God bas sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father’” (Gal. 4, 6). “By the Lord this has been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes” (Matt. 21, 42).
True, this work is not complete. There are above all a good number of venerable Orthodox Churches of the East, which are not officially represented. This fact is doubtless painful for both sides, for them and for us.
Nevertheless, we must recognize that great efforts have been made by both sides, without completely arriving at the clearance of the large obstacles that came between.
There remains for us only to exert ourselves in preventing our relations in Christ from suffering from it, and to [strive] that these relations be not affected by this setback.
Above all, it is necessary that our faith, in the irresistible efficacy of the grace of Christ and in the work of the Holy Spirit in all baptized persons be not weakened.
It is undoubtedly in this same spirit of prayer and confidence in God’s Grace and the spirit of mutual charity and trust that we all want, during the council, to give ourselves to this task; it is a task that ultimately has been entrusted to us by Christ Himself. I hope that you all will have found in our secretariat, insofar as possible, all of the understanding and all of the fraternal help that will allow you to perform your task easily and successfully.
We shall try to achieve little by little what perhaps could not have been done from the beginning, because, among other reasons, this is the first time such a task has been undertaken. All of the members of the secretariat will always be most willingly at your disposal and I myself shall be the same, in every measure allowed by my work within the council.
This is the reason why I ask you to grant us complete confidence and thus to tell us very frankly — above all during the sessions specially organized for you by the secretariat — everything you dislike, to share with us your positive criticisms, your suggestions and your desires.
Of course, I cannot promise you to find a solution for every problem. But I do assure you that we shall be grateful to you for your confidence, that we shall try to consider everything sincerely in Christ, in order to do, as far as we are permitted, everything that can be done now and in the future. These are the thoughts that I wanted to confide to you on the occasion of this family gathering. I believe it is for all of us a spiritual feast, a kind of “agape” (love feast) in Our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom alone be glory and praise forever and ever.