12th General Congregation
November 5, 1962
Detailed discussions of possible changes in the Mass, including reception of Holy Communion under the form both bread and wine and concelebration of the Mass, marked the 12th general session of the ecumenical council.
The general sessions resumed after a four-day break with 2,196 council Fathers attending.
The 12th session was opened with a Maronite Rite Liturgy offered by Bishop Joseph Khoury of Tyre, Lebanon. The language of the Mass is ancient Syriac, the last stage in the evolution of the Aramaic language spoken by Christ. It was the first time that the language of Jesus was heard in ceremonies in St. Peter’s Basilica.
The session was presided over by Achille Cardinal Lienart, Bishop of Lille, France. Archbishop John J. Krol of Philadelphia enthroned the Gospel to the accompaniment of Syriac chants.
Before the session proceeded to business, the council’s secretary general, Archbishop Pericle Felici, read the names of the 10 prelates — including two from the U.S. — named to the council’s administrative tribunal by Pope John XXIII. They are:
Carlo Cardinal Chiarlo, Francesco Cardinal Morano and William Cardinal Heard of the Vatican administrative staff; Archbishop Andreas Rohracher of Salzburg, Austria; Bishop Floyd L. Begin of Oakland, Calif.; Coadjutor Bishop Edmund Nowicki of Gdansk, Poland; Bishop Johannes Pohlschneider of Aachen, Germany; Bishop Eugenio Beitia Aldazabal of Santander, Spain; Bishop Johannes Vonderach of Chur, Switzerland; and Auxiliary Bishop Francis J. Furey of Philadelphia.
Before discussions began, Archbishop Felici again appealed to the council Fathers to be brief and asked them not to repeat matters already dealt with.
Then discussions continued on the second chapter of the proposals concerning the liturgy. Among the speakers were James Francis Cardinal McIntyre, Archbishop of Los Angeles, and Carlo Cardinal Confalonieri, Secretary of the Sacred Consistorial Congregation. Prelates from Australia, Austria, Brazil, Burundi, Chile, China, Ecuador, France, Greece, Haiti, Italy, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Portugal, Rwanda, Spain and Vietnam also spoke.
Among the innovations in the Mass suggested by the Fathers, the council press bulletin reported, were:
— Reducing prayers at the foot of the altar.
— Changes concerning the sermon and the participation of the congregation in the action and prayers of the Offertory.
— Insertion of the name of St. Joseph in the Canon of the Mass together with that of Our Lady.
— Greater cohesion between the two parts of the Mass.
— Reading the prayers and lessons of the first part of the Mass from the pulpit and reciting those of the second part at the altar.
— Ending the Mass with the last blessing and the “Ite missa est.”
The press bulletin said that the “need was again stressed of using caution in revising words, gestures and prayers which have acquired great nobility in the passing of the centuries without losing anything of their original significance.”
“It is considered, therefore, that the order of the Mass be retained in its substance, while admitting partial changes for the purpose of making the active participation of the faithful in the individual Rites easier.”
It was emphasized that each change in the Mass as it now exists should be preceded by a thorough study of the individual prayers and ceremonies under discussion.
The council bulletin stated that “it was insisted that the Canon of the Mass especially should remain intact because of its solemnity and for literary, liturgical, historic and juridical reasons known to all.”
In regard to concelebration — the joint celebration of a Mass by more than one priest — it was “advised that … it be reserved to monasteries and to religious communities so that brotherly union and piety might be encouraged.”
As for reception of Holy Communion under the two species of bread and wine, it was noted that “difficulties of a practical and hygienic order were cited in the matter of restoring the practice. … However, reasons in favor of the practice were also indicated, but under the condition that the special cases in which it would be permitted would be well specified.”
The bulletin said that a “twofold preoccupation ran through all speeches of the Fathers: first, to render the celebration of the Mass more solemn and as holy as possible and, secondly, to favor understanding and participation of the faithful in the Sacrifice of Christ through the action of the priest and their own voluntary oblation.”