Communications Talks Conclude; Council Moves on to Christian Unity

27th General Congregation
November 26, 1962

The 27th general meeting of the ecumenical council saw the end of discussion on communications media and the start of debate on proposals for achieving a reconciliation between the Church and separated Eastern Christians.

The unity proposal noted that the Church does not want to leave “anything untried for achieving unity,” but said that it does not wish to gain unity “to the detriment of any truth.”

Pope John XXIII is pictured in an undated photo. (CNS file)

At the beginning of the meeting the council Fathers heard a message from Pope John XXIII thanking them for their congratulations on his 81st birthday and an announcement that the council from now on will meet every day except Sunday until its first session closes Dec. 8. The latter announcement does away with Thursdays as free days.

In regard to the proposals on communications media, the council press bulletin reported that “all the Fathers without exception expressed a favorable opinion and sometimes great praise of the project in general, which is considered good, useful, timely and rich in pastoral substance.”

Discussions on the proposals had stressed the importance of communications media in spreading the Gospels and emphasized that the Church must study them so that they may never become “harmful to either the mind or conscience or offend the dignity of man.” The press bulletin said that “marginal observations” suggested that better emphasis could be put on the right of the Church to concern itself with all instruments of social communication because of their influence on man and society.

It noted that the “pagan concept of life which is so widespread in our times … has its origin in great part in entertainment. Hence the need for the clergy and Catholic laity to institute schools for the Christian formation of directors and actors.”

Other speeches, it said, urged Catholics living in a pluralistic society to pick and choose among newspapers and programs according to what offends their Faith and what does not. It was also urged that Catholics “act with determination and prudence, each according to his possibilities, so that fundamental principles may be respected. Cooperation between Catholics and the faithful of other Christian churches has already produced good results in this sector in those countries where various denominations live together.”

Speakers also emphasized the importance of communications media in mission areas where they are often the only means of spreading the Gospel. In this regard, the bulletin stated, it was “requested by some that Vatican Radio, which already performs such useful work, be made more powerful and that if possible a Vatican television transmitter be set up.”

Following these discussions, the council presidency called for a vote to end debate on the grounds that the proposals had been sufficiently examined. The affirmative vote was unanimous and the discussion on the proposal on Christian unity was then begun.

The proposal was prepared by the Commission for Oriental Churches. A separate treatment on the same unity proposals based on the recommendations prepared by the Theology Commission and the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity will be presented to the council later. It was announced that the proposal on the Virgin Mary will be studied along with the later treatment of which it is a part.

Amleto Cardinal Cicognani, president of the Preparatory Commission for the Oriental Churches, presented the unity proposal. The press bulletin said that it contained “an expression of the solicitude of the Catholic Church for restoring union with the separated brothers of the East.”

The bulletin reported that the Cardinal declared that “we are united in faith, but we disagree in a few truths such as unity in Peter.”

He added that the proposals concern only the Orthodox churches and that their “purpose is to emphasize the doctrine of the Church in this matter in order that the council may prepare a document which can open the way to unity in the charity of Christ.”

Following Cardinal Cicognani’s remarks, Father Athanasius Welykyj, secretary of the commission, read a report on the proposals.

He said that they had been prepared by taking into account the opinions of all members and consultants of the preparatory commission. The press bulletin stated that he pointed out that the “principal aim of the commission has been to study the best way for achieving a reconciliation with separated Orientals, who are the only ones it concerned. Other problems such as rites, participation in sacred functions … referred to another project.”

The proposals are divided generally into three parts:

1. An explanation of the theological unity of the Church.

2. A treatment of the means which should be used to reach a reconciliation.

3. An examination of the means and conditions for reconciliation.

The press bulletin said that the first part discusses the theological unity of the Church “which is based on the unity of government, that is, upon Peter and his successors. Account was taken of the difficulties which the separated Oriental brothers have in accepting this truth, while making it clear that the Church neither can nor wishes to accomplish unity to the detriment of any truth, however small.”

The bulletin also noted that “terminology of a Latin flavor was avoided in order to arrive as closely as possible at the Orientals’ way of thinking and expressing themselves.”

The second part, the bulletin continued, deals with the “theological, liturgical, juridical, psychological and practical” means to be adopted in achieving a reconciliation. The bulletin said that “none of these means are new: some have already produced good results and all must be used more intensely and universally.”

The proposals state that the Church, while possessing the truth, does not want to leave anything untried in regard to attaining unity.”

Concerning reconciliation, the bulletin pointed out that “today, moreover, faith and religion must be defended against the forces of atheism by everyone and with every possible energy. Such a defense will certainly be more effective if carried out through the union of all those who profess the Christian faith.”

The proposals examine the religious, historical and psychological heritage of the Oriental churches, the bulletin said, in dealing with the means and conditions of reconciliation. It stated:

“The report [on the proposals] ended by recalling the prayer of Christ on the eve of His Passion when He asked His Father for the unity of all His disciples in all ages.”

Following the report, four cardinals spoke – Achille Cardinal Lienart, Bishop of Lille, France; Ernesto Cardinal Ruffini, Archbishop of Palermo, Italy; and Antonio Cardinal Bacci and Michael Cardinal Browne, O.P., of the Vatican administrative staff.

There were 2,133 council Fathers present for the day’s session, which was presided over by Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, French-born Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals. The opening Mass was offered by Archbishop Julio Rosales of Cebu, the Philippines.

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