Pope John Makes Surprise Visit to Council

December 7, 1962

Pope John XXIII, during a surprise visit to the Second Vatican Council, praised the council Fathers for the “charity in truth” which “dominated” their meetings.

Pope John XXIII (CNS photo/Vatican)

Pope John XXIII (CNS photo/Vatican)

Pope John spoke to the Fathers (Dec. 7) at the 36th general meeting, the first he had attended since the council opened (Oct. 11).

The Pope decided at 10:15 a.m. to make the visit, which gave the council Fathers about a half-hour to get ready for his appearance.

Applause greeted the Pope as he entered the council hall and took his place on a special throne in front of the Altar of the Confession facing toward the Fathers.

The six cardinals of the council presidency turned their chairs around and faced the Pope as he spoke briefly in Latin.

Pope John told the Fathers that during the council “We have been closer to you than ever — close to you in prayer … close to you in thought.”

“We gladly take advantage of this occasion,” he said, “to show you all our gratitude … and pay tribute to you because charity in truth has really dominated your meetings.”

The Pope told the Fathers that their group “stood out like a flame in St. Peter’s square” when they left the council (Dec. 5) to see Pope John give his blessing at noon.

“We now wait with emotion for tomorrow’s ceremony (Dec. 8),” he told the Fathers, “when we will greet you close by the tomb of Peter as you are about to return to your Sees.

“We will meet here again,” he said, to ask the Blessed Virgin and all the saints to help us honor “our pastoral mission which has as its sole objective … the spreading of the Gospel and its penetration of our times.

“This was the aim of the council,” he said, “and toward it is directed the confident hope of all of us who are pastors of the holy Church.”

“With intimate satisfaction in the thought that we will meet tomorrow,” the Pope concluded, “we impart to you the apostolic blessing.”

The complete text of the Pope’s address:

“It is a special joy for us to salute you at the end of this first session of the Second Vatican Council, you who are gathered here in the Vatican basilica.

“Recitation of the Angelus which is a prayer most tender to us and which we have now ended puts a seal on your general congregations which have had to deal with a considerable volume of work during the past two months. We are happy to assure you publicly that during the whole of this period we have been closer to you than ever — close to you in prayer which we have raised trustingly for you to God Almighty, the Giver of every good; close to you in thought, intent on following with tender and joyful attention the contribution which each of you has made.

“Today, therefore, we gladly take advantage of the occasion which presents itself to us to show you all our gratitude. The pastoral concern, in fact, which you have shown, whether in directing the work or in writing or speaking words of counsel, have let us hear as it were the voice of all Catholicity which during this period has turned its attention to your meetings with hope and expectation. We must also pay tribute to you because charity in truth has really dominated your meetings which spurs us to express our heartfelt gratitude to the Lord.

“But also permit a word of satisfaction for this spectacle which this assembly of the Church — one, holy, catholic and apostolic — has given to the world. From Oct. 11, when the bishops of Catholicity walked in procession with us in the shining insignia of their dignity, to tomorrow’s ceremony, it has been the teaching Church which, united in a unique occasion, began the study and formulation of the norms for which the council was convened.

“And the spectacle of Wednesday last when our vision rested with intense emotion on your very special group which stood out like a flame in St. Peter’s square. It was a thoughtful and festive encounter, full of edification for the faithful who were present.

“The father with his sons, and all our brothers of the episcopate, gathered together before heaven to pray, to extend good wishes and to rejoice together with us in a hymn of gratitude to Our Lord and to His Mother. We wish to thank you again with all our heart for this attestation of fervent affection.”

“We now wait with emotion for tomorrow’s ceremony when we will greet you close by the tomb of Peter, as you are about to return to your Sees at the end of the period (the council’s first session). On this occasion, on which the eyes of Christianity are turned with respectful attention, we will meet again here to give homage with filial love to the Immaculate Virgin, Mother of God and our Mother, that she may always be close to us with her maternal affection and that we may implore her and all the saints of heaven that they may help us to do honor to our pastoral mission which has as its sole objective and desire the spreading of the Gospel of Christ and its penetration of our times.

“This was the aim of the council and toward it is directed the confident hope of all of us who are pastors of the holy Church.

“Venerable brothers, these are the good wishes which we so greatly wanted to express to you today in order to enjoy once more the joy described in the Psalm, ‘Behold, how good it is, and how pleasant, where brethren dwell at one!’ (Ps. 132, 1). With intimate satisfaction in the thought that we will meet tomorrow, we invoke every gift of divine benevolence while we impart to you with affection the apostolic blessing.”

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