Closing General Congregation
December 8, 1962
Pope John XXIII, speaking to the Catholic bishops of the world, stressed that the work of the ecumenical council will continue during its nine-month recess and foresaw the council’s possible end by Christmas, 1963.
Pope John, in an address at the concluding ceremonies of the council’s two-month-long opening session, declared that the council “really remains open during the next nine months” until the start of its second session next September.
The Pope, speaking in St. Peter’s basilica after a Mass on the feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8), made these other points:
— The sometimes “sharply divergent” views of the council Fathers manifested during the first session, were a healthy demonstration to the world of the “holy liberty” that exists within the Church.
— The volume of work accomplished by the first session shows that “a good beginning has been made.”
— The bishops of the world, in the months ahead, should continue their studies in preparation for the second session.
— The results to be expected from the council will be of benefit both to the Catholic Church and to “our brethren who treasure the name of Christian.”
Pope John reviewed the council from three aspects: its beginning, its continuance and the results expected from it.
He cited the session on the opening day, Oct. 11, as one in which the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church was revealed to all humanity in the splendor of her perennial mission” as thousands of bishops entered St. Peter’s in solemn procession.
Looking at the first session as a whole, the Pope said it was “like a slow and solemn introduction to the great work of the council. … It was necessary for brothers, gathered together from afar around a common hearth, to make each other’s closer acquaintance. It was necessary for them to look at each other squarely in order to understand each other’s hearts.
“They had necessarily to describe their own experiences, reflecting conditions of the apostolate under the most varied climates and circumstances, in order that there should be a thoughtful and profitable interchange of views on pastoral matters,” he said.
Touching on the council’s slow and sometimes debate-filled development, Pope John said:
“In such a vast gathering it is understandable that a few days were needed to arrive at an agreement in a matter on which in all charity there existed with good reason sharply divergent views. But even this has a providential place in the triumph of truth, for it has shown to all the world the holy liberty that sons of God enjoy in the Church.”
The Pope said it was no accident that the project on the liturgy was the first to be considered by the council. He said it was chosen because the liturgy “defines the relationship between man and God. Since it is the highest form of relationship it must be based on the solid foundation of Revelation and apostolic teachings.”
Moreover, the Pope said, five other projects were discussed, “a fact which alone makes one realize the extent of the work thus far completed. Indeed, it is right to conclude that a good beginning has been made.”
Turning to the second point, the continuation of the council’s work, he said: “Today’s celebration does not bring the work to an end. Rather the work that awaits us all is of the greatest importance.”
He noted that, unlike that of other councils, the work of the Second Vatican Council will continue during the suspension of the council sessions, thanks to modern rapid communications.
He also referred to the newly created central committee which will coordinate the work of the various commissions during the recess, saying:
“That activity will continue is made clear by the institution of a new commission composed of members of the Sacred College and of the episcopate and representing the universal Church.
“This commission’s duty is to pursue and direct the work during these months and, along with the various conciliar commissions, to lay firm foundations for a happy final outcome of the ecumenical sessions. Thus the council really remains open during the next nine months of suspension of the ecumenical sessions properly so called.”
Although the bishops will be busy with diocesan affairs, Pope John said, each of them “should continue to study and investigate the schemata provided and whatever else may be sent later.”
“In this way,” he continued, “the session which will begin in the month of September of next year … will proceed more surely, more steadily and with greater speed, thanks to the experience of these two months of 1962, so that there is hope that the conclusion awaited by all our faithful children may be reached in the glory of the incarnate Son of God in the joy of Christmas in the centenary year of the Council of Trent” which closed Dec. 3, 1563.
Lastly, the Pope considered the results to come from the council in the years ahead. Among the anticipated results, he said, are “benefits for the Catholic Church, hopes for our brethren who treasure the name of Christian; renewed attention on the part of all those countless children of ancient and glorious civilizations, which the light of Christianity does not desire to destroy but in which she could — as has happened at other times in history — develop the richest seeds of religious vigor and human progress.”
Pope John said the council decisions will be extended to all departments of the life of the Church, “social questions included.”
With the cooperation of bishops, priests, Religious and laymen, he said, there will be a “new Pentecost which will cause the Church to renew her interior riches and to extend her maternal care in every sphere of human activity.”
Pope John wished the departing bishops “Godspeed” and asked them to tell their people of his affection. He told them that in talking of the beginning of the council he sought to stir their enthusiasm.
“In the coming months work will go on unflaggingly as also will earnest reflection, so that the ecumenical council may be able to bestow upon the family of mankind those fruits of faith, hope and charity which are so ardently expected of it,” he said.