Following is the text of an English translation made available by the Vatican of the address of Pope John XXIII given at the formal closing of the first session of the Second Vatican Council.
The first session of the work of the council, begun on the feast of the Divine Motherhood of Mary, comes to an end on today’s feast of the Immaculate Conception in the radiance of the grace of her who is God’s mother and our own.
She provides the mystic link between today’s ceremony and that of the splendid opening of the council on the 11th of October, while her two feasts sound the keynote of our prayer of thanksgiving.
The deep significance of these two feasts is all the more striking when one reflects that our predecessor, Pius IX, the Pope of the Immaculate Conception, inaugurated the First Vatican Council on this same feast day of Our Lady. It is good to commemorate these happy coincidences, which, in the light of history, help one to recognize how many of the Church’s great events take place in Mary’s presence, in testimony and assurance of her motherly protection.
The council, in its reality, is an act of faith in God, of obedience to His laws, of sincere endeavor to correspond with the plan of redemption according to which the Word was made flesh of the Virgin Mary. And as today we pay reverence to the most pure stem of the root of Jesse from which the flower has sprung — “The flower from his root shall rise up” — our hearts are filled with a joy that is all the greater in that we see this flower blossoming in the season of Advent.
Now that the bishops of the five continents are returning from this hall to their beloved dioceses to continue the pastoral service and guidance of their flocks, we should like to dwell a little on what has been done so far and, encouraged and enlightened by this, to map out the future while waiting for the fulfillment of what yet remains to be done to bring the great enterprise to a happy conclusion.
We will consider these three points: the beginning of the ecumenical council; its continuance; and the fruits which are expected of it in the way of spreading faith and holiness and apostolic activity in the Church and in modern society.
The opening of the ecumenical council is still vivid in our minds — the vast assembly of bishops of the entire Catholic world, a gathering unique in history. The one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church was revealed to all humanity in the splendor of her perennial mission, in the solidity of her organization, in the persuasiveness and attractiveness of her teaching. Furthermore it is with pleasure that we recall the delegations from various nations representing their governments in the solemn inauguration of the council. On this subject we would once again like to express our thanks for the way in which the whole world has been an admiring witness of these events and for the reports that have come to us from all over the world in expressions of respect, esteem and gratitude.
Since this is the end of the first phase of the work begun on that memorable day, the 11th of October, it is only fitting to reflect on what has been accomplished.
The first session was like a slow and solemn introduction to the great work of the council — a generous willingness to enter into the heart and substance of Our Lord’s plan. 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 the 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.
In such a vast gathering it is understandable that a few days were needed to arrive at an agreement on 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 the sons of God enjoy in the Church.
It was not by chance that the first schema to be considered was on the sacred liturgy, which 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 the apostolic teaching, so as to proceed for the good of souls with that broadness of vision free from the superficiality and haste which sometimes characterize the relationships between men.
And then five more schemata were presented, 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.
Continuation of the Work
And now, Venerable Brethren, one’s glance turns trustingly to that phase of the work, seemingly silent, but nonetheless important, which opens up during these nine months of interval after your return to your Sees.
Meanwhile, it pleases us to contemplate each of you in your separate diocese, and a deep satisfaction fills our heart, for we know that, returning from Rome, you bring to your Christian peoples the shining torch of confidence and of charity, and that you will remain united with us in fervent prayer.
This calls to mind the words of Ecclesiasticus, referring to the high priest Simon: “He himself stood by the altar, and about him was the ring of his brethren” (Eccl. 50, 13). It is thus that our activity continues now, in this mutual blending of prayers and wills.
Today’s celebration does not bring the work to an end, rather the work that awaits all of us is of the greatest importance, which certainly was not the case during the recesses of previous councils. The conditions of modern life, however, make it easy to have rapid communications on all types of business, personal and apostolic.
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 the firm foundations for the 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.
Each bishop, although preoccupied with his pastoral administration, should continue to study and investigate the schemata provided and whatever else may be sent later. In this way the session which will begin in the month of September of next year — at the new hoped for meeting in Rome of all the Fathers of the Church of God — 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.
The vision of this grand prospect, which reveals the whole course of the coming year so rich in promise, stirs up in the heart a more ardent hope for the realization of the great goals for which we have convoked the council: namely that “the Church founded on faith, strengthened in hope, and more ardent in charity, may flourish with new and youthful vigor, and, fortified by holy ordinances, may be more energetic and swift to spread the Kingdom of Christ” (Papal letter to the German episcopate, Jan. 11, 1961).
Fruits of the Council
Even if the stage of putting the council into effect is not imminent — for that we must wait until the work of the council is over — it is nonetheless consoling to turn one’s gaze toward the benefits that are anticipated: benefits for the Catholic Church; 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.
Our heart casts its glance in that direction, Venerable Brethren, and we know also that your heart has the same solicitude as our own.
It will then be a question of extending to all departments of the life of the Church, social questions included, whatever the conciliar assembly may decide, and applying its norm to them with “generous assent and prompt fulfillment” (Prayer for the Ecumenical Council). This most important phase will see pastors united in a gigantic effort of preaching sound doctrine and applying the law, which they themselves desire, and for this task will be called forth the collaboration of the forces of the diocesan and regular clergy, of the congregations of Religious women, of the Catholic laity with all its attributes and potential, in order that the acts of the Fathers may be seconded by the most joyous and faithful response.
It will be a “new Pentecost” indeed, which will cause the Church to renew her interior riches and to extend her maternal care in every sphere of human activity. It will be a new advance of the Kingdom of Christ in the world, an elevated and persuasive reaffirmation of the good news of redemption, a clarion call of God’s kingship, of the brotherhood of men in charity, of the peace promised on earth to men of good will in accordance with God’s good pleasure.
These, Venerable Brethren, are the feelings of our heart, which issue in hope and prayer. Now that the labors of this first session of the council are over, you are going back to your own countries and to the precious flocks committed to your care. As we now wish you “Godspeed,” we desire that you should be our faithful messengers in expressing to your priests and people the greatness of our affection.
On this occasion there come to mind the words of greeting and hope which Pius IX addressed one day to the bishops of the First Vatican Council: “See, brethren, what a blessed and joyful thing it is to go forward in harmony in the house of God. May you always so progress. And as Our Lord Jesus Christ gave peace to His Apostles, so I also, His unworthy vicar, give you peace in His Name. Peace, as you know, casts out fear; peace shuts its ears to what is said without real knowledge. May this peace be yours all the days of your life.”
In these past months of companionship here together we have experienced the savor of these words of Pius IX. There is much yet to be done, but you know that the Supreme Shepherd will have loving care of you in the pastoral activity which you exercise in your own dioceses, an activity which will not be dissociated from the preoccupations of the council.
In drawing your attention to the threefold activity, which is the task of all, it was our intention to stir up your enthusiasm. The glorious opening of the council provided the first introduction to the great enterprise. In the coming months the work will go on unflaggingly, as also will the 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 from it. This threefold character clearly shows the unique importance of the council.
A heavy responsibility therefore rests upon our shoulders, but God Himself will sustain us on the way.
May the Immaculate Virgin be with us always; may Joseph, her most chaste spouse, patron of the ecumenical council, whose name from today shines in the canon of the Mass all over the world, accompany us on our journey in the same way that he accompanied the Holy Family with his support in accordance with God’s will. And with them Ss. Peter and Paul, and all the Apostles with John the Baptist, and all the popes, bishops, and doctors of God’s Church.
We are in this Basilica of St. Peter in the Center of Christianity, at the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles. But we recall with pleasure that the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome is the Lateran basilica, the mother and foundation of all churches, dedicated to Christ, the Divine Savior. To Him, therefore, Who is the immortal and invisible King of all ages and all peoples, be glory and power forever (cf. 1 Tim. 1, 17; Apoc. 1, 6).
In this hour of heartfelt joy it is as if the heavens are opened above our heads and the splendor of the heavenly court shines out upon us, filling us with superhuman certainty and a supernatural spirit of faith, joy and profound peace. In this light, as we look forward to your return, we salute all of you, Venerable Brothers, “with a holy kiss” (cf. Rom. 16, 16), while at the same time we call down upon you the most abundant blessings of Our Lord, of which the apostolic blessing is the pledge and promise.