Introduction: Second Session
(Editor’s Note: This introductory note appears in the bound volume of our Council Daybook immediately prior to the pages that reprint our coverage of events during the Second Vatican Council’s second session, which ran Sept. 29-Dec. 4, 1963. Therefore it is not part of our day-to-day reporting of the council but merely serves as background for Council Daybook readers. For more on the daybook and our coverage of the council, go to the “About” page of this blog.)
At the opening of the second session of Vatican II, the United States Bishops’ Press Panel had already become an established institution of the Council, almost an integral part. The people of the English-speaking world had become accustomed to receiving, through the press, day-by-day reports of the business of the council, and were prepared, of course, to expect the same service during the second session. Information for which the world had to wait years after the conclusion of ecumenical councils of the past was made available to the mass media with all the speed of modern communications.
While this Daybook and chronicle of the council stands deeply indebted to the Bishops’ Press Panel which met each afternoon to discuss, and to comment on the events of the morning in St. Peter’s under the searching questions of the press representatives of the English-speaking world and of others, yet it is not simply a report of the panel’s discussions nor of the conciliar debates. Rather it is a skillful blend of the activities both inside and outside St. Peter’s as seen through the eyes and minds of expert reporters. The Daybook has recorded excerpts from actual speeches on the floor of St. Peter’s; given extracts from summary texts of documents; tabulated votes; reported special press interviews with leading conciliar figures; and chronicled the notable events. Some of the real flavor and colorful background of the drama of the council, which would otherwise have been lost to history, has been preserved within these pages.
The very opening ceremony in the Basilica of St. Peter’s presaged great accomplishments. Pope Paul VI, just lately elected Supreme Pontiff after the death of “The Father of Vatican II,” Pope John XXIII, for the first time addressed the bishops of the world in council assembled. He charged them to plumb the depths of the mystery that the Church is; he appealed for a true renewal to promote the unity and solidarity of the human race, a renewal which would “build bridges to all men.”
Nor is the impact of the sudden, untimely, and tragic death of John F. Kennedy, with its deep effects upon the conciliar Fathers and their response to the tragedy, lost in these pages. The “first fruits” of the council too, the promulgation of the Constitution on the Liturgy with its sweeping changes in the Latin rite; the Decretum on Communications; and the notable progress of the schemata through various stages of discussion and debate are herein described and preserved for history.
Not only future historians, however, will be grateful for the color-background stories and expert interpretations of conciliar acts as they were witnessed, but all who are interested in the great events of our age and times will welcome this Council Daybook.
We wish to offer our sincerest thanks and vote of commendation and praise for the periti — experts who were the regular members of the panel; the special experts and guests; the N.C.W.C. correspondents; and especially to Floyd Anderson, director of the N.C.W.C. Press Department, for converting the daily reports of the Council into such a useful and convenient form in this Council Daybook.
+ Joseph T. McGucken
Archbishop of San Francisco