Pope Paul VI has directed that Catholic laymen be admitted to the second session of the ecumenical council and that non-Christian as well as other non-Catholic representatives be welcomed as observers.
Pope Paul disclosed the following decisions:
— Admission of some Catholic laymen and some representatives of the major international Catholic institutions which have been recognized by ecclesiastical right into the council deliberations.
— Reinvitation of non-Catholic Christian observers at the council, increasing the number, and also inviting the representatives of non-Christian religions, who were not invited to the first session.
— Abolition of the present council Secretariat for Extraordinary Affairs and the appointment of cardinal delegates or moderators who will have the task of directing the work of the council.
The disclosures were contained in a letter dated Sept. 12, addressed to the council president, Eugene Cardinal Tisserant.
Regarding the first point, the council press bulletin specified that the Catholic laymen who will be selected to attend will act in the capacity of auditors of the council. As “qualified representatives of the Catholic lay apostolate they will be able to assist in the conciliar work and eventually they may even be called upon to give their advice to the conciliar commissions.”
International Catholic institutes would include organizations or movements that have achieved recognition in their endeavors in various fields such as education and relief.
Regarding observers, the letter states that the Pope has already again “called to the ecumenical council observers of Christians separated from the Apostolic See and sought to increase the number [of them]. Moreover it has seemed opportune for us to extend the efforts of the Secretariat [for Promoting Christian Unity] previously established also to those who are members of non-Christian religions.”
Regarding the third point, the letter pointed out that the Pope has already named to the college of the presidents of the council three of the cardinals who had been members of the now abolished Secretariat for Extraordinary Affairs. They are Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, Primate of Poland; Giuseppe Cardinal Siri, Archbishop of Genoa, Italy; and Albert Cardinal Meyer, Archbishop of Chicago.
The Secretariat for Extraordinary Affairs in fact had been superseded by the Commission for the Coordination of the Council’s Works, which Pope John had instituted at the end of the first session.
L’Osservatore Romano, Vatican City daily, reported that the posts of moderators will be held by Gregorio Cardinal Agagianian, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith; Giacomo Cardinal Lercaro, Archbishop of Bologna, Italy; Julius Cardinal Doepfner, Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany; and Leo Cardinal Suenens, Archbishop of Malines-Brussels, Belgium.
Cardinal delegates or moderators will direct all the work of the council, but the Council of the Presidency will continue to preside over all the individual general congregations of the council meeting, according to the council press bulletin. It is to be noticed that two of the moderators, Cardinals Doepfner and Suenens, were members of the abolished secretariat. The council presidency is charged with seeing that the council’s standards are observed.
The opening passages of the letter were devoted to praise of Pope John XXIII for calling the Second Vatican Council, and to the wish that it be concluded and crowned with the success he wanted for it.
Pope Paul repeated the hope that the council would result in the “benefit and increase of the Apostolic See and of the Catholic Church …for the greater prosperity of the life of the Church, for the hastening of union of separated brothers with the Catholic Church, and for the promotion of peace and the spiritual prosperity of humanity throughout the world.”
The Pope confirmed reports that the projects now to be considered by the council number 17, which “for the greater part have been sent to the bishops.”
Commenting on the projects, the Pope noted that they have been “re-edited and newly developed in a briefer form, with this criterion that the general principles above all be considered, leaving aside non-pertinent questions: in fact bringing before the ecumenical council that which deals with the Universal Church.
In the reworking of the projects the pre-eminence of the pastoral nature of this council was kept in mind. In fact, it is necessary that the sure and unchangeable doctrine of the Faith declared and defined by the supreme magisterium of the Church and by preceding ecumenical councils, above all that of the Trent and of the First Vatican Council which must be faithfully respected, be expounded in a manner that is consistent with our times, so that men of our time may find it more easy to embrace truth and to receive the salvation that Jesus Christ gave to them.”
In the letter Pope Paul reported that among other decisions taken to make the council more effective was the appointment of American-born Archbishop Martin J. O’Connor, rector of the North American College in Rome, as council press committee president.
The Pope’s letter disclosed that the Council Fathers would have a five-day week with Saturday and Sunday off. However, he noted that at the same time there would be a number of beatifications and other solemn ceremonies throughout the council period. Most of them will take place on Saturdays or Sundays.