An appeal to encourage prayer and penance for a happy outcome of the ecumenical council has been made by Pope Paul VI in an Apostolic Exhortation to the world’s Catholic Bishops.
After noting the paramount importance of the council for the Church, Pope Paul said that he places his trust first of all in the help of the Lord and then in the prayers of the faithful. He therefore asked that every bishop take measures to see that his faithful are spiritually prepared for the great event.
He wrote: “We are certain, Venerable Brothers, that it is above all upon this effort of prayer and Christian penance that the hope for the abundant spiritual harvest of the council will depend, for it is first of all a work of the Holy Spirit.
All that is humanly possible must be done to prepare for the council. However, neither the ordered assembly of the council, nor the penetrating power of the debates, nor the studies diligently prepared by the council Fathers which will have the most important part in the council — none of these will produce the fully and stably determined purposes of the council, but only long and attentive prayer, corporal and spiritual mortification offered to God, and holiness of customs and pious works.”
Pope Paul recommended especially the prayer written by Pope John XXIII for the success of the council, and he recommended that the Collect prayer to the Holy Spirit be ordered inserted in all the Masses of the Latin Rite (oratio imperata). He urged also that priests, seminarians and members of religious institutes take the lead in his call for special prayer and penance.
On penance he wrote: “We paternally exhort all that in the coming Rogation Days each voluntarily observe the fast, according to his own strength, even though it is not commanded by ecclesiastical authority.
“May the faithful willingly perform other voluntary mortifications, especially abstaining from certain entertainments which too often are immoral and censurable. … Let them pardon offenses received. A spontaneous pardon extinguishes the tragic flames of discords in such a way as to silence hatreds and quarrels which today unfortunately are so widespread as to generate new disasters and often provoke irritated minds to the spilling of their brothers’ blood.”
The Pope then urged the faithful to give their assistance to Christian charities, as a form of the good works to be offered for the success of the council, naming especially those that help the poor and the sick.