Secrecy Rule on Debates in Council to Be Dropped

The rule of secrecy will be lifted for the second session of the ecumenical council in regard to discussions on the council floor.

This is the highlight of a new plan for press information which is in the final stages of preparation and is expected to be announced shortly. The rule of secrecy, according to the plan, will apply only to what takes place at meetings of council commissions, where various proposals are prepared for consideration by the full assembly of council Fathers.

It is also expected that the rule of secrecy will be retained for speeches and remarks of those council Fathers who express the wish that their remarks not be given to the public.

According to information provided by high officials, the officers of the various language sections of the Council Press Office will be permitted to attend general council sessions and will be free to release without restriction any newsworthy information they gather.

In the interests of speedy and efficient operation, it is expected that two experienced priest-journalists from Vatican Radio will make summaries of council proceedings as they progress. These summaries will be available to language-section officers in mimeograph form almost immediately after a council session ends.

Language officers will use the Vatican Radio summaries as the basis for their oral briefings for newsmen. But they will add to the summaries material they consider of special interest to a particular language group, such as fuller summaries of remarks by council Fathers from that language area.

It was not immediately clear whether the official press bulletin which will follow the oral briefing will be identical for all languages or whether variations will be permitted.

The plan evolved by Vatican officials does not envision language press officers answering specific ques­tions by journalists. Newsmen will be asked to direct their queries to the various national press panels where experts can answer them without the bar of secrecy.

It is expected that there will be weekly press conferences under official council press auspices. Plans call for complaints and suggestions by journalists to be referred to the special committee of bishops from various nations who will meet to discuss them under Archbishop Martin J. O’Connor, rector of the North American College in Rome and president of the newly established Press Committee of the Council.

There is no immediate plan to admit newsmen to council sessions. However, consideration is being given to a plan to admit newsmen to the ceremonial part of council sessions such as the daily celebration of Mass.

Another proposal is being considered to admit a small select group of journalists to general discussions for limited periods. But if it is adopted, it is not expected that the plan to admit selected newsmen to general sessions will be introduced until several weeks after the council’s second session begins on Sept. 29.

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