Pope Receives Press Corps, Warns Against Distorting Council

 October 1, 1963

Pope Paul VI told journalists covering the ecumenical council that they would be distorting reality if their reports dealt exclusively with apparent differences and divisions among the council Fathers.

Receiving several hundred newsmen in a special audience, the Pope told them:

“One can in fact be tempted to look for well-known patterns, nationalisms, tendencies, parties, as well as historical and geographical divisions, such as between East and West. If one’s gaze halts on these apparent differences, or takes pleasure in emphasizing them, the reality is altered, falsified.

“For the bishops are all trying to avoid making such divisions enduring ones…

“The debate is surely varied and free within the council chamber. But if it is marked — as it certainly is — by the environments from which the bishops come, it is not determined, even so, by closed minds or prejudices.”

Pope Paul received members of the press corps on the afternoon of the second working day of the council’s second session. With him was Archbishop Martin J. O’Connor, Pennsylvania-born rector of Rome’s North American College who is president of the Council Press Committee.

Also present were Bishop Albert R. Zuroweste of Belleville, Ill., head of the press committee’s English-language section, and heads of various other language sections.

Auxiliary Bishop Mark McGrath, C.S.C., of Panama City represented the Latin American bishops.

Pope Paul’s Talk To Council Newsmen

Following is a text of the Oct. 1 allocution of Pope Paul to journalists covering the ecumenical council.

Gentlemen:

We are very happy to see you this morning and it is a pleasure for us to welcome you in our residence on the morrow of the opening of the second session of the ecumenical council. Welcome, then, to the Vatican, which we are pleased to note, is becoming well-known to a large number of you. For the Pope, audiences follow one after the other. But he cannot hide the very special joy which he feels in spending some time with the journalists and the reporters for radio and television.

And we are happy to have this occasion to congratulate you for the interest you are showing in this great world event of today, the ecumenical council, and to express our gratitude to editors of newspapers and directors of radio stations, who have assigned to Rome to cover these council meetings so many reporters in whom we are pleased to recognize both high quality and professional competence.

We have already had occasion to tell you of the esteem we hold for journalists, and how aware we are of the importance they occupy in the world of today, with their tremendous power over public opinion. Theirs is a choice place. And you know that the honor of your profession demands, on your part, objective reporting and constant concern for the truth.

It is this concern which will animate you in the reports you will have to give on this new council session. This is a difficult task, as we well understand, since this imposing assembly has some similarity with large human gatherings, when in reality it is quite different. In fact, there could be the temptation to search out certain well-known “fiends”: nationalism, conflicting tendencies, parties, as well as historical and geographical differences, such as between East and West.

If attention is limited to these externals or if it undertakes to emphasize them, then the reality of things is altered, even falsified. For all the bishops are endeavoring to avoid giving any substance to these divisions, in order on the contrary to be guided by the objective divine truth which they profess and by the fraternal charity which animates them.

Certainly, discussion in the council hall is free and varied.

But if it undoubtedly bears the stamp of the various backgrounds of the bishops, it is not determined, even so, by closed minds or prejudices.

Thus we are very happy that persons as intelligent as yourselves should have this extraordinary opportunity to observe the “phenomenon” of the Church in its human aspects, yes, but likewise in its characteristic marks, which give much food for thought: its unity which is willed, loved, and spontaneous; its catholicity and its universality, so varied and so expressive, reflecting every race and every civilization; its apostolicity or historical continuity, so striking through the successive generations which link it up with the apostles of Christ; its spirituality and its own religious sanctity distinct from all the motives which ordinarily inspire men.

Yes, the Church, as she appears before you cannot fail to make you reflect and — herein is its apologetical force — lead you to Him from whom she draws her very life: Christ, the invisible Head of the Church assembled in council.

The council is certainly an event which concerns most of all the Catholic Church. But you know, gentlemen, better than anyone, how wide have been the echoes of this event throughout the Christian world, and how all believers and all men of good will have united themselves in spirit and heart to this great hope of which our unforgettable predecessor, Pope John XXIII, has left us the previous heritage.

It is largely your task to see to it that the entire world alert and waiting, gets the information it needs in order to understand the progress of this great assembly. And we wish to thank you for the trouble you have taken and will continue to take in order that all men of good will may be touched by this message which the council would want them to hear: Glory to God in the heights of heaven and peace on earth to men of good will!

We are certainly not unaware of the serious responsibilities which are yours: information drawn from authentic sources, faithful commentary, objective presentation, and well-balanced reflection — with deadlines often so short and working conditions sometimes difficult.

Rest assured in any case that the ones responsible for the organization of the council will do their best to satisfy your desires. And you know that you will always find the warmest welcome and a full desire to be of service on the part of the press office of the council, which we have entrusted to the direction of an archbishop, our venerable brother, Martin O’Connor.

It is and it will be to your honor to be and to remain faithful to the requirements of your lofty mission despite all difficulties. You will thus deserve well of men and, we have no doubt, the Lord will bless you.

As for His humble vicar on earth, he is happy to have welcomed you and to have been able to share with you all too briefly, these few thoughts. He wishes to assure you of his great interest in your work, of his profound esteem for you personally, and of his prayers for your intentions. Yes, Gentlemen, may the Lord assist you and bless you.

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