Complaints Aired About Papal Nuncios, Permanent Deacons

49th General Congregation
October 16, 1963

The necessity of papal nuncios was called into question in the council as nine council Fathers used new regulations to keep discussion open one more day on the schema on the Church.

Discussion on the second chapter of the schema “De Ecclesia” had been closed by a standing vote on Oct. 15. But nine council Fathers, availing themselves of the rule (regulations article 57, paragraph six) which allows them to speak when supported by at least five other Fathers, kept open the questions of collegiality of bishops and a permanent diaconate.

Because the question was still open, the secretariat general did not distribute the text of the four points on chapter two of De Ecclesia upon which the assembly was to vote Oct. 17.

First of the bishops to speak was Titular Archbishop Joachim Ammann, of Petnelisso, a retired Bishop of Tanganyika. He caught the assembly by surprise, an eyewitness said afterward, when he as much as suggested the abolition of papal nuncios.

The concept of the collegiality of the bishops and of their dependence on the Holy See, Archbishop Ammann said, requires that efforts be made to maintain and to tighten the bonds uniting the hierarchy throughout the world with the Roman Pontiff. Nevertheless one might ask if this strengthening of union requires the presence of diplomatic representatives of the Holy See throughout the world.

“Many persons think that such officials as apostolic nuncios, internuncios and delegates are shadows hiding the genuine face of the Church. Their presence in a country seems to create the impression that the Church is imitating the secular powers, and the false impression is encouraged that, in one way or another, the Church is mixing in international politics.

“It is time to put the representation of the Holy See in various countries in the hands of patriarchs and bishops designated by their respective national conferences.

“These people know their own country better than outsiders, are thoroughly familiar with its language and traditions and thus are in a much better position to evaluate problems and decide on appropriate solutions.

“Why would it not be possible, if the diplomatic representatives are to be maintained, to appoint outstanding laymen instead of clerics?”

A similar proposal was made by Auxiliary Bishop Luis Henriquez of Caracas, Venezuela, speaking in the name of the Episcopal Conference of Venezuela. “If the bishops constitute a veritable college with all the rights and prerogatives of a college,” he asked, “why should certain national conferences of bishops have to be presided over by the representative of the Holy See in the country and their decisions submitted for approval by Rome before publication?”

The idea of creating an episcopal college to assist the pope in government of the Church was brought up, as several times before, by Coadjutor Bishop Thomas Holland of Portsmouth, England. The importance of the repeated idea here was that he was speaking in the name of all the bishops of England and Wales.

He said that “a practical means of translating the idea of episcopal collegiality into action would be the setting up of an organ composed of bishops throughout the world to assist the pope in the government of the universal Church. Thus the Church would really be governed by the bishops under Peter, since it would be governed by the Roman Pontiff and the bishops collaborating with him…. As the saying goes in legal circles, it is not sufficient that justice be done but it is necessary to show that justice has been done.”

A complaint from an Oriental prelate, similar to others made earlier in the council hall, was heard. Archbishop Elie Zoghby, vicar of the Greek Melchite patriarch for Egypt, said that the text of the schema is entirely too unilateral inasmuch as it does not pay sufficient attention to the long-standing tradition of the Oriental Churches regarding the collegiality of the bishops.

He said, “no one denies the authority of the Roman pontiff over the entire Church but this authority is not intended to destroy the power of individual bishops but to protect and safeguard it. An apparent obsession with the primacy has beclouded the doctrine on Christ the High Priest.”

Auxiliary Bishop Gaston Jacquier of Algiers, speaking in the name of the Bishops of North Africa, observed that not enough stress is given in the text to the spiritual aspects of the collegiality of bishops and correspondingly there is undue emphasis on juridical considerations. A similar observation had been made by Archbishop Henriquez speaking earlier in the same assembly.

Bishop Bernardino Ruiz of Ambato, speaking in the name of the Bishops of Ecuador, translated “collegiality” into terms of rich bishops helping poor bishops. “Collegiality should not obscure the equally important fact of the burdens it imposes,” he said. “This means that the more fortunate among the bishops must share men and means with others.”

Auxiliary Bishop Josef Drzazga of Gniezno, Poland, speaking in the name of the bishops of Poland, opposed restoration of the permanent diaconate, saying that “the spiritual needs of the faithful are such that they can be met only through the priestly ministry strictly so-called.”

It was noted by Father Robert F. Trisco of Chicago, in a press briefing after this assembly, that Bishop Drzazga was speaking only of Poland and may have had in mind certain hidden dangers that the diaconate would have for a country like Poland. He did not rule out the diaconate for other countries where national conferences of bishops would judge them useful, Father Trisco remarked.

Bishop Drzazga observed that “the activities proposed for deacons can be taken care of by secular institutes.”

Two bishops of mission territories favored a permanent diaconate. Bishop Peter Carretto, vicar apostolic of Rayaburi, speaking in the name of the bishops of Thailand and Laos, said that in mission countries the scarcity of priests is such that they are not able even to preserve what the Church has already accomplished, let alone engage in any activity at spreading the faith. “This is the main reason why permanent deacons should be instituted in the Church.”

He suggested that the diaconate be limited to men 40 years old, who are outstanding for sincerity of their Christian life and apostolic zeal and who are financially independent.

Archbishop Antonio Mosquera Corral of Guayaquil, speaking in the name of the Bishops of Ecuador, repeated similar arguments, saying that “areas suffering from a scarcity of priests will be best served by restoration of the permanent diaconate.”

Discussion of the second chapter of De Ecclesia was now terminated once and for all. Discussion now began on chapter three of the same schema with Ernesto Cardinal Ruffini of Palermo rising to speak first.

He said that no one denies the exalted function and duties of the laity in the Church. More than ever the hierarchy and the clergy are sorely in need of the assistance of the laity. Nevertheless, this does not authorize us to speak of a “mission” of the laity. They do not share in the mission conferred by Christ on the Apostles. He urged precise terminology here lest the laity, feeling it has a juridical right to share in the mission of the Church, could lead to a weakening of the position of the hierarchy.

Observations made by Antonio Cardinal Bacci of the Roman curia were in much the same vein. He opposed the use of the phrase “universal priesthood,” saying that “priesthood” of the laity is not all embracing.

Jose Cardinal Bueno y Monreal of Seville expressed pleasure that for the first time a council document makes special mention of the laity, thus representing an official appreciation by the Church of the importance of the laity.

 He said “perhaps in the past there was too much insistence on the Oriental figure of  ‘the flock.’ The concept of the people of God represents the external manifestation of the Mystical Body which really constitutes the internal spiritual reality of the Church.”

Fernando Cardinal Cento, Major Penitentiary, who is also president of the council Commission on the Lay Apostolate, rose to thank the Theological Commission for inserting a chapter on the laity in their schema on the Church.

He said “the text of this chapter is of the utmost importance for the coming schema on the apostolate of the laity. Its provisions constitute the principle and foundation of that schema.”

After this morning’s assembly, several bishops remarked that, judging from the content of the schema and the speeches made in the council, they anticipate that there will be a short debate on this third chapter. They said that they believe work of the council will move swiftly for the next few weeks.

As discussion of the second and third chapters on the schema De Ecclesia was carried on in the council hall, voting continued on amendments to chapter three of the liturgy schema.

Amendments five to eight were passed, leaving two more to be voted on in the next assembly. The largest negative vote (247) was cast on the sixth amendment which omits an article of the original text, allowing repetition of the anointing of the sick during a protracted illness.

Before beginning the day’s work, Archbishop Pericle Felici, the secretary general, announced the death of the former Bishop of Lucera, Italy, Domenico Vendola. Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, dean of the College of Cardinals, led the assembly in prayers for the repose of his soul.


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