Text of Cardinal Bea’s Speech to Ecumenical Guests of Vatican II

Following is a translation of a French-language speech of Augustin Cardinal Bea, S.J., president of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, at a reception (Oct. 17) for observers and guests of the secretariat.


My very dear Brothers in Christ,

Allow me to begin with more than a greeting. I wish to express the deep joy which I have — perhaps better, which we all have — that once more we find ourselves together.

Last year, during the first session of the council, we had collaborated sincerely, loyally and in a spirit of concord. It was not an easy experience for us. But, in all modesty and grateful to Him who bestows every good thing, we can acknowledge that, with the help of the Lord and under the power-filled inspiration of His spirit, our work has had satisfactory results.

This year we are together for the same task. Our number has increased. More churches and communities are represented, and some of the others have delegated more observers. This fact is an added motive for joy. Finally, we already stand before a work well advanced, for we now have behind us three weeks of intense labor on difficult problems.

Secondly, I wish to thank you; above all, to thank you for having come and to thank your churches and communities for having delegated you. But in looking back a little further, I wish to thank you also for what you have done between the two sessions of the council. You have informed those authorities who have sent you. You have also informed, with exemplary discretion, the public opinion of your churches and your countries.

I would like to thank you also — although it was some months ago — for everything which you and the churches and communities which you represent have done, when the Church of Rome was plunged into deep mourning by the death of the august artisan and Father of the council, Pope John XXIII; and when Divine Providence granted us a new Holy Father. Thank you for every comfort of solidarity and prayer in sorrow, and also in joy and happiness.

Nothing unites more than the union of hearts in sorrow and in joy; the more profound the sorrow and the more living the joy, the closer the union. That is why I dare to say that the vivid manifestation of solidarity in the shared sorrow for the decease of Pope John XXIII and in the shared joy for the election of his successor Pope Paul VI had in fact a great significance and ecumenical influence. For these events have brought together — to a great extent, I believe — so many brothers in Christ, separated among themselves for so many reasons.

After these expressions of gratitude, I wish to voice my most sincere desire that everything goes well with you in every respect. I hope that you find every possible help in your not too easy task, and that your work may bear abundant fruit. The whole Mystical Body will benefit from this, in accordance with the words of St. Paul: “If one member is suffering, all the rest of the members suffer with it; if one member is treated with honor, all the rest rejoice with it” (I Cor. 12, 26).

At the same time, I hope we will profit from your presence and work. The Holy Father, Pope Paul VI, recently said in an address to the Roman curia: “We must welcome the criticisms that surround us with humility, with reflection, and even with gratitude. Rome has no need to defend itself by being deaf to suggestions that come from honest voices, especially if the voices are those of friends and brothers” (Oss. Rom., Sept. 22, 1963, p. l). Thus, I sincerely ask you, as I did one year ago, “to grant us complete confidence and consequently to tell us very frankly — above all, during the sessions specially organized for you by the secretariat, everything you dislike, to share with us your positive criticisms, your suggestions, your desires.

“Of course, I cannot promise you to find a solution for every problem. But I do assure you that we shall be grateful for your confidence, that we shall try to consider everything sincerely in Christ, in order to do, as far as we are permitted, everything that can be done now and in the future” (Oss. Rom., Oct. 18, 1962, p.l).

To be sure, we face a work very serious, laborious and, I could say, even hard. If we face this work united — as in fact we are — in prayer, in love for the truth, in sincere Christian charity, which means kindness, understanding and patience, we will experience that it is truly possible–over and above and despite all our present differences — to be united even now in Christ, and so to prepare little by little a more perfect union.

Furthermore, if we transmit and communicate the experience of this union to all those who live about us, we will, with the grace of the Lord, undoubtedly contribute toward the preparation of that perfect union which was the object of Our Lord’s prayer at the Last Supper, and which is certainly our prayer in union with Him: “that all may be one, even as thou, Father, in me and I in thee; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17, 21).

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