Historic Day: Sweeping Changes in Liturgy Get Sweeping Approval

73rd General Congregation
November 22, 1963

The 73rd general congregation of the Second Vatican Council, Nov. 22, will be a day to record not only in the history of the council but in the history of the Church.

In that council assembly, precisely at 12:05 p.m., the document providing for sweeping reform of the public worship of the Church was given complete approval by the council Fathers with only 19 dissenting votes out of a total of 2,178 votes cast. One vote was null.

Announcement of the completion of the schema was greeted with warm and prolonged applause from the council Fathers. Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals and ranking prelate of the 13 council presidents, expressed the thanks of the council to the Commission on Sacred Liturgy for its work, mentioning particularly the president of the commission, Arcadio Cardinal Larraona, and his predecessor, Gaetano Cardinal Cicognani, who died in February, 1962.

Father Frederick R. McManus, former president of the North American Liturgical Conference, later said at a meeting of the American bishops’ press panel that some of the provisions of the schema would have to wait simply for Pope Paul’s promulgation of the document — slated for Wednesday, Dec. 4 — and would then go into effect immediately. Others, however, would have to wait for the decision of national or regional conferences of bishops, and still others would have to wait for the decision of the Pope.

Bishop Thomas K. Gorman of Dallas-Fort Worth, Tex., noted that, as regards the use of the vernacular in the Mass and Sacraments, there would be no need in many cases to wait for a new translation of the various parts of the liturgy. He said several English translations could be put to use, at least for the time being. He told reporters that a program of liturgical renewal in the United States would be announced as soon as the constitution is promulgated. The American bishops are scheduled to meet in the Spring to take further decisions on both a short-term and long-term basis, he said.

The day’s council session continued discussion of the ecumenism schema. The first three speakers, each supported by five other bishops, took advantage of the right to return to remarks on the schema in general, even though the overall discussion had been closed. The last six speakers dealt with the first chapter of the schema.

There were only nine speakers to address this assembly, as the first half of the morning’s work was taken up with presentation of the last four chapters of the seven-chapter liturgy schema prior to a taking of votes on these individual chapters and the final vote on the liturgy schema as a whole.

Coadjutor Bishop Michael Rodrigues of Belgaum, India, speaking on the ecumenism schema in general, opposed acceptance of the schema in its present form because of the addition of the special section — Chapter IV — on the relationships of Catholics with Jews.

“No matter what precautions we take,” he said, “it is inevitable that this council text will be misinterpreted for political reasons. It will cause trouble in Arab nations and in Asiatic countries which have very ancient religions not mentioned in the schema. Either Chapter IV should be eliminated completely or further chapters should be added on Hinduism, Islam and so on.”

Similar opposition to the schema was expressed by Bishop Jose Pont y Gal of Segorbe, Spain, because of the additions of both Chapter IV and Chapter V (which proclaims the right of freedom of conscience). Chapter IV, he said, should be turned over to the secretariat for non-Christian religions, which is to be set up in the future. As for Chapter V, he objected that the text of that chapter had come too late (two days before its presentation in the council hall) for the council Fathers to give sufficient study to the delicate problems involved.

The third speaker on the schema in general, Bishop Andreas Makarakiza, WF, of Ngozi, Burundi, did not object to the schema but asked that it carry more emphasis on the presence of Christ in the Christian life as a basic requisite for all ecumenism.

Discussion of the schema’s first chapter was opened by Auxiliary Bishop Jan Mazur of Lublin, Poland, speaking in the name of all the Polish bishops present at the council. He urged that the first chapter emphasize the universal saving will of God, the wisdom and goodness of the Creator who did not abandon man after the fall, and the concept of Christ as the cornerstone of Christian life.

He said that “with these points as basic principles we can really work toward unity in Christ.”

Bishop Gerard Huyghe of Arras, France, praised the schema for giving less attention to the idea of “return” of the separated brethren and for giving more attention to a change in the Catholic Church’s own procedures and viewpoints.

The ecumenical movement is threatened by two dangers, according to Bishop Felix Romero of Jaen, Spain. First, he said, is the danger of confusion in the minds of the faithful, and the other is the danger of harm to sound ecumenism.

Archbishop Lorenz Jaeger of Paderborn, Germany, congratulated the authors of the schema for their use of concrete language instead of scholastic definitions. He observed, however, that “long experience with discussions between Catholics and non-Catholics has made it clear that good will alone is not enough.” He urged therefore that “the choice of theologians to take part in such debates must fall on men who not only know their own theology well but are also perfectly familiar with the theology of the others with whom they are engaging in discussion.”

“The schema is quite acceptable for theological, pastoral and ecumenical reasons,” said Bishop Claude Flusin of St. Claude, France. He suggested though that the text “distinguish between individuals personally and directly responsible for heresy or schism, and those who were born later into groups thus cut off from the Church.”

The council’s text dealing with ecumenism should also include mention of such groups as Buddhists, Confucianists and Shintoists, said Bishop Vito Chang, former Bishop of Sinyang, China, who now lives in Germany. He declared: “God provides the means of salvation for every nation and for this reason no nation can feel that the Church is foreign to it. Our treatment of ecumenism should have the widest possible scope.”

The presiding moderator, Giacomo Cardinal Lercaro of Bologna, Italy, announced that on Monday, Nov. 25, the council Fathers would be asked to pass on to the second chapter of the ecumenism schema.

Because the feast of the day was that of St. Cecilia, patroness of music, the full complement of the Sistine Chapel choir sang during the opening Mass of the morning. The choir members were applauded by the council Fathers as they left the council hall.

Msgr. James I. Tucek
NCWC Rome bureau chief

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