Communications Text Approved; President Kennedy’s Death Noted

74th General Congregation
November 25, 1963

The decree on communications media has joined that of the liturgy as work completed by the ecumenical council.

The schema on communications media was passed in the council assembly of Nov. 25 with a vote of 1,598 favorable, 503 opposed and 11 null.

With 2,112 voting, the schema thus passed with a relatively narrow margin of I90 votes above the minimum required for a two-thirds majority.

Two votes were taken to complete the schema: One on the amendments to the schema and another on acceptance of the schema as a whole. Before these votes were taken, Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, chairman of the council presidents, took the floor to inform the assembly that, as the bishops were entering the council hall for this assembly, printed sheets had been distributed expressing dissatisfaction with the schema on communications media and urging other members of the council to vote against it. The sheet bore the names of those bishops who had signed the circular.

Cardinal Tisserant denounced the circular as “most vigorously to be deplored inasmuch as the schema in question, in its component parts, had already been approved by much more than the required two-thirds majority.” He objected to the distribution of the sheets as an attack on the freedom of vote of the council Fathers and as an act unworthy of an ecumenical council.

First in the order of the day’s business was an announcement made by the council Secretary General, Archbishop Pericle Felici, that a solemn public session of the council would be held on Wednesday, Dec. 4. At this session, with Pope Paul VI present, the council Fathers will vote solemnly and definitively on whatever decrees have been approved by that time in the daily general congregations. This established once and for all the date for the promulgation of the decrees; it had been reported earlier that the Pope would proclaim the decrees on Nov. 29.

It was furthermore announced that on Tuesday, Dec. 3, there will be a solemn ceremony in St. Peter’s to commemorate the fourth centenary of the Council of Trent. The speaker on this occasion will be Giovanni Cardinal Urbani of Venice.

The tragic death of President Kennedy was noted also in the preliminary announcements of this assembly as Archbishop Felici announced a solemn funeral service to be held in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran at 5 p.m. the same day for the repose of the soul of the late President of the United States. All Fathers were invited to be present.

Later in the course of the morning’s business, Mr. Kennedy’s death was noted by Joseph Cardinal Ritter of St. Louis. At the end of his discourse on the council’s business, he thanked all the council Fathers for their many expressions of condolence and their promises of prayers.

“Where charity and mutual consideration are not in possession of the human heart, there can only be hatred, of which this untimely death is one of the fruits. Let there be prayers that all of us, Catholics and separated brethren alike, may learn to live in peace and charity in the hope of one day living in unity.”

The discussions in the council hall turned on the first and second chapters of the schema on ecumenism. Giacomo Cardinal Lercaro of Bologna was the presiding moderator over discussion on the first chapter. When by a standing vote, discussion moved on to the second chapter, Julius Cardinal Doepfner of Munich became presiding moderator.

With the discussion of the chapters moving so quickly, it began to be apparent that before the week was out the assembly could be called upon to vote on whether or not to accept the fourth and fifth chapters of the schema for further discussion. If this were done, one of the thorniest issues of the second session could be settled before the session’s final working day, Dec. 2.

Paul Emile Cardinal Leger of Montreal, the first speaker of the day on the first chapter of the schema on ecumenism, complained that one of its weaknesses is “its manner of presenting unity as a note of the Church.”

He added: “Because of undue insistence on unity in the past, the false impression is given that the Church promotes a monolithic unity which entails excessive uniformity in doctrine, liturgy and so on. In our insistence on unity, we have too often lost sight of the advantages of diversity.

“Charity and truth must not suffer in our discussions. But we must pursue truth in humility as well as in charity. Since separation became a sad reality, our separated brethren have been engaged in their own doctrinal research. Discrepancies between them and us cannot be resolved without joint theological investigation.

“The Church has known many heresies and schisms. The remedy is not necessarily authority, but in humble progress in the Faith.”

At the American bishops’ press panel session that afternoon, Father Gustave Weigel, SJ, of Woodstock (Md.) College, noted that Cardinal Leger was warning against what is called “immobilism.” He said this is characterized by the mentality which feels that all things and all attitudes should be held onto simply because they are old.

Actually, said Father Weigel, in the case of truth itself, there can be no change but the way truth is formulated, and its expression, can change to meet the requirements of the times.

The last speaker of the day, Bishop Pierre Martin, SM, Vicar Apostolic of New Caledonia, spoke in a similar vein. In a plea for concrete directives for the ecumenical movement, he urged that the Catholic Church be willing to put itself on trial.

The French-born prelate said:

“At the Conference on Faith and Order in Montreal last summer the complaint was voiced that the Catholic Church is unwilling to subject itself to examination. Would it not be better for the Church to consider the question of reform very frankly instead of insisting that she cannot be on the same level as others?

“We should undertake an honest examination of conscience on the following points:

“1. Whether the sociological structure of the Church today reflects the genuine spirit of the Beatitudes, especially as regards poverty of spirit and humility.

“2. Are our sentiments on suffering humanity, with which Christ identified Himself, all that they should be, bearing in mind the words of John XXIII to the then-Cardinal Montini, ‘The poor man is an image of Christ and a quasi-sacrament’?

“3. Are we preparing today for the questions we shall have to answer on the day of judgment, when it is not words but deeds which will count? This should be our examination of conscience as we realize that the practical exercise of charity will contribute more to the progress of ecumenism than any number of abstract arguments.”

Next to take the floor was Cardinal Ritter, who suggested that it be made clear that unity is the fundamental principle of the ecumenical movement. He said:

“We have with our separated brethren common desires and common activities. We should present unity not merely as a goal of inestimable value, but in such a way as to show disunion as an evil of equal magnitude.”

Augustin Cardinal Bea, president of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, followed with a reply to many objections to the schema that had been heard earlier in the council hall. It had been objected, he said, that the ecumenical movement contains dangers for the Catholic faithful. He answered that “these dangers exist where the question of unity is treated by men who may be inspired by good will but who are not sufficiently cautious. All interfaith discussions should be under the supervision of local bishops. …

“Directives will come from Rome but must be applied on a local basis. Consequently local Ordinaries and national episcopal conferences will be able to take appropriate steps to forestall any possible dangers. It would be useful for regional secretariats to be set up for the promotion of unity in collaboration with the permanent secretariat in Rome.”

What is this unity?, asked Bishop Giovanni Canestri, Auxiliary to the Cardinal Vicar of Rome. “Our separated brethren have a right to know what kind of unity we are inviting them to. This means we have an obligation to tell them, in truth and charity.”

Auxiliary Bishop Anastasio Granados Garcia of Toledo, Spain, made the point that unity should be distinguished from unicity. “Unicity,” he explained, “is a joint effect of unity and catholicity. The unity of the Church is obtained through the incorporation of the faithful into Christ.”

The great evil of religious division is not made known sufficiently, said Bishop Emilio Guano of Leghorn, Italy. He added: “The solution of today’s problems and the effectiveness of the Gospel message absolutely demand unity.”

Archbishop Joseph Tawil, Melkite Rite Patriarchal vicar in Damascus, Syria, said that unity could not mean uniformity. He declared: “Because of historical and geographic circumstances it would be a practical impossibility to impose any overall uniformity on individual Oriental groups.”

“The ecumenical movement and the promotion of conversions are two prospects of one same apostolate of the Church,” said Father Aniceto Fernandez, OP, Master General of the Dominican Order.

Bishop Jean B. Gahamanyi of Butare, Rwanda, asked that the text “give us a stronger statement on the obligation of all Catholics to bring non-Catholics into the fold,” which he said “should be done with all discretion and mutual respect for another’s views.”

The truth possessed by the separated brethren requires a single bond of union and a focal point to give its meaning, Bishop Andrea Pangrazio of Gorizia, Italy, observed. He said that “this bond and center is in Christ, whom all Christians want to know and serve.”

Jose Cardinal Bueno of Seville, Spain, led off discussion of the second chapter of the schema by warning: “We must take care that separation does not degenerate into an abyss. Proselytism is completely alien to the ecumenical movement. No one should try to preach the Gospel where it has been preached and been in practice for centuries.”

One of the strongest means for promoting ecumenism is common prayer, said Bishop Michel Darmancier, SM, French-born Vicar Apostolic of Wallis and Futuna Islands. “Our prayers for unity will ask for nothing else than for what Christ asked,” he said.

Archbishop Nicola Margiotta of Brindisi, Italy, suggested — apropos of what it was not clear — that “to safeguard the faith of our people, the Index of Forbidden Books should be retained in order to provide helpful warnings for the unwary. Nevertheless the penalty of excommunications for those who read or retain such books in their possession should be lifted.”

Auxiliary Bishop Stephane Desmazieres of Bordeaux, France, indicated the presence of the non-Catholic observers m the council hall as a sign of ecumenism, but added that “the absence of representation from certain groups is regrettable. It is a sin against the Holy Spirit to remain passive, or what is worse, to oppose the ecumenical movement.”

Msgr. James I. Tucek
NCWC News Rome bureau chief

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One Response to Communications Text Approved; President Kennedy’s Death Noted

  1. Pingback: An historic turning point for Church & media | Seminarian CasualSeminarian Casual

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