Dates Announced For Next Year’s Council Sessions; Ecumenism Discussions Continue

78th General Congregation
November 29, 1963

The date for the third session of the ecumenical council was set for Sept 14 to Nov. 20, 1964, at the Nov. 29 general meeting of the council Fathers.

At the same meeting the names of bishops elected as additional members of council commissions were published. Included were six Americans. No other nation had so many bishops elected to the 43 additional commission posts. Papal appointments remained to be named.

The six U.S. bishops elected are:

Auxiliary Bishop Gerald V. McDevitt of Philadelphia, Commission on Religious.

Bishop John W. Comber, MM, Superior General of Maryknoll, Commission on the Missions.

Bishop Loras T. Lane of Rockford, Ill., Commission on Seminaries, Studies and Catholic Education.

Bishop Allen J. Babcock of Grand Rapids, Mich., Commission on the Lay Apostolate.

Bishop Charles H. Helmsing of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity.

Bishop Ernest J. Primeau of Manchester, N.H., Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity.

Also elected was American-born Bishop John E. Taylor, OMI, of Stockholm, who was named to the Commission on the Discipline of the Sacraments.

In the announcement of the dates for the third session there was an element of doubt in the way it was expressed by the council’s secretary general, Archbishop Pericle Felici. He said the dates were given “to enable council Fathers to make their plans” and that the dates could be regarded “as the most likely time for the session.”

Some bishops took this as a suggestion that the dates depended on the way council commissions performed during the interim period and considered it possible that there might not be a council session at all in 1964.

Those more familiar with Roman practices, however, judged the more probable meaning to be that official announcement was being reserved for Pope Paul VI and that this was the only reason for its not being made in a more definite form by Archbishop Felici.

It was announced also that there would be a solemn vote and promulgation on Dec. 4 of the constitution of the liturgy and the decree on communications media. A definitive copy of the liturgy constitution was distributed to council Fathers with the advice that a definitive copy of the communications decree would be distributed on Dec. 2.

Archbishop Felici added to this announcement that, given the special pastoral character of the council, the Fathers should rest assured that no vote on any document is intended with a view to infallible definition and that, if such a case should arise, this fact would be clearly indicated. The documents to be considered at the public session of Dec. 4, he said, are purely disciplinary and, although they present the authentic teaching of the Church, there is no question of infallible definitions.

He added that the Pope had asked the council Fathers to study the texts in question very seriously and to pray fervently that the light of the Holy Spirit might guide them in their vote.

The Fathers were also provided with a preliminary text of a special message, in the form of a pastoral exhortation, to be sent to all priests of the world by the council. Council Fathers were asked to submit any observations on this prior to a vote to be taken on Dec. 2.

A special secrecy was imposed on this document. This was done, however, not because of the nature of its contents, but because it was not intended for publication until after the vote of the council. The document was composed chiefly of an exhortation of a spiritual character.

There were 11 speakers at the Nov. 29 meeting, all of whom discussed the third chapter of the ecumenism schema, which deals with separated Christians.

The first speaker, Fernando Cardinal Quiroga y Palacios of Santiago de Compostela, Spain, urged that there be special mention in the schema of the dogmas which are shared with the separated Eastern Christians, such as the Eucharist and the Apostolic Succession of the episcopate.

Bishop Launcelot Goody of Bunbury, Australia, asked for a clear exposition of the basic truths of Catholic doctrine upon which there would have to be complete agreement in ecumenical efforts. Among these he numbered the hierarchical priesthood in the Catholic sense, the primacy of the pope, the integrity of sacramental life and the public cult of Our Lady.

The objection was raised once more — by Bishop Helmsing — that the text refuses to apply the term “church” to non-Catholic communities. This will certainly be an obstacle to any effective ecumenical action, he said.

Bishop Helmsing added at the end of his speech an exhortation to the Fathers to proceed to a vote on acceptance of Chapters IV and V of the schema before the end of the session on Dec. 4. He was voicing what was a growing concern, coupled with resentment, among many of the council Fathers that there might be a studied attempt to stall a decision on the chapters and end the session without submitting them to the promised vote. The chapters deal with Christian relations with Jews and religious freedom.

After the meeting at the U.S. bishops’ press panel Bishop Helmsing told journalists his remarks on Chapters IV and V were “an afterthought.” He described them as “a little bombshell thrown in at that moment.” In making his speech in the council, Bishop Helmsing had defended the use of the term “church” as applied to non-Catholic religious bodies by citing the wonderful spirit among Protestants. He had paid tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King — a leader of Negro efforts to win civil rights — as an example of the witness non-Catholic communities show for Christ. At the press panel meeting he added: “We American bishops are all very much impressed by the Negro clergy leadership in the drive for racial equality.”

Bishop Thomas K. Gorman of Dallas-Fort Worth supported this statement saying: “All southern bishops would join in this sentiment.”

The schema should clearly determine the goal of union, Bishop Jose Souto Vizoso of Palencia, Spain, declared at the council because of the different ideas held by Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants on the unity and unicity of the church.

Bishop Frane Franic of Split, Yugoslavia, reminded the meeting that “ecumenical dialogue is not restricted to the theological specialists but often must be engaged in by the simple faithful.”

The differences which divide Eastern churches from the Latin Church, said Archbishop Enrico Nicodemo of Bari, Italy, should be studied very carefully in order to lead to clear ideas as to just how far one can go in legitimate diversity.

Bishop Jean Rupp of Monaco objected that, while the text has theological foundations, it gives the impression of superficiality. He noted, for example, that there is no recognition of devotion to the episcopate as found in separated Christian communities. Attention should be given, he said, to the “special providence watching over all men of good will living in these communities.”

Maronite Rite Bishop Pierre Dib of Cairo suggested that a study of the Eastern Fathers would be useful for a proper understanding of the traditions and spirit of the Eastern Oriental churches.

Latin and Eastern churches are closer to union than many might suspect, declared Archbishop Elie Zoghby, Melkite Rite Patriarchal Vicar in Egypt. He said:

“After nine centuries of separate evolution, the Latin Church and the Oriental churches are now recognizing their similarities. The difficulty in the past was that effective dialogue was blocked by social, cultural and political considerations. The Oriental churches always opposed the centralization of Rome, seeing in this a threat of uniformity and a menace to their own particular Christian heritage. Unity of faith is impossible if it means harm to the traditions of the Oriental Church. But, since they are both apostolic and traditional, real unity between these churches can be achieved. Dialogue must be on a basis of equality. The Oriental churches have the task of promoting this dialogue if they wish, within the Catholic Church, to bear witness to the institutions of the Orient.”

The suggestion, repeated often in the past days and almost always from Eastern Rite Fathers, was again made that legislation prohibiting participation in non-Catholic religious services should be mitigated. This time it came from Father Atanasio Hage, superior general of the Melkite Rite Order of St. Basil in Lebanon.

The last speaker, Coptic Rite Bishop Alexandros Scandar of Assiut, Egypt, suggested that “in order to promote better understanding between East and West, more care should be taken in organizing seminary curricula for the formation of future pastors.” He complained that Eastern Rite candidates for the priesthood trained in Latin Rite seminaries sometimes arrive at ordination without knowing how to celebrate Mass in their own rite.

Following is a complete list of those elected to council commissions, excepting the Americans already named:

Doctrinal Commission on Faith and Morals — Auxiliary Bishop Alfred Ancel of Lyons, France; Abbot Christopher Butler, OSB, president of the Benedictine Congregation of England; Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Heuschen of Liege, Belgium; Auxiliary Bishop Luis Henriquez Jimenez of Caracas, Venezuela.

Commission on Bishops and the Government of Dioceses — Auxiliary Bishop James Carroll of Sydney, Australia; Auxiliary Bishop Eduard Schick of Fulda, Germany; Bishop Alfredo Viola of Saito, Uruguay; Archbishop Owen McCann of Cape Town, South Africa.

Commission on the Oriental Churches — Archbishop Maurice Baudoux of St. Boniface, Man.; Archbishop Charles De Provencheres of Aix, France; Maronite Rite Archbishop Ignace Ziade of Beirut, Lebanon.

Commission on the Discipline of the Sacraments — Bishop Juan Hervas y Benet, Ordinary of the Independent Prelature of Ciudad Real, Spain; Father John de Reeper, Apostolic Prefect of Ngong, Kenya; Bishop Petrus Moors of Roermond, the Netherlands.

Commission on the Discipline of the Church and the Faithful — Archbishop Bernardin Cantin of Cotonou, Dahomey; Archbishop Julio Rosales of Cebu, the Philippines; Bishop Paulus Rusch, Apostolic Administrator of Innsbruck-Feldkirch, Austria; Archbishop William Conway of Armagh, Northern Ireland.

Commission on Religious — Bishop Luigi Borromeo of Pesaro, Italy; Auxiliary Bishop Bernhard Stein of Trier, Germany; Archbishop Joseph da Conceicao Cordeiro of Karachi, Pakistan.

Commission on the Missions — Father John Schuette, SVD, superior general of the Divine Word Fathers; Archbishop Eugene D’Souza of Bhopal, India; Bishop Ignatius Doggett, OFM, Apostolic Vicar of Aitape, New Guinea.

Commission on Seminaries, Studies and Catholic Education — Coadjutor Archbishop Franziskus Jachym of Vienna; Bishop Bernard Wall of Brentwood, England; Archbishop Jose Maurer, CSSR, of Sucre, Bolivia.

Commission on the Lay Apostolate — Bishop Manuel Fernandez-Conde of Cordoba, Spain; Auxiliary Bishop Jose da Silva of Lisbon; Auxiliary Archbishop Helder Pessoa Camara of Rio de Janeiro.

Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity — Ukrainian Rite Archbishop Maxim Hermaniuk, CSSR, of Winnipeg, Man.; Coadjutor Bishop John Gran, OCSO, of Oslo; Bishop Loisio Lorscheider, OFM, of Santo Angelo, Brazil; Archbishop Gilbert Ramantoanina of Fianarantsoa, Malagasy Republic; Bishop Donal Lamont, O.Carm., of Umtali, Southern Rhodesia; and Bishop Pedro Cantero Cuadrado of Huelva, Spain.

Msgr. James I. Tucek
NCWC News Rome bureau chief

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