Following is the council press office translation of the Latin address delivered Dec. 4 by Pope Paul VI at the closing meeting of the second session of the ecumenical council.
We have now reached the end of the second session of this great ecumenical council.
You have already been long absent from your Sees, in which the sacred ministry requires your presence, your guidance and your zealous pastoral labors. Your work here has been heavy, and assiduous and protracted by reason of the ceremonies, studies and meetings of this period of the council.
And now we have just entered upon the sacred season of Advent which prepares us to celebrate worthily the memory of the blessed Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, that yearly recurring feast which never loses its solemnity and wonder and holiness. During this important and absorbing commemoration of the ineffable mystery of the Incarnate Word of God, none of us should be occupied with other thoughts, however elevated or holy they may be. None of us should be detained in any other See, however great and venerable, but each of us should celebrate the liturgical mysteries in that place where Providence has entrusted to us His church, His community and His priestly pastoral duty.
We must, therefore, interrupt for a second time the course of this great synod; we must once again bid each other farewell and go our separate ways after these happy days of momentous brotherly conference.
But we must first thank God for the blessings that He has bestowed during this session and by its means, nor can we withhold our thanks from any of those who have taken part in the session and have had some positive part in its successful functioning. We thank especially the presidency of the Council, the moderators, the secretariat and also the commissions and the periti, the representatives of press and television, those who have fitted out this basilica, and those who have offered hospitality and assistance to the Fathers of the council.
And we thank in a particular way those Fathers who have been good enough to contribute toward the great expense that the organization of this great event requires, or have with fraternal charity come to the aid of their more needy brothers, or have assisted the Church in her enormous needs and come to the help of the victims of recent disasters.
Before concluding our labors, it would be fitting to sum up and to consider together the course of the session and its results. But to do that would make this address too long, nor indeed could it be done adequately since so many aspects of this council belong to the domain of grace and the inner kingdom of the soul into which it is not always easy to enter, and since so many of the council’s results have not yet come to maturity, but are as grains of wheat cast into the furrows, awaiting their effective and fruitful development, which will be granted only in the future through new mysterious manifestations of the divine goodness.
Nevertheless, lest we seem to leave this holy council hall without gratitude for the blessings of God, from whom this council has here taken its origin, we will remind ourselves above all that some of the goals that the council set itself to achieve have already been at least partially reached.
The Church wished to grow in her consciousness and understanding of herself. See how, on the very level of her pastors and teachers, she has begun a profound meditation on that mystery from which she draws her origin and form. The meditation is not finished, but the very difficulty of concluding it reminds us of the depth and breadth of this doctrine, and stimulates each of us to strive to understand and to express the doctrine in a way which, on the one hand, cannot fail to lead our minds, and certainly those of the faithful who are attentively following our labors, to Christ Himself from whom all gifts come to us and to whom we wish to return all, “reconciling everything in Him” (Col. 1, 20).
On the other hand, our efforts cannot fail to increase both our happiness in being personally called to form part of this holy Mystical Body of Christ, and our mutual charity, the principle and law of the life of the Church.
Let us rejoice, my brothers, for when was the Church ever so aware of herself, so in love with Christ, so blessed, so united, so willing to imitate Him, so ready to fulfill His mission? Let us rejoice, my brothers, for we have learned to understand one another and to deal with one another, and, though we were almost strangers, through the process of union we have become friends. Have we not profoundly experienced here the words of St. Paul which accurately define the Church: “Now you are no longer strangers and newcomers, but rather fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God, built, as you are, upon the foundations laid by the Apostles and the prophets, where the very cornerstone is Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2, 19-20)?
And do we not, perhaps, see that if the canon law which governs the Church is developed, its growth will extend in two directions? It will accord to every person and office in the Church both greater dignity and greater power of development, and at the same time will strengthen, as it were, according to the intrinsic demands of love, of harmony, and of mutual respect, the power which unites, through hierarchical government, the whole community of the faithful. We must confess that this council is a great achievement, a great gift of God to His Church, if our minds have been so resolutely turned toward these thoughts and these proposals.
Moreover, if we ask ourselves about the nature of the labors of the council, here again we ought to rejoice that they have witnessed so widespread, so unflagging and so lively a participation by the council Fathers. Even now the spectacle of this basilica, occupied as it is by our revered and thronged assembly, has filled our hearts with admiration, devotion and spiritual joy.
Even now our hearts are moved by the sight of the esteemed observers who have been invited to this gathering and who have so graciously accepted the invitation. And no less comfort has been brought to a father’s heart by the presence of the auditors who, though silent, have shown the loyalty of true sons, those dear sons who represent the vast ranks of the Catholic laity working with the hierarchy of the Church for the spread of the Kingdom of God. Everything in this hall and on this occasion becomes symbolic and speaks to us; everything here is a sign of heaven-sent thoughts, everything a foreshadowing of heaven-sent hopes.
Nor does the manner in which the undertakings of this council have proceeded cause us any less satisfaction. Ought we not show our debt of gratitude to the Fathers of the Presidency of the Council, to the moderators, to the secretariat of the council, to the commissions, and to the experts who have placed at our disposal both their work and their advice?
There are two things to be noted about the council’s work; it has been laborious and, above all, it has enjoyed freedom of expression. This twofold characteristic which marks this council and which will set an example for the future seems to us worthy of emphasis. This is the way that the holy Church works today at the highest and most significant stage of its development. It works intensely and it works spontaneously.
Our satisfaction is in no way diminished by the variety, by the multiplicity or even by the divergence of the opinions which have been expressed in the discussions of the council. On the contrary, this is a proof of the depth of the subjects investigated, of the interest with which they have been followed and, as we said before, of the freedom with which they have been discussed.
The arduous and intricate discussions have certainly borne fruit insofar as one of the topics, the first one to be discussed, and, in a certain sense, the first in order of intrinsic excellence and importance for the life of the Church, the schema on the sacred liturgy, has been brought to a happy conclusion. And today we have solemnly promulgated it. We rejoice at this accomplishment.
We may see in this an acknowledgment of a right order of values and duties: God in the first place; prayer our first duty; the liturgy the first school of spirituality, the first gift which we can bestow upon Christians who believe and pray with us. It is the first invitation to the world to break forth in happy and truthful prayer and to feel the ineffable life-giving force that comes from joining us in the song of divine praise and of human hope, through Christ Our Lord and in the Holy Spirit.
It would be good to treasure this fruit of our council as something that should animate and characterize the life of the Church. For the Church is a religious society, a community at prayer. It is composed of people with a flourishing interior life and spirituality that is nourished by faith and grace. If now we wish to simplify our liturgical rites, if we wish to render them more intelligible to the people and accommodated to the language they speak, by so doing we certainly do not wish to lessen the importance of prayer, or to give it less importance than other forms of the sacred ministry or pastoral activity, or to impoverish its expressive force and artistic charm. On the contrary, we wish to render the liturgy more pure, more genuine, more in agreement with the source of truth and grace, more suitable to be transformed into a spiritual patrimony of the people.
To attain these ends it is necessary that no attempt should be made to introduce into the official prayer of the Church private changes or singular rites, nor should anyone arrogate to himself the right to interpret arbitrarily the Constitution on the Liturgy, which today we promulgate, before opportune and authoritative instructions are given. Furthermore, the reforms which will be prepared by postconciliar bodies must first receive official approbation. The nobility of ecclesiastical prayer and its musical expression throughout the world is something no one would wish to disturb or to damage.
The other fruit, not of small value, that the council has produced is the Decree on Communications Media — an indication of the capacity of the Church to unite the interior and exterior life, contemplation and action, prayer and active apostolate. We hope that this decree too will help to guide and encourage numerous forms of activity in the exercise of the pastoral ministry and of the Catholic mission in the world.
We can also include among the fruits of this council the many faculties which, in order to promote the pastoral ends of the council itself, we have declared, in the document distributed to all the Fathers, to be within the competence of the bishops, especially those with ordinary jurisdiction.
This is not all. The council has labored much. As you all know it has addressed itself to many questions whose solutions are in part virtually formulated in authoritative decisions which will be published in time after the work on the topics to which they belong is completed.
Other questions are still subject to further studies and discussions. We hope that the third session in the autumn of next year will bring them to completion. It is fitting that we should have more time to reflect on these difficult problems, and that the competent commissions in whose work we place so much hope will prepare for the future conciliar meetings, in accordance with the mind of the Fathers, as expressed specially in the general congregations, proposals profoundly studied, accurately formulated, and suitably condensed and abbreviated so that the discussions, while remaining always free, may be rendered easier and more brief.
Such, for example, is the question of divine Revelation to which the council will give a reply which, while defending the sacred deposit of divine Truth against the errors, abuses and doubts that endanger its objective validity, at the same time will provide directives to guide the Biblical, patristic and theological studies which Catholic thought, faithful to ecclesiastical teaching and vitalized by every good modern scientific tool, will want to promote earnestly, prudently and with confidence.
Such also is the great and complex question of the episcopacy which, in both logical order and importance, is the primary concern of this Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, a council which, as we shall never forget, is the natural continuation and complement of the First Vatican Council.
As a consequence, the aim of our council is to clarify the divinely instituted nature and function of the episcopacy not in contrast to, but in confirmation of, the supreme Christ-given prerogatives, conveying all authority necessary for the universal government of the Church, which are acknowledged as belonging to the Roman pontiff. Its aim is to set forth the position of the episcopacy according to the mind of Our Lord and the authentic tradition of the Church, declaring what its powers are and indicating how they should be used, individually and corporately, so as worthily to manifest the eminence of the episcopacy in the Church of God.
The episcopacy is not an institution independent of, or separated from, or, still less, antagonistic to the supreme pontificate of Peter, but with Peter and under him it strives for the common good and the supreme end of the Church. The coordinated hierarchy will thus be strengthened not undermined, its inner collaboration will be increased not lessened, its apostolic effectiveness enhanced not impeded, its mutual charity stirred up not stifled. We are sure that on a subject of such importance the council will have much to say that will bring consolation and light.
And likewise for the schema on the Blessed Virgin Mary we hope for the solution most in keeping with the nature of this council, that is, the unanimous and loving acknowledgment of the place, privileged above all others, which the Mother of God occupies in the Holy Church — in the Church which is the principal subject matter of the present council. After Christ her place in the Church is the most exalted, and also the one closest to us, so that we can honor her with the title “Mater Ecclesiae” to her glory and to our benefit.
And after these questions, which the council has already touched upon, there remain many others which it was unable to treat. But much study has already been accorded them. We will see to it that these questions are subjected to a thorough and deeper re-examination so as to be able to present to the next session of the council schemata which are short and so ordered that it will not be difficult to obtain a judgment of the council on certain fundamental propositions.
It will be left to the postconciliar commissions to explain these principles more fully and to work out their practical implications. Among these commissions, the principal work will certainly fall to the one charged with the compilation of the new codes, both for the Latin Church and for the Oriental Church.
In this work, which will follow the council, the collaboration of the episcopacy, in new ways required by the needs and the organic nature of the Church, will be very precious to us. Naturally it will be a source of joy to us to choose from among the bishops of the world and from the ranks of the religious orders, as was done for the preparatory commissions of the council, distinguished and expert brethren who, along with qualified members of the Sacred College, will bring us their counsel and help to translate into fitting and specific norms the general decisions of the council.
And so experience will suggest to us how, without prejudice to the prerogatives of the Roman pontiff defined by the First Vatican Council, the earnest and cordial collaboration of the bishops can more effectively promote the good of the Universal Church.
Let us, therefore, end this session of the council by taking stock of all that it has positively achieved. It has worked hard. It has completed some chapters of its enormous task and has made a good beginning on many other chapters of importance. It has shown how divergent opinions can be freely expressed. It has demonstrated the desirability and the possibility of coming to agreement on fundamental questions by discussion and made clear how each and every one holds sincerely and firmly to the dogmatic truths that make up the Church’s doctrinal patrimony.
It has, moreover, stirred up in all of us that charity which must always be present in our search for and profession of the Truth. It has constantly kept in view the pastoral purpose of the council. It has always tried to find means and expressions capable of closing the gap between our separated brethren and ourselves. It has accompanied its every act with prayer to God, the source of all hope.
Yet even so, it leaves us with an even more vivid realization of what remains to be done and with a more deeply felt sense of our duty of making the Church better fitted to deliver its message of Truth and salvation to the modem world. We have not forgotten the conditions of the day nor has our love for the men among whom we live grown less.
As each one returns home to his ordinary affairs he will carry in his heart an earnest concern to make that charity more effective. Even before the council discusses problems of the modern apostolate, we can say that we all of us already know the answers, for the Church’s teaching is already clear and profound and the example of the better among our brethren already points the way.
Could we not, here and now, on our return from the council, give proof of our more ardent pastoral spirit by speaking to our flocks and to all who hear our voices, words of exhortation and encouragement? Could we not, here and now, and by way of preparation for the next sessions, intensify our inner life and be more attentive to the divine word? Could we not take back to our clergy a message of fervor and charity, to our lay folk a word of heartening reassurance, to young people an inspiring invitation, to the world of thought a shaft of truth, to the world of labor a message of hope and affection, to the poor the first of the Gospel’s beatitudes?
There cannot be, we believe, a more effective way than that of devoted ministry for disposing us, with God’s help, to bring the great council to a successful end in practical and salutary resolutions.
And now may we be permitted one last word to make known to you a project which has for some time been taking shape in our mind and which we have decided to make known today before this choice and significant assembly.
We are so convinced that for the final happy conclusion of this council prayers and good works are necessary, that after careful deliberation and much prayer we have decided to become a pilgrim ourselves in the land of Jesus Our Lord. In fact, if God assists us, we wish to go to Palestine in January to honor personally, in the holy places where Christ was born, lived, died, and ascended to heaven after His Resurrection, the first mysteries of our Faith: the Incarnation and the Redemption.
We shall see that blessed land whence Peter set forth and where not one of his successors has returned. Most humbly and rapidly we shall return there as an expression of prayer, penance, and renovation to offer to Christ His Church, to summon to this one holy Church our separated brethren, to implore Divine Mercy on behalf of peace among men, that peace which shows in these days how weak and tottering it is, to beseech Christ Our Lord for the salvation of the entire human race. May the Holy Mother of God guide our steps, may the Apostles Peter and Paul and all the saints assist us kindly from heaven.
And as we shall have all of you present in our heart during this pious journey, so also you, venerated brethren, accompany us with your prayers in order that this council may reach its goal for the glory of Christ and the welfare of His Church.
We thank and we salute all, expressing likewise to the observers our grateful and reverent farewell. We salute also the beloved auditors and all who have prayed and labored for this council.
Our loving but sad thoughts go in a special way to our fellow bishops who are absent and caught in the tribulation which so joyously we would have wished to embrace and whose prayers, sanctified by suffering, have certainly contributed effectively to the happy outcome of the work of this second session.
To them, along with our fatherly thoughts and encouragement to persevere in fidelity to Christ and His Church, there goes a very special blessing. As a token of heavenly favors, may our blessing and good wishes go also to all Catholics, to all who are illuminated by Christ our Savior, and then, for all men of good will we beg of God the gift of happiness and prosperity.