Text of Pope’s Talk to Non-Catholic Observers

This is the text of Pope Paul VI’s address on Sept. 29, 1964, at the reception for non-Catholic observers at the ecumenical council.

Gentlemen, beloved and venerable brothers!

  1. This new meeting of your group with the Bishop of Rome, successor of the Apostle Peter, on the occasion of the third session of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, is a new motive for spiritual joy, which we like to believe to be reciprocal. We are made happy and honored by your presence; and the words just now addressed to us give assurance that your feelings resemble ours. We feel the necessity of expressing our gratitude to you for the favorable reception accorded our invitation, and for your attendance, with such dignity and edification, at the conciliar congregations. The fact that our mutual satisfaction over these repeated meetings of ours shows no signs of fatigue or disappointment, but is now more lively and trusting than ever, seems to us to be already an excellent result; this is a historic fact; and its value cannot be other than positive in regard to the supreme common aim, that of full and true unity in Jesus Christ. An abyss, of diffidence and skepticism, has been mostly bridged over; this our physical nearness manifests and favors a spiritual drawing-together, which was formerly unknown to us. A new method has been affirmed. A friendship has been born. A hope has been enkindled. A movement is under way. Praise be to God Who, we like to believe, “has given His Holy Spirit to us” (I Thess. iv. 3).
  1. Here we are, then, once again seeking, on one side and on the other, the definition of our respective positions. As to our position, you already know it quite well.

(a) You will have noted that the council has had only words of respect and of joy for your presence, and that of the Christian communities which you represent. Nay more, words of honor, of charity and of hope in your regard. This is no small matter, if we think of the polemics of the past, and if we observe also that this changed attitude of ours is sincere and cordial, pious and profound.

(b) Moreover, you can note how the Catholic Church is disposed toward honorable and serene dialogue. She is not in haste, but desires only to begin it, leaving it to divine goodness to bring it to a conclusion, in the manner and time God pleases. We still cherish the memory of the proposal you made to us last year, on an occasion similar to this; that of founding an institute of studies on the history of salvation, to be carried on in a common collaboration; and we hope to bring this initiative to reality, as a memorial of our journey to the Holy Land last January; we are now studying the possibility of this.

(c) This shows you, gentlemen and brothers, that the Catholic Church, while unable to abandon certain doctrinal exigencies to which she has the duty in Christ to remain faithful, is nevertheless disposed to study how difficulties can be removed, misunderstandings dissipated, and the authentic treasures of truth and spirituality which you possess be respected; how certain canonical forms can be enlarged and adapted, to facilitate a recomposition in unity of the great and, by now, centuries-old Christian communities still separated from us. It is love, not egoism, which inspires us: “For the love of Christ impels us” (II Cor. v. 14).

(d) In this order of ideas, we are happy and grateful that our Secretariat for Unity has been invited, on various occasions, to send observers to the conferences and meetings of your Churches and your organizations. We will gladly continue to do this, so that our Catholic organizations and our representatives may, on their side, acquire a knowledge, corresponding to truth and to charity, which are a prerequisite of a deeper union in the Lord.

  1. As for you, gentlemen and brothers, we ask you kindly to continue in your functions as sincere and amiable observers; and to this end, not to content yourselves with a simple passive presence, but kindly to try to understand and to pray with us, so that you can then communicate to your respective communities the best and most exact news of this council, thereby favoring a progressive drawing-together of minds in Christ Our Lord.

In this regard, we would ask you now to bring to your communities and to your institutions our thanks, our greetings, our wishes of every good and perfect gift in the Lord.

All this, you can see, is only a beginning; but, in order that it may be correct in its inspiration, and fruitful one day in its results, we invite you to conclude this meeting of ours by the common recitation of the prayer which Jesus taught us: the “Our Father.”

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