Mission Commission Reports on Draft on Church’s Missionary Life

Father John Schuette, S.V.D., superior general of the Divine Word Fathers, presented the report of the ecumenical council’s Mission Commission on the revised schema on the missions at the general meeting.

Father Schuette noted that in order to revise the text according to the wishes of the council Fathers, it had to be entirely redone. This was the accepted opinion of the commission, he said, and was based on the following considerations:

First, the requests coming from numerous missionary bishops and superiors general.

Second, the reverence due to hundreds of council Fathers who were disappointed at seeing such an important sector of the work of the Church set forth in a few trite paragraphs, whereas all of them were rightly expecting a thorough treatment of missionary activity in the Church because no council had ever done anything along this line.

Third, the fact that the primary and characteristic theme of this council is the Church, in which missionary activity plays a decisive role.

The text does not undertake to present a complete treatment of the universal mission of the Church, Father Schuette reported, but lays down the basic theological principles of missionary activity in a restricted and traditional sense, that is, mission efforts on behalf of nations and groups who do not yet believe in God or among whom the Church has not yet sufficiently taken root.

The five chapters of the schema were unanimously approved by the 24 members of the Mission Commission, he noted.

Nevertheless, Father Schuette declared, it must be said in all truth that this text is the work of the entire council.

Father Schuette said the theological foundation of the missionary aspect of the Church is set forth in the text as follows:

1) The Trinitarian origin of the mission of the Church

2) The ecclesiological aspect of this mission and its intimate connection with the council’s Constitution on the Church.

3) The maintenance of a clear and distinct concept of the mission of the Church.

4) The necessity and even the extreme urgency of this missionary activity.

The basic reason for this missionary activity is not found merely in procuring the eternal salvation of men but rather in the commandment of God which Christ faithfully obeyed, Father Schuette said.

According to the general tendency of the council, he continued, the schema is likewise based on Sacred Scripture and has an ecumenical orientation. In this document, the pastoral trend of missionary activity comes in for special attention, he stated. There is no separate section dealing with accommodation or adaptation to local customs. This is a topic which could not be treated separately, but it pervades every part of the schema, Father Schuette reported.

It was extremely important, he said, to clarify the scope of missionary activity so as to clear missionaries of the undeserved accusation of being tools of colonialism and imperialism. This scope has been drawn mainly from recent papal encyclicals, he stated. An attempt has been made, he said, to evoke greater esteem for the missionary vocation and to promote coordination of missionary activity. A proposal is made to set up a special body in Rome for the direction of the missions.

Lastly, he concluded, much attention has been paid to the relationship between missionary bishops and missionary institutes in order to normalize their cooperation in view of modern times.

* * * *

Seven votes were taken during the general congregation on amendments to the schema on the renewal of the life of Religious. Results were:

Vote one — on the renovation and adaptation of contemplative institutes — yes, 2,133; no, 4; null, 3.

Vote two — on the importance of the apostolic spirit in the Religious life — yes, 2,126; no, 7; null, 3.

Vote three — on the importance and role of monastic life in the Church — yes, 2,142; no, 7; null, 1.

Vote four — on the place of lay Religious life and the possibility of ordaining some Brothers to the priesthood — yes, 2,088; no, 57; null, 3.

Vote five — on secular institutes in the Church — yes, 2,122; no, 22; null, 2.

Vote six — on chastity in Religious life — yes, 2,126; no, 3; null, 1.

Vote seven — on the observance of Religious poverty — yes, 2,089; no, 7; null, 1.

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