Missionary Importance Stressed at Council Session

145th General Congregation
October 8, 1965

The ecumenical council’s completely revised schema on the missions offers a remedy for the modern crisis of the missionary conscience, Joseph Cardinal Frings of Cologne, Germany, declared in the name of “many missionary bishops.”

The Cardinal outlined the agonizing question some missioners are asking themselves: If God can save men who remain outside the visible Church, why carry the Gospel to them?

The council Fathers, said these many missionary bishops through Cardinal Frings, should be grateful to the present schema for replying to the question. The schema stresses that the Church by its very nature is missionary and that the ultimate reason for all missionary activity is Christ’s wish to unite the whole of mankind in a single people of God.

The same idea was taken up by Switzerland’s Charles Cardinal Journet, who asked that the schema be even more explicit on the absolute necessity of missionary activity.

Echoing St. Paul, he cried: “Woe to me if I preach not the Gospel!”

Seven speakers at the council’s 145th general meeting spoke on the mission schema. Five others, each with the support of at least 70 of their fellows, returned to the schema on the Church in the modern world, on which debate had been closed the previous day.

During the debates council Fathers completed the final six votes on amendments to the schema on Religious.

The temporarily reopened debate on schema 13, on the Church in the modern world, heard renewed demands for an international authority to help keep peace.

On the new missions schema, the generally favorable tones of the speeches contrasted sharply with the hostile reception a drastically truncated missions schema received at last year’s council session.

Auxiliary Bishop Alfred Ancel of Lyons, France, was the first to speak on schema 13. He echoed many of the previous demands that the council issue an unqualified ban on war and call for creation of a genuine supranational authority to enforce it. This, he said, is required by the common good of the human race.

He said that while such a ban seems to some like a condemnation of patriotism and a slight to the memory of those who gave their lives for their countries, nations which reject war are bound to be blessed many ways.

To the objection that a conciliar ban on war would be useless because no one would pay any attention to it, Bishop Ancel replied that the effectiveness of the council’s declaration would stem from the fact that the council, acting in the person of Christ, would be bearing witness to truth before the world.

However, he said, without a supranational authority the council’s efforts to create a lasting peace would be frustrated.

Bishop Jean Rupp of Monaco thanked the council Fathers who had signed his petition to speak after cloture, and thereby had saved him “from falling into the abyss.”

He complained that while the text is garrulous at points and at others touches dangerous political questions, it is silent on the unimpeachable right of men to emigrate.

He said that some hundred council Fathers (presumably those who had signed his petition) find the text is paternalistic and naturalistic.

Bishop Luigi Faveri of Tivoli, Italy, who got the required number of signatures from fellow Italian bishops, said the text’s central weakness lay in its failure to establish charity at the very center of its exposition. Charity, he said, is the soul of the Church.

Bishop William Philbin of Down and Connor, Ireland, made an allied complaint. He noted a lack of the evangelical spirit in the body and conclusion of the text. He said its didactic and philosophical characteristics, ignoring the Cross and giving the impression that simply to enlighten minds is quite sufficient, savored to him of Pelagianism.

(Pelagianism, named after the British monk Pelagius who propounded it at the start of the fifth century, was based on the insistence that a man had to take the initial and basic steps toward salvation by his own efforts apart from the aid of divine grace. The heresy was refuted by St. Augustine, denounced by several popes and condemned by the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431.)

Bishop Pierre Boillon of Verdun, France, recalled that France had been ravaged by the destruction of war three times in the past century.

The council press bulletin paraphrased him as follows:

“While the text really does condemn war, it is so intermingled with distinctions as to become almost ineffective. The difference between war as envisioned by the theologians of old and war as it exists today is so great that even though the same term is used, the reality underlying the term is completely different.

“People speak today of ‘conventional’ arms as if they were less destructive than others. In the diocese of Verdun, 1.3 million people lost their lives exclusively as a result of warfare with ‘conventional’ arms. Does this not indicate that it is to no purpose to distinguish the nature of weapons today?

“In the same way, a distinction is made between belligerents and non-belligerents, attributing special rights to the latter category — forgetting that belligerents are likewise human persons.”

He denied any validity to the distinction between major and minor wars.

Bishop Boillon told the council that at that moment women of various nations were making a 10-day retreat of prayer and fasting in a Rome convent to ask God’s guidance for the council Fathers in their deliberations on banning war and safeguarding peace.

(Dorothy Day, leader of the Catholic Worker movement in America, was among those 20.)

After these five speeches on schema 13, Archbishop Gabriel Garrone of Toulouse, France, read the council the concluding report of the commission on schema 13. He said that, although the schema had been greatly lengthened at the request of the council Fathers at the preceding session, it now would be shortened according to the wishes they expressed in the debate just concluded.

He said the commission felt there should be no change in the status of the schema — it now is a constitution — lest the document’s authority be weakened.

He also said the commission would attempt to improve the style of the Latin text. Various senses of the word “world” would be clarified. Concerning atheism, he said the commission was unwilling to give the impression of attempting to treat an intricate subject thoroughly in a very short space.

He admitted there was a grave defect in the text’s failure to show a clear connection between parts one and two, and said efforts would be made to correct this.

Cardinal Frings then spoke favorably on the schema’s reply to the question: Why the missions?

The next speaker was Bernard Cardinal Alfrink of Utrecht, the Netherlands. Speaking in the name of the Dutch hierarchy, he complained that the schema was too hierarchical. The text seems, he said, to imply that missionary activity is limited to the hierarchy and that the role of the laity is exclusively one of cooperating with bishops and priests.

But unlike Cardinal Frings, he asserted that the schema is not sufficiently forceful in explaining the reasons for the Church’s missionary apostolate.

Cardinal Journet, after asserting that the Church is subject to the new law of preaching the Gospel to every creature, said it would be erroneous to think that today’s plurality in religion is a part of God’s plan. Missionary activity is not optional for the Christian but an urgent precept, he said.

Bishop Martin Legarra Tellechea for Bocas del Toro, Panama, said that Religious orders and congregations deserve the Church’s gratitude for their work in the missions. But, he noted, there seems to be a new policy of the Holy See in erecting mission jurisdictions because in the official document erecting an independent prelature no mention is made of the Religious order to which that territory is entrusted. It is not clear, he said, whether jurisdiction is conferred upon the order or upon the territorial superior. Bishop Legarra said that because of the superior’s need for financial assistance and missioners from his order, specific mention of the order should be made in the document erecting the jurisdiction.

Bishop Sisto Mazzoldi for Juba, who has been exiled from his See in the Sudan, suggested that the schema mention persecution in the Church’s life. All missioners in southern Sudan, including himself, were expelled early in 1964.

Christ foretold and experience has shown that the Church would be an object of persecution, he said. It is of the essence of the Church that the mystery of the Cross should enable it to live daily in immolation and obedience unto death, even to the death of the Cross, he stated.

But Bishop Mazzoldi insisted that there must be constant affirmation of the Church’s freedom to carry out its evangelical mission.

Iowa-born Bishop Vincent McCauley of Fort Portal, Uganda, said missionary bishops in general approve the present schema, but he called it deficient in two respects.

It fails, he said, to mention the Blessed Virgin as a model and protector for the missions — this despite the emphasis other conciliar documents place on her role in the lives of the laity, Religious and priests.

It also fails to give sufficient emphasis to the role of the sacrament of Confirmation in mission areas, he continued. Bishop McCauley asserted that this sacrament is of prime importance in the missions because through it the laity are deputed to the apostolate by Christ Himself.

Bishop McCauley spoke in the name of the East African Episcopal Conference.

Bishop Rudolf Koppmann of Windhoek, Southwest Africa, said the text lacked logical order. Discussion of missionary training, he said, first takes up tangential subjects and only afterward does it deal with primary subjects such as missionary theology.

He said the schema says nothing of the presence of evil in the world or of the reality of the devil. Those who have seen such things at first hand, he said, know what an obstacle rampant vice can be to the spread of the Gospel.

He warned that unless missionary activity is motivated properly, it can degenerate into false humanism.

He also called for mention of the “scandal of the separation of the Churches” in order to issue a clear call to collaboration. He said collaboration or non-collaboration will have important effects for good or for bad.

The day’s opening Mass was celebrated in the Coptic rite of Alexandria by Archbishop Isaac Ghattas of Thebes, Egypt. Students of this rite at Rome’s Propaganda College served at the altar. The Gospel was enthroned by Coptic-rite Archbishop Paul Nousseir of Minya, Egypt. Gregorio Pietro Cardinal Agagianian was the moderator.

Patrick Riley
NCWC News Rome correspondent

* * * *

The ecumenical council completed its voting on amendments to the schema on the life of Religious.

All were approved by large majorities. Results of the final six ballots were:

Vote one — on the concept of Religious obedience — yes, 2,122; no, 27; null, 1.

Vote two — on community life in Religious institutes — yes, 2,134; no, 16; null, 2.

Vote three — on enclosure for completely contemplative Religious — yes, 2,127; no, 12; null, 2.

Vote four — on adaptation of the Religious habit for men and women — yes, 2,110; no, 20; null, 2.

Vote five — on the schema’s conclusion and an exhortation to generous compliance — yes, 2,109; no, 2; null, 1.

Vote six — general approval of the handling of amendments of minor importance in articles approved last year by a two-thirds majority — yes, 2,071; no, 9; null, 2.

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