THREE great bursts of applause reverberated through St. Peter's on Thursday. They signalled announcements by Pope Paul that plans were being set in motion for the eventual canonisation of Pope Pius XII and Pope John XXIII, that a special jubilee of prayer is to be held, and that a new church is to be built in Rome to commemorate Vatican II.
These surprise announcements came during his promulgation of two more Council decrees before a session of more than 2,000 Council Fathers, diplomats, Italian notables and newsmen,
The new decrees—on Divine Revelation and the Lay Apostolate—will come into force next June.
The Pope said the special jubilee of prayer would run from the close of the Council (December 8) until Pentecost Sunday and that the new church is to be dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Church.
The pontiff said the canonisation process cannot obviously be rapid, but it will be carried out with constancy and care "May God grant that it will lead us where we hope to arrive," he added.
He also spoke of plans to reform the Roman Curia—the Church's central administration. "The desired reforms," be said, "will seem slow and partial, but come this transformation surely will. They will begin within a short time in a statute reorganising the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, which is the watchdog for the Curia's department in faith and morals."
It was notable that the Pope took pains to be diplomatic about the Curia, which he said was entitled to the "confidence of the whole Church" and that it would be wrong to consider it "antiquated or inefficient, or selfish or corrupt". He hinted there would be no drastic shake-up of personnel, Some observers here were disappointed with the Pope's announcement that he would initiate canonisation procedures in respect to his predecessors. The disappointment centered on the procedure, not the intention.
Many had hoped that Pope John especially would be declared a saint without recourse to the canonical, juridical procedures traditionally followed by the Church. Admitting his disappointment. a New Zealand bishop added, "still, I don't suppose we could expect any other method to be used this soon after the Council".
In still another announcement the Pope said he planned to convoke, at least by 1967, the international Senate of Bishops which he created to help him govern the Church.
"We do not want to form a new and artificial hierarchial concentration," he said. "But we do want to involve the episcopate in the task of applying the conciliar regulations. As far as possible, we want also to make use of the collaboration of the episcopate so as to fulfil better our apostolic duty, the governing of the Universal Church."
On Friday, after some disturbing reports that the printing of the documents had been delayed, the Decree on Religious Liberty cameup for voting.
Designed to improve relations with all the world's nonCatholics, it was carried 1,954 votes to 249. The size of the vote against the document surprised some observers, It was
the second largest against any document in the final working stage, just one vote short of the 250 votes cast against the declaration that the Jews cannot be held collectively responsible for the death of Christ.
Still progressives were elated that now the Church formally recognises the right of all persons — Catholics and nonCatholics — to be free of coercion from civil authorities in religious matters.
Although the recently inserted clause — one affirming that all men have the duty to profess and embrace the Catholic faith insofar as they are able to know it — had c a u s e d r i ppi es of disappointment among Council progressives and Protestant observers actively interested in the Christian unity movement, the final triumph of the dedication was generally hailed as an historic milestone.
It was seen as having particular significance in the "Iron Curtain" countries, where the freedom of the Churches is seriously hampered, and in such countries as Spain and Italy where Protestant minorities have complained of a tack of full religious freedom_
In Spain, promulgation of the declaration by Pope Paul is expected to set off parliamentary action on a long-shelved measure legalising the status of the Protestant minority in that traditional Catholic country.
Meanwhile, the Council has voted general approval to the schema on the C'hurch in the Modern World. The text presently reprobates atheism but admits that the Church might have contributed to its upsurge in modern times. It also calls for a dialogue with atheists whom it regards as inen who might indeed be men of good will.
A petition signed by 450 Fathers urging explicit mention of Communism and a strong criticism of Marxist philosophy was rejected by the conciliar commission, which dealt with Schema 13.
A minor controversy was stirred by an amendment advertised by Archbishop Hannon of New Orleans, The Archbishop wanted a recognition of the right of a nation to use armed force to defend its interests. He linked his amendment to the Vietnamesesituation.
His suggestion was criticised by several American bishops, one of whom referred to chauvinism. The Archbishop rewrote his amendment, softening it considerably. It was understood that the revised version was more acceptable to some American bishops. But the U.S. hierarchy itself took no stand on the subject.
A booklet criticising the position of those who seek changes in the Church's position on birth control was distributed to some American Bishops by Bishop Wright of Pittsburgh. It was answered at a press conference by Fr. Gregory Baum, the Canadian Augustinian theologian, who was one of those criticised by the author of the booklet, the Rev. C. B. Daly of Belfast.
Meanwhile. the American bishops who were holding their annual conference meeting last week were persuaded to drop plans to make some pronouncement on the birth control issue. The argument used was that their statement would be premature and perhaps embarrassing. since the Pope's special commission has not yet made a final report,