• Our Council Theologian, Rev. A. McNicholl, 0.P., recalls here the known views of Pope Paul on the aim and work of the Vatican Council. MANY of the bishops at the first session of the Council were puzzled by the rather enigmatic figure of the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan. Known to be a most zealous and enlightened pastor, and reputed to be in sympathy with what has come to be known as the progressive section of the episcopacy, he did not take anything like as active a part in the Council as did many other cardinals.
Perhaps his training and experience as a diplomat may partly explain this; and he surely knew that he was high up on the list of the papahili and would have to refrain from identifying himself too closely with any trend or party. Pope John, well aware of the stand taken by his friend Cardinal Montini, could jokingly tell a bishop who consulted him on some question to "talk about it with Hamlet at Milan."
But Pope John had no doubts about the thoughts and feelings of the pastor of the largest and most important diocese in Italy outside of Rome; Cardinal Montini was the only one invited by the Pope to live close to him, under the same roof, sharing his inmost confidence and something of the aloofness of the Pope who so wisely let the bishops discover for themselves what they really were at the Council and that he relied on their aid and advice.
When the Italian bishops met in Rome to draw up lists of candidates for the conciliar commissions. in the dramatic opening days when a star was really a star, tions had been made that four or five Italian bishops should he nominated for each commission, or that international lists be prepared, Cardinal Montini suggested that they should nominate those bishops who were known to be competent in the matters pertaining to each commission, irrespective of their nationality or dignity. It seems that this wise and broadminded suggestion was acted upon by the Italian episcopal conference at this, its first full meeting ever to be held.
Not all the cardinals had welcomed the idea of an ecumenical council. but Cardinal Montini had shown himself at once both enthusiastic and completely in agreement.
The cardinal set an example for the other bishops by writing a weekly letter to his diocese, to be published in a diocesan review, on the progress of the Council. The issues under debate, and their importance for the Church and the world, were explained to the faithful at Milan, who were asked to accompany their interest in the Council with their prayers and sacrifices.
The first document released by any member of the hierarchy after the Pope's announcement of the coming Council was a letter from Cardinal Montini to his diocese, on January 26th. 1959, informing his flock that "a historical event of the first magnitude was about to Lake place .. the greatest council ever to be held in the twenty cen turies of the history of the Church . . ."
During the pre-council period, Cardinal Montini addressed several letters to his diocese on the work of the Council, on the unity of Christians, on the mystery of the Church, on the Council and the world. His pastoral letter for Lent 1962 was devoted to the Council, and has been described, in the Civil:a Cat:011m, as "one of the most significant documents of the Italian episcopate." The cardinal took an active part in the preparation of the Council as member of the central commission and of the technical organizing committee, and was also a member of the secretariat for extra ordinary affairs set up to decide on the admission of new matters to the agenda of the Council.
At the first session Cardinal Montini spoke only twice at the microphone; once. at the fourth General Congregation, on the subject of the liturgy, and again at the thirty-fourth Congregation during the debate on the Church, to suggest that the schema should be re-written according to the aims of the Pope in calling the Council and to deal with the collegiality of the bishops.
Great interest was taken in the sermon delivered by the Cardinal at a Requiem service held after the death of Pope John in the Cathedral at Milan. Pope John, he affirmed, has taught us by his wonderful example how to "do the truth in charity," and to look, not backwards, nor just at himself, but to the horizon which he has opened Lip to the march of the Church and of history."
The cardinal went on to stress the increase of the ecumenical spirit within the Church due to Pope John, and to praise his efforts to recall the various Christian societies to the organic unity of faith and charity in the one, holy and Catholic apostolic Church. and to foster and strengthen peace among peoples. "Can we," he concluded, "depart from the way traced out for us in such masterly fashion by Pope John? We sincerely hope not. It is faithfulness to the great ideals of his pontificate that will perpetuate his memory and his glory, and make us feel that he is still, in his fatherly way. near to us."
That these were not empty words was made quite clear when Paul VI on the day after his election, declared that "the main duty of Our Pontificate will be the continuation of the Vatican Council," and by his sermon at the ceremony of his coronation, in which he reaffirmed most explicitly the aims set for the Council by his predecessor.
He prayed that God might "confirm the Church in her faith, regenerate her moral energy, rejuvenate and adapt her forms to the needs of the time, and so present the Church to our brethren separated from her perfect unity that membership in truth and charity of the Mystical Body of the one Catholic Church may become for them attractive, easy and delightful."
He extended a warm invitation to the Orthodox Eastern Churches, and promised to continue the "dialogue" which Pope John had begun with them, as also that begun with the modern world. This term, so much used in connection with the Council and ecumenical activity. is thus officially recognised in a papal utterance. and stresses the intention of Pope Paul to continue the effort to bring the Church into closer relationship not only with other Christian communities but with the modern world.
Recently the Pope has used the occasion of some of his discourses at Castelgandolfo to make known his mind on the pastoral aims of the Council and on aggiornamento or bringing the Church up to date, and on some of its problems, such as the priesthood of the laity and the vocation of the laity today.
The first three of these matters are treated of in the address given on September 6 to those taking
part in the twelfth Italian week of A ggiornamento pastorale at Or The aggiornatnento of the Church, as forming part of the programme of the Council, regards the relation between the eternal values of Christian truth and their insertion into the dynamic and ever-changing reality of human life It expresses the relative and experimental aspect of the ministry of salvation whose efficacy is conditioned by the cultural, moral and social state of the souls to whom it is directed.
The Pope went on to say that the word "pastoral" admirably summed up the aims of Council as intent on reform and renovation. It did not imply an acceptance of pragmatism or activism, at the expense of the interior life and contemplation, although the practical needs of the apostolate may today require that preference be given, in time and energy, to the exercise of charity towards our neighbour.
Neither did the emphasis on pastoral activity mean that the Church has altered *her judgement on errors widespread in our society, and already condemned by the Church, such as athetistic marxism. "To seek to apply salutary and timely remedies to a lethal and contagious disease does not mean changing one's opinion of it but rather trying to combat it not only in theory but also in practice. It means following up a diagnosis wh a cure, that, is, seeking through charity to save, once the doctrine has been condemned."
In a letter, dated September 12, to Cardinal Tisserant, Dean of the Sacred College, and made public on September 14, Pope Paul praises the initiative of John XXIII for his "daring and providential" initiative in convoking the Council and his wise foresight of the spiritual fruits to be expected of it and of the new ways to be opened up to the action of the Church as a result.
The seventeen new schemata, he recalls, have been prepared in conformity with the predominantly pastoral aims of the Council. These aims require that the certain and unchangeable teaching of the Church, as defined in previous Councils and by the supreme magis• terium of the Church, should now be so presented and expressed that men of our time may find it easier to have access to the truth and salvation brought by Christ. The Council Press Office has been reorganised. under the presidency of Archbishop O'Connor, Rector of the North American College in Rome, with a view to giving more detailed information to journalists on the events of the Council.
The Pope has fulfilled the expectations of many by announcing that some Catholic laymen will he admitted to the sessions of the Council, and also representatives of the more important Catholic international organisations which have been recognised by ecclesiastical law. What exactly is meant by this rather generic statement is not quite clear, and will probably not be known until the invitations have been sent out. Presumably such Catholic lay movements as the J.O.C., the Legion of Mary, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, will tte included as well as official Catholic Action societies and industrial and trade union groups, in order to make the "dialogue with the world" more effective.
To further the dialogue with other religious bodies, the Pope announces that a secretariat will also be set up to foster relations with non-Christian religions. Perhaps it is too soon to speak of making contact with the great religions outride the stream . of divine revelation. and this decision may have in mind principally the Jewish religion. It is known that Jewish religious leaders were disappointed not to have been at least invited to send a representative to the Council. The Pope adds that the number of Observers from non-Catholic Christian Churches will be increased.
The Secretariat of the Council for dealing with extraordinary affairs has been abolished; the presidential council, as already mentioned has been increased by three new members; and four Cardinals have been appointed as Delegates or Moderators of the Council, namely Cardinals Agagianian. Lercaro, Doepfner and Suenens. Their duty will be to direct the work of the Council, and wilt preside in turn at the General Congregations. 'No sessions will be held on Saturday or Sunday.