FIRST steps towards the organising of the Ecumenical Council which will bring Bishops from all over the world to Rome. are already being taken. Informed quarters believe that the Papal Bull, formally summoning the Council. will be issued by Easter.
Meanwhile. comments, mainly favourable, are coming from Christian leaders all over the world and Cardinal Montini. Archbishop of Milan, and for many years Substitute Secretary of State to Pope Pius Xli, has forecast that the forthcoming Council will he "the greatest which the Church has ever celebrated in its 20 centuries of history."
Reports that other communions are likely to be invited to explore the possibility of reunion have, in particular. brought a quick and sympathetic reaction from Anglican circles.
OF particular interest is that of the "Church Times," which makes the summoning of the Council its main front page news story.
"The summoning by the Pope of his Ecumenical Council," it said "has been welcomed by dignitaries of the Church of England, who have as their special care the fostering of Christian unity."
It reported that the matter had been discussed at a meeting of Anglican leaders within 48 hours of the news being received in Britain. Afterwards the Bishop of Guildford, who is chairman of the Anglicans' Council for Ecumenical Co-operation, told the "Church Times": " If observers should be invited, we ought certainly to accept the invitation. The call for unity both from the Vatican and the Ecumenical Patriarch is a sign of the movement and desire for unity throughout Christendom, and it nuist be regarded as being something which is hopeful for the future."
Editorially, the "Church Times" commented: " the Pope's known interests suggest that the main object of the Council will be to explore the possibility of closer relations between Rome and the great Orthodox Churches of the East.
"It is far too early to jump to any definite conclusions. hut any
thing which may contribute to a healing of any of the division of Christendom will be welcomed by men of goodwill everywhere.
THE "Church of England News' paper," which is normally suspicious of all things Catholic. also commented editorially on the news. It began by welcoming the Pope's initiative in summoning the Council. "It comes at a moment," it said. "which promises some chance of success."
"It is reported," it continued, "that some of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches are perturbed by the role played by the Patriarchate of Moscow vis-a-vis the Soviet Government, and would welcome closer ties with Rome."
But it went on to warn that : "At the same time no great hopes can he held out." Rather anxiously it asked: "What happens now if the schism between Rome and Orthodoxy is healed? Will Anglicans still ,be regarded as outside the fold?"
THE noncomformist " British Weekly" also welcomed " every real step towards unity ", but, like the "Church of England Newspaper," went on to strike a discordant note. " Protestants are too interested in unity," it said in an editorial leader, " nlot to be willing to ' observe' or talk about it. Beyond that Protestants can not and will not yet go."
FRENCH Protestants have
have received the Pope's decision with great interest. A spokesman for the Federation of French Protestants declared that the General Council of the Federation would advise during the coming week on the attitude to be taken towards this papal initiative,
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THE Swedish Protestant Bishop
Bogicrtz called the Pope's step a first-class sensation. From this there would perhaps grow a milestone in the history of the Church.
"THE summoning of a Council
A at this moment is sensational," declared Provost Hans Asmussen of Heidelberg, who is one of the most famous German Lutherans who have for several years been labouring to create spiritual suppositions for a reunification in belief.
"It answers the longing, prayers. and hopes of numberless Christians of all confessions. Even though it is not yet known whether we Evangelicals will play a part there and what that could be. everyone knows that the unity of Christendom is concerned.
L'Osservatare Romano, the Vatican newspaper, denounced in a front-page editorial those who have tried to give a political interpretation to the ecumenical council by Pope John.
Count Dalla Torre. editor-inchief, called "arotesque" claims that the general council of the Church was convoked by the Pontiff to consider readjustments of religious and political power, or that the Pope's call to unity was issued because of the fear of Cotnm un ism.
APANEL. discussion programme on Vatican Radio agreed that the council "will probably be comparable in its effect on Church history to the famed Council of Trent."
Taking part in the discussion were the Dominican author Fr. Raimondo Spiazzi, Church historian, Mgr. Michele Maccarone. Oriental expert Fr. Manuel Condal and Count Rovere di Castiglione whose specialty is Protestant churches.