Addressed relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Modern World
Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, aka Vatican II
Addressed relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Modern World
The greatest concern of the ecumenical Council is that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more effectively. That doctrine embraces the whole of man, body and soul. And since man is a pilgrim on this earth, it commands him to move steadily towards heaven... it is necessary that the Church should never depart from the sacred treasure of the truth inherited from the fathers. But at the same time, she must ever look to the present, to the new conditions and new forms of life in the modern world, which have opened new avenues to the Catholic apostolate... The substance of the ancient doctrine of the Deposit of Faith is one thing, but the way in which it is presented is another... May you who are present respond to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit so that the work of all will correspond most exactly to the expectations and needs of the many people of the modern world. - Pope John XXIII
Today more than ever, we are called to serve mankind as such, and not merely Catholics; to defend above all and everywhere, the rights of the human person and not merely those of the Catholic Church... It is not that the Gospel has changed: it is that we have begun to understand it better... the moment has come to discern the signs of the times, to seize the opportunity and to look far ahead. - Pope John XXIII
Whatever were our opinions about the Council?s various doctrines before its conclusions were promulgated, today our adherence to the decisions of the Council must be wholehearted and without reserve? The council was something very new; not all were prepared to understand and accept it. But now the conciliar doctrines must be seen as belonging to the magisterium of the Church and, indeed be attributed to the breath of the Holy Spirit. - Pope Paul VI
This Church (i.e. the unique Church of Christ), constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in union with that successor, although many elements of sanctification and of truth can be found outside of her visible structure. These elements, however, as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, possess an inner dynamism toward Catholic unity.
No Council [Vatican II] has ever spoken so clearly about Christian Unity, about dialogue with non-Christian religions… about the dignity of each person’s conscience, about the principle of religious liberty, about the different cultural traditions within which the Church carries out her missionary mandate…
‘The best preparation for the new millennium, therefore, can only be expressed in a renewed commitment to apply, as faithfully as possible, the teachings of Vatican II to the life of every individual and of the whole Church...
In the common experience of humanity, for all its contradictions, the Spirt of God, who “ blows where he wills”, not infrequently reveals signs of his presence which help Christ’s followers to understand more deeply the message which they bear. Was it not with this humble and trust-filled openness that the Second Vatican Council sought to read the signs of the times?...
What a treasure there is, dear brothers and sisters, in the guidelines offered to us by the Second Vatican Council… I feel more than ever in duty bound to point to the Council as the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century’ there we find a sure compass by which to take our bearings in the century now beginning.
Whatever were our opinions about the Council’s various doctrines before its conclusions were promulgated, today our adherence to the decisions of the Council must be wholehearted and without reserve;….
…The council was something very new; not all were prepared to understand and accept it. But now the conciliar doctrines must be seen as belonging to the magisterium of the Church and, indeed be attributed to the breath of the Holy Spirit.
Venerable Brothers, Mother Church rejoices that by the singular gift of Divine Providence, the long awaited day has finally dawned. Here at St Peter’s tomb, under the auspices of the Virgin Mother of God... the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council is solemnly opened...
‘The greatest concern of the ecumenical Council is that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more effectively. That doctrine embraces the whole of man, body and soul. And since man is a pilgrim on this earth, it commands him to move steadily towards heaven... it is necessary that the Church should never depart from the sacred treasure of the truth inherited from the fathers. But at the same time, she must ever look to the present, to the new conditions and new forms of life in the modern world, which have opened new avenues to the Catholic apostolate...
‘The substance of the ancient doctrine of the Deposit of Faith is one thing, but the way in which it is presented is another.
Hence, it is true to say that the citizens of earth and heaven are united in the celebration of this Council. The role of the saints in heaven is to supervise our labors; the role of the faithful on earth, to offer concerted prayer to God; your role, to show prompt obedience to the supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit and to do your utmost to answer the needs and expectations of every nation on earth. To do this you will need serenity of mind, a spirit of brotherly concord, moderation in your proposals, dignity in discussion, and wisdom in deliberation.
God grant that your zeal and your labors may abundantly fulfill these aspirations. The eyes of the world are upon you; and all its hopes.
There was no need to call a council merely to hold discussions of that nature. What is needed at the present time is a new enthusiasm, a new joy and serenity of mind in the unreserved acceptance by all of the entire Christian faith, without forfeiting that accuracy and precision in its presentation which characterized the proceedings of the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council. What is needed, and what everyone imbued with a truly Christian, Catholic and apostolic spirit craves today, is that this doctrine shall be more widely known, more deeply understood, and more penetrating in its effects on men's moral lives. What is needed is that this certain and immutable doctrine, to which the faithful owe obedience, be studied afresh and reformulated in contemporary terms. For this deposit of faith, or truths which are contained in our time-honored teaching is one thing; the manner in which these truths are set forth (with their meaning preserved intact) is something else.
This, then, is what will require our careful, and perhaps too our patient, consideration. We must work out ways and means of expounding these truths in a manner more consistent with a predominantly pastoral view of the Church's teaching office.
It demonstrates how we must conduct this mortal life of ours. If we are to achieve God's purpose in our regard we have a twofold obligation: as citizens of earth, and as citizens of heaven. That is to say, all men without exception, both individually and in society, have a life-long obligation to strive after heavenly values through the right use of the things of this earth. These temporal goods must be used in such a way as not to jeopardize eternal happiness.
As a simple example of what We mean, consider the extremely critical problems which exist today in the political and economic spheres. Men are so worried by these things that they give scant thought to those religious concerns, which are the province of the Church's teaching authority. All this is evil, and we are right to condemn it. But this new state of affairs has at least one undeniable advantage: it has eliminated the innumerable obstacles erected by worldly men to impede the Church's freedom of action. We have only to take a cursory glance through the annals of the Church to realize that even those ecumenical councils which are recorded there in letters of gold, were celebrated in the midst of serious difficulties and most distressing circumstances, through the unwarranted intervention of the civil authority. Such intervention was sometimes dictated by a sincere intention on the part of the secular princes to protect the Church's interests, but more often than not their motives were purely political and selfish, and the resultant situation was fraught with spiritual disadvantage and danger.
For We have every confidence that the Church, in the light of this Council, will gain in spiritual riches. New sources of energy will be opened to her, enabling her to face the future without fear. By introducing timely changes and a prudent system of mutual cooperation, We intend that the Church shall really succeed in bringing men, families and nations to the appreciation of supernatural values.
Certain it is that the critical issues, the thorny problems that wait upon men's solution, have remained the same for almost twenty centuries. And why? Because the whole of history and of life hinges on the person of Jesus Christ. Either men anchor themselves on Him and His Church, and thus enjoy the blessings of light and joy, right order and peace; or they live their lives apart from Him; many positively oppose Him, and deliberately exclude themselves from the Church. The result can only be confusion in their lives, bitterness in their relations with one another, and the savage threat of war.
The Catholic Church rejects nothing which is true and holy in these religions… In Hinduism, men probe the mystery of God and express it with a rich fund of myths, and a penetrating philosophy… In the various forms of Buddhism the basic inadequacy of this changing world is recognized and men are taught with confident application how they can achieve a state of complete liberation… The Church also regards with esteem the Muslims who worship the one, subsistent, merciful and almighty God… They venerate Jesus as a prophet… Given the great spiritual heritage common to Christians and Jews, it is the wish of this sacred Council to foster and recommend a mutual knowledge and esteem.