The Coming Council
Pope John XXIII has just convoked an Ecumenical Council in Rome this year. The exact date has not yet been fixed but the solemn convocation made by the Supreme Head of the Church and published by the press and radio of the whole world has raised interest and expectations among the whole of humanity which shows its significance that everyone – believers and non-believers – attach to this initiative of the Holy Father.
Jocist militants, and through them, all young people and all adult workers must be the first to understand and to make their comrades understand the significance of the coming council. And as far as possible, they must take part in its preparation, and in the influence that it will have on the whole of humanity.
The Church, its mission and its leaders
To understand the importance of the Ecumenical Council, we need to consider and study it in the light of the mission of the Church.
Christ, God made man to save all people, who accomplished his earthly mission in Palestine around 1962 years ago, wanted this mission to continue in a visible and irrefutable way and to extend to the ends of the work and the whole of humanity.
To ensure this continuity and its extension, he himself chose and consecrated his replacements and successors
- who would teach the doctrine
- that would guarantee his presence
- that would unite all those who believe in him in a visible community, the Church
- in brief, that would extend the Kingdom of God on earth as in heaven, in time and in eternity.
These successors of the Redemptive Mission of Christ, designated and consecrated by Himself, are called Apostles: among themselves they form a college united with a leader invested by Christ, and charged with ensuring the Truth, Unity, and Authenticity of the Church, its message and its mission.
Peter and the other apostles themselves designated their own successors, the Pope and the bishops, and transmitted to them their divine powers received from Christ. These authentic successors in the same way transmitted their powers to their successors and replacements, thus guaranteeing the presence of Christ, his grace and his doctrine across the centuries in the whole Church united to them and spread across the whole earth.
From the beginning of its history, the Church has had to face up to errors and divisions that are inevitable in any human endeavour, even though it this endeavour has a divine origin and aid. This is why the Apostles met together at certain times, in solemn assemblies, to declare and to specify together the doctrine of Christ, his presence and his action in the Church and to guarantee union in the faith and in the mission of the Church to all the faithful.
These assemblies common to all the leaders of the Church, charged with determining the ensemble of the doctrine of Christ, have been given the title of Ecumenical Councils because they represent the whole Church, as Christ wanted it, fixing the revealed truths (dogmas), condemning errors (heresies), adopting all the measures necessary to the life and extension of the Church as well as the life of faith and salvation of its members.
These conciliar assemblies initially included very few members from very few countries, given that while the Church was very widely spread it was very difficult to travel.
The coming Ecumenical Council
That which distinguished the coming Ecumenical Council first of all is that it will bring together, with the Pope around 3,000 bishops from every continent, from every race and every colour, because today the Church has extended not only to the whole earth but it has bishops, replacements of Christ, belonging to all the peoples of the world.
What will strike many more in the coming Council will be the complete unity of all the bishops united with the Pope, in Truth and Charity, uniquely preoccupied to proclaim and to specify the doctrine of Christ, the manner of communicating the life of Christ, and to transmit to all people its spirit of holiness, salvation and fraternity.
Among the points that will be most striking for public opinion in the modern world and particularly among workers,
- will be the concerns relating to the place and mission of the simple faithful, the most humble as well as the richest, in the Church of Christ;
- will also be the desire and the means to unite those who believe in Christ, whatever divisions have separated them over the centuries;
- will be the aspiration that is so deep today to unite and enable the collaboration of all those who believe in a God, origin and end of all people as well as of all creation, Father of all the living, inspiration of a spirit of fraternity, justice and mutual aid among all peoples.
It suffices to reflect a little on the significance of these problems to understand the consequences of the coming Council for the future of the Church and humanity.
Most of all we must not believe that all the problems and solutions studied by the Council will be improvised. In fact, for more than two years all the bishops of the world have been consulted on these problems, as well as all the Catholic universities, all religious frameworks, have been invited to make known the problems that interest the Church in the modern world and that all the faithful have been either individually or collectively to make known their aspirations and desires. The YCW has also taken part in this preparatory reflection.
Study commissions have been created with qualified members of the Hierarchy, with competencies and representatives from organisations concerned with all the problems of interest to the Church and to humanity. All these working commissions have worked and are working tirelessly to present these problems and drafts of solutions.
Armed with the fruit of all this work and enlightened by the Spirit of Truth who illuminates the whole Church and in particular those responsible for its doctrine and mission, namely “the Fathers of the Council” will be truly for the awaiting world the voice of the Church that will proclaim the doctrine of salvation brought by Christ, who alone, in this world of transformation, est will forever remain the Way, the Truth and the Life, the only Saviour of the living and the dead.
It will be like a new Pentecost proclaiming the way of union and Peace to a world so scattered and it will open up the perspectives of Eternity going beyond the problems of time.
In this responsibility for the Council, let us understand and take up our own responsibility. Let us be able to say later that the Council of 1962 was a step in our life, life of prayer and apostolate. It has made us become more conscious of our own responsibility in the Church and in the world.
The Council must contribute to making the Church the light of the world and the salt of the earth.
We are this Church: let us be even more in solidarity than ever with the Pope and the Bishops, will all the faithful whoever they are and let them focus in order to become responsible for the world and humanity.
Above all let us not believe that the Council itself will resolve all the problems: it will be up to us, to take inspiration from its lights and its directives in order to better consecrate our lives to all the goals that the Church will have thus better highlighted and which will bring all towards the more perfect Kingdom of Christ on earth and towards the salvation of the whole of humanity.
- Joseph Cardijn
IYCW Leaders Bulletin, February 1962
Joseph Cardijn, The Coming Council (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)