Today is an important day. The opening of the Second Vatican Council occurred on this day 50 years ago. Below is a round-up of pictures and posts celebrating this landmark on the web.
In 1962, Pope John XXIII made a powerful speech to the thousands of Bishops who were in attendance to open the council, and you can read the speech in its entirety at Vox-Nova thanks to Mark Gordon. It opens this way:
“Mother Church rejoices that, by the singular gift of Divine Providence, the longed-for day has finally dawned when — under the auspices of the virgin Mother of God, whose maternal dignity is commemorated on this feast — the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council is being solemnly opened here beside St. Peter’s tomb.”
Later in the speech, he suggested that the council would serve to remove fear and turn our minds to heavenly things (emphasis mine in the quotes below):
“Illuminated by the light of this Council, the Church — we confidently trust — will become greater in spiritual riches and gaining the strength of new energies therefrom, she will look to the future without fear. In fact, by bringing herself up to date where required, and by the wise organization of mutual co-operation, the Church will make men, families, and peoples really turn their minds to heavenly things.”
In 2012, Pope Benedict celebrated the occasion today with a mass alongside those dozen or so bishops who attended Vatican II and remain alive and with us today!
Pope Benedict’s homily can be found in full at Whispers In The Loggia blog, but it begins:
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear brothers and sisters!
Today, fifty years from the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, we begin with great joy the Year of Faith. I am delighted to greet all of you, particularly His Holiness Bartholomaois I, Patriarch of Constantinople, and His Grace Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. A special greeting goes to the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches, and to the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences. In order to evoke the Council, which some present had the grace to experience for themselves – and I greet them with particular affection – this celebration has been enriched by several special signs: the opening procession, intended to recall the memorable one of the Council Fathers when they entered this Basilica; the enthronement of a copy of the Book of the Gospels used at the Council; the consignment of the seven final Messages of the Council, and of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I will do before the final blessing. These signs help us not only to remember, they also offer us the possibility of going beyond commemorating. They invite us to enter more deeply into the spiritual movement which characterized Vatican II, to make it ours and to develop it according to its true meaning. And its true meaning was and remains faith in Christ, the apostolic faith, animated by the inner desire to communicate Christ to individuals and all people, in the Church’s pilgrimage along the pathways of history.
More images and links:
(click on the pictures to be taken to the website from which they originated)
Finally, I will end with another famous passage from John XXIII’s opening speech in which he disagrees with the “prophets of gloom” and exhibits the sanctity of hope and trust in divine providence which were so crucial in the calling and success of this council (emphasis mine):
“In the daily exercise of our pastoral office, we sometimes have to listen, much to our regret, to voices of persons who, though burning with zeal, are not endowed with too much sense of discretion or measure. In these modern times they can see nothing but prevarication and ruin. They say that our era, in comparison with past eras, is getting worse, and they behave as though they had learned nothing from history, which is, none the less, the teacher of life. They behave as though at the time of former Councils everything was a full triumph for the Christian idea and life and for proper religious liberty.
We feel we must disagree with those prophets of gloom, who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand.
In the present order of things, Divine Providence is leading us to a new order of human relations which, by men’s own efforts and even beyond their very expectations, are directed toward the fulfilment of God’s superior and inscrutable designs. And everything, even human differences, leads to the greater good of the Church.”