Who was Who at Vatican II : Papal Voices
Blessed Pope John XXIII (1881-1963)
Already in 1933, as Archbishop Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the future John XXIII had said, “Il passato non torna piu. Dunque circonstanze nuove, provvidenze nuove.......’ (‘The past will never return. So new situations require new dispositions.’)
This is echoed in his opening speech to the Council in St Peter’s Rome:
‘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.’
‘... 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.’
(11 Oct 1962, ref. Vatican archives & The Documents of Vatican II, Walter Abbott ed., Geoffrey Chapman, London, 1966)
In May 1963, as he lay dying, the Pope reiterated
‘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.
(Ref. Vatican archive, quoted on cover of John XXIII, Pope of the Council, Peter Hebblethwaite, Geoffrey Chapman 1984)
Pope Paul VI (1897- 1978)
On 23 April 1966 Pope Paul VI addressed the Roman Curia, a body regarded very largely as conservative in the Council:
'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.’
(A Concise Guide to the Documents of the Second Vatican Council, Vol. I, Adrian Hastings, Darton Longman & Todd, London, 1968)
Pope John Paul II (1920-2005)
As Archbishop Karol Wojtyla of Cracow John Paul II attended the Council, although the Polish contribution was not notably prominent. His encyclicals should be read entire. The following quotations demonstrate his esteem for Vatican II:
‘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…’ (Tertio Millenio Adveniente 1994 n.19)
‘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 (ibid., n. 20, original italics)
‘In the common experience of humanity, for all its contradictions, the Spirt of God, who “ blows where he wills” (Jn3:8), 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?’ (Novo Millenio Ineunte 2001 n.56)
‘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.’ (ibid. n.57 original italics)
Pope Benedict XVI (2005 - 2013)
In marking the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of five of the Council decrees and declarations at his Angelus address on October 30, 2005 Pope Benedict reminded his audience that:
all the conciliar documents “are worth mention because they retain their value and reveal a reality that, under certain aspects, has actually increased”.
He invited the faithful “to take up these documents again in your hands” and exhorted them to pray, with the help of the Virgin Mary, that “all believers in Christ [will] keep the spirit of the Second Vatican Council alive to contribute to the foundation of that universal fraternity in the world which responds to the will of God for men and women, created in his image”.
(L’Osservatore Romano, English language edition, 2 November 2005)
The Voices of Council Fathers
Important Fathers who appear in this edition of the website include: Cardinal König, Cardinal Suenens, Archbishop Denis Hurley OMI, Cardinal Bea, Abbot (later Bishop) Christopher Butler OSB, Bishop Remi De Roo, Cardinal Lienart, Cardinal Alfrink, Cardinal Willebrands, Bishop Donal Lamont O.Carm.
Go to Voices of Council Fathers.
The Council Theologians
Most full members of the Council - the Fathers - were fully aware of the significance of the theologians whom they themselves had selected to be their advisers (periti) at the Council.
Go to The Council Theologians.