Posted April 28, 2004
Book: Voices from the Council
Edited by Michael R. Prendergast and M.D. Ridge
Pastoral Press, Portland, OR, pp.328
Excerpt from Jacket:
They were architects of sweeping change in the church. Of the thousands who participated in the church’s most important event of the last century, few are still alive. What do they think about it now, forty years later? Voices from the Council offers a rare and personal perspective on the Second Vatican Council, drawing from the stories of the men – and women – who were there.
Voices from the Council contains exclusive interviews and reflections with more than 30 of the most prominent cardinals, bishops and theologians of our era, as well as journalists and ecumenical observers, including:
Francis Cardinal Arinze
Lucien Deiss, CSSp
Joseph Gelineau, S.J.
Pierre-Marie Gy, OP
Raymond G. Hunthausen
Denis Eugene Hurley, OMI
Robert Blair Kaiser
William Cardinal Keeler
Columba Kelly, OSB
Franz Cardinal Konig
Irving R. Levine
Dr. Martin Marty
Fredrick R. McManus
Brother Roger of Taize
Remi Joseph De Roo
Edward Schillebeeckx, OP
Mary Luke Tobin, SL
Excerpt from the Book:
What, in your view (Cardinal Franz Konig), is the most important teaching that came out of the Council?
I would mention at least two important teachings. The first is the Council’s support for ecumenism. Pope John’s decision to set up the Secretariat for Christian Unity and to invite non-Christian observers to the Council was pathbreaking. By the end of the Council there must have been close to one hundred observers who joined in the discussion, rectified misunderstandings and brought in new aspects which found their way into the Council documents. This was already ecumenism at work.
And then there is the Council’s emphasis on the importance of the lay apostolate. Vatican II stated clearly that the church is one communion. All the baptized are the pilgrim people of God and all share the responsibility for the church.
Whom do you feel was the most significant figure at the Council?
First of all, the two popes — John XXIII and Paul VI. Pope John XXIII had the courage to take that initial, path-breaking step of calling and preparing a world Council; and Paul VI was brave enough to see it through. Both popes were central figures. I would also say that the bishops from Eastern Europe, which was at that time behind the Iron Curtain, played an important role, and also Cardinal [Leo Joseph] Suenens.[1904-1996], who was in close contact with Paul VI and had a considerable influence on the decrees on the church. Oscar Cullman a Lutheran observer, was also an outstanding figure.
What was the most important statement from the Council and why?
I think for me — but certainly not for everyone — the most important statement is the beginning of the Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis redintegratio.
The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council. Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only. However, many Christian communions present themselves to people as the true inheritance of Jesus Christ; all indeed profess to be followers of the Lord but they differ in outlook and go their different ways, as if Christ himself were divided. Certainly such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the sacred cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature.
What has happened that you never imagined would happen?
I never imagined that, in his encyclical letter Ut Unum Sint (1995), Pope John Paul II would envisage a revised way of practicing the primacy and, without sacrificing the essentials of the papal mission, would acknowledge the need to make possible a new ecumenical orientation. I recall his invitation in Ut Unum Sint:
Could not the real but imperfect communion existing between us persuade church leaders and their theologians to engage with me in a patient and fraternal dialogue on this subject, in which, leaving useless controversies behind, we could listen to one another, keeping before us only the will of Christ for his church and allowing ourselves to be deeply moved by his plea ‘that they may all be one . . . so that the world may believe that you have sent me’ (John 17:21)?