New Pentecost

Author: Pope John XXIII


Bl. John XXIII

Excerpts from Pope John XXIII's Opening Address to the Council

Bl. John XXIII's opening address to the Vatican Council was remarkable for two points: the optimism about the work of the Council and the careful distinction he made between the deposit of faith and the way it should be presented to the modern world.

Pope John warned about the temptation to give way to the prophets of doom and not to make room for the Spirit of truth and love who will lead the Church into all truth.

Pope John wanted the Council to offer to the modern world a synthesis that would be faithful to the deposit of faith and draw from it the answers to the burning questions of the modern world. In the paragraphs below taken from his opening taken from his opening address to the Council Fathers, he made the distinction between the substance of the ancient deposit of faith and the way such doctrine is presented. The paragraphs 5 and 6 have been retranslated from the Latin so that Pope John’s method may appear with clarity. "Est enim aliud ipsum depositum Fidei, seu veritates, quae veneranda doctrina nostra continentur, aliud modus, quo eaedem enuntiantur, eodem tamen sensu, eademque sententia. Huic quippe modo plurimum tribuendum erit et patienter, si opus fuerit, in eo elaborandum; scilicet eae inducendae rationes res exponendi, quae cum magisterio, cuius indoles praesertim pastoralis est, magis congruant" (AAS, 1962, a. 54, series III, vol. IV, pp. 791-792).


1. The Lord has said: "Seek first the kingdom of God and his justice" (Mt 6,33).The word "first" expresses the direction in which our thoughts and energies must move. We must not, however, neglect the other words of this exhortation of our Lord, namely: "And all these things shall be given you besides" (ibid.). In reality, there always have been in the Church, and there are still today, those who, while seeking the practice of evangelical perfection with all their might, do not fail to make themselves useful to society. Indeed, it is from their constant example of life and their charitable undertakings that all that is highest and noblest in human society takes its strength and growth.

In order, however, that this doctrine may influence the numerous fields of human activity, with reference to individuals, to families, and to social life, it is necessary first of all that the Church should never depart from the sacred patrimony of truth received from the Fathers. But at the same time she must ever look to the present, to the new conditions and new forms of life introduced into the modern world, which have opened new avenues to the Catholic apostolate.

2. For this reason, the Church has not watched inertly the marvellous progress of the discoveries of human genius, and has not been backward inevaluating themrightly. But, while following these developments, she does not neglect to admonish men so that, over and above sense-perceived things—they may raise their eyes to God, the Source of all wisdom and all beauty. And may they never forget the most serious command: "The Lord thy God shall thou worship, and Him only shall thou serve" (Mt 4,10; Lk 4,8), so that it may happen that the fleeting fascination of visible things should impede true progress.

3. The manner in which sacred doctrine is spread, this having been established, it becomes clear how much is expected from the Council in regard to doctrine. That is, the Twenty-first Ecumenical Council, which will draw upon the effective and important help of persons who are experts in juridical, liturgical, apostolic, and administrative matters, wishes to transmit the doctrine, pure and integral, without any attenuation or distortion, which throughout twenty centuries, notwithstanding difficulties and contrasts, has become the common patrimony of men. It is a patrimony not well received by all, but always a rich treasure available to men of good will.

4. Our duty is not just to guard this precious treasure, as if we were concerned only with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to the work which our era demands of us, pursuing thus the path which the Church has followed for twenty centuries.
(Documents of Vatican II, edited by Walter Abbott, S.J.)

5. Our task, our primary goal, is not a discussion of any particular articles of the fundamental doctrine of the Church, nor that we repeat at greater length what has been repeatedly taught by the Fathers and by ancient and modern theologians, and which we think to be well known and familiar to all.

6.For this a Council was not necessary. But at the present time what is needed is that the entire Christian teaching with no part omitted, be accepted by all in our time with fresh zeal, with serene and tranquil minds, as it still shines forth in the Acts of the Council of Trent and First Vatican Council. It is necessary that as all sincere cultivators of the Christian, Catholic, and apostolic reality ardently desire that the same doctrine be more fully and deeply understood that consciences be more deeply imbued and formed by it; it is necessary that such certain and immutable doctrine, to which we owe the obedience of faith, be scrutinized and expounded with the method that our times require. One thing is the deposit of faith and the truths contained in our venerable doctrine, another thing is the way they are announced, with the same meaning and the same content. Much attention will be paid to this manner and much patience, when needed, in elaborating it; those methods of expounding doctrine will be brought forward, which are more in accord with the magisterium which is principally pastoral in its character. (retranslated from the original Latin).  

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
6 June 2001, page 9

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