Pope Announces Changes at Close of Consistory

Author: Pope Paul VI


Pope Paul VI

Toward the close of the Secret Consistory on April 28th, the Holy Father gave the following address in which he announced, among other things, the reform of the Congregation of Rites, the publication of the new "Ordo" of the Mass, and the formation of a Theological Commission.

Today's Consistory is now drawing to a close. But, before We take Our leave of you, We still have some communications to make. Apart from the new Cardinals and the Procedure for the coming canonization of Blessed Julia Billiart, We wish to speak to you now of news of great importance: namely, the promulgation of the new "Ordo Missae", the new Roman Calendar and other liturgical texts; the division of the Sacred Congregation for Rites into two distinct Congregations; and, finally, the institution of the Theological Commission.

As you see, these are matters or the highest interest and of diversity in significance. Though We cannot develop this as it deserves, We nonetheless wish to show how they all arise from the obligation which the Church feels today "to reflect on its own nature, the better to appreciate the divine plan which it is the Church's task to implement. By doing this it will find a more revealing light, new energy and increased joy in the fulfillment of its own mission, and discover better ways of augmenting the effectiveness and fruitfulness of its contacts with the world. For the Church does indeed belong to the world, even though distinguished from it by its own altogether unique characteristics" (A.A.S. 66, 1964, p. 615). The Church accepts this obligation because it is "a sign of, and an instrument for achieving, intimate union with God and the unity of all mankind" as the happy expression of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council has it (Lumen Gentium, 1); and this Apostolic See accepts it with reverent attention, taking these changes in hand with the intention of interpreting the spirit and teaching of the recent Council.

The Church, the doctrine on which formed, one can say, the unifying theme of all the Council's activity, is the principal object of care, solicitude, love and devotion for Us, whom God's will has put in charge of its visible fortunes, as the humble Vicar of its All-High, one invisible Head. The Church, and this Apostolic See, which represents it, do not cease to undergo an internal renewal, and to call to the responsibilities of its government and of its life representatives of all peoples, as is proved by the present increase of the Sacred College, the addition of certain Bishops as Members of the Sacred Roman Congregations, and the institution of the Synod of Bishops; nor does it omit to perfect the instruments and means of sanctification needed for its mission.

In this respect it is to be noted before all else that the Church prays, so drawing strength and nourishment from the priesthood of Christ, which is renewed and prolonged in the ministerial priesthood, and in which the faithful too, though by a different title, have a part. It does this through the divine liturgy, a wondrous complex of "sacred signs" for worshipping God and educating for a true, rich and authentic spirituality. The Church prays, so drawing strength and encouragement from the example of its Saints. As We said in the Encyclical We have already quoted, "the cultivation of Christian perfection must still be regarded as the richest source of the Church's spiritual strength. It is the means, so peculiarly its own, whereby the Church basks in the sunlight of Christ's Spirit. It is the Church's natural and necessary way of expressing its religious and social activity. It is the Church's surest defence and the cause of its constant renewal of strength amid the difficulties of the secular world" (A.A.S. 66, 1964, p. 625).

The Church—let Us repeat on this occasion—lives and breathes by prayer. It knows that when two or three are gathered together in the name of' Christ, He is there in their midst (cf. Mt. 18:20). It knows that the Spirit kindles and brings to blaze its prayer, coming to the aid of its weakness, "for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words" (Rom. 8:26). The Church knows that only in prayer does it find interior strength, constructive peace and the union of hearts in charity, because from its beginning it has been devoting itself with one accord to prayer together with Mary the mother of Jesus (cf. Ac. 1:14). The Church knows that prayer is the bond that binds together, in hidden communionof life and merits, the threefold, ordered, numberless array of its members, in glory, on pilgrimage or in expiation. The Church knows that prayer is the school of Saints, the vocation of its priests, who, like Peter and the Apostles, must devote themselves above all to prayer and to the ministry of the word (cf. Ac. 6:4). It knows that prayer is the chief duty of consecrated souls, the framework of the family, tire might of the innocent, the grace and strength of youth, the hope of declining years, the comfort of the dying.

From this need of prayer, with the Eucharistic sacrifice as its centre, spring, as from an unfailing fountain of clear water, the liturgical arrangements to which We made allusion at the beginning, that is, the new "Ordo Missae". After the long, patient work of simplification of the entrance and offertory rites and of those of the Breaking of the Bread and of the Kiss of Peace, this is the goal towards which the reform of the Mass was moving, the reform that the Council Fathers desired. Its aim is to give ever greater assist to living, conscious participation by the faithful in the Divine Sacrifice. With this aim in mind, the Roman Canon, by means of certain adjustments, has acquired greater unity and ease of recitation. Other formulas for the Canon, other "anaphoras", have, as is well known, been inserted into the new Missal. Thus, you will shortly have in your hands this sacred Altar Book and other liturgical books, revised, after long study, by the "Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia".

As for the new Roman Calendar, you can see that the liturgical year has undergone no radical change, but that provision has been made that the essential elements of each season should emphasize more clearly the central importance of the paschal mystery of Christ. The Calendar has also confirmed, as far as possible, the use of the "dies natalis" for the celebration of each Saint, choosing those whose historical and representative importance is greatest for the whole Church, and leaving the others, who are less well known, to local veneration, after a careful review of the historical grounds of their lives and feast days. In this way an attempt has been made to express the universality in time and space of sanctity in the Church, and the vocation to holiness of all peoples and all social classes, in accordance with the true teaching of the Council Constitution Lumen Gentium (39-42).We are certain that all the priests and faithful will not only greet these new modifications with joy, after so much expectation but will also faithfully follow the ritual rules, genuinely living the essential condition of "lex orandi, lex credendi", as an expressionof unity of faith, charity and discipline. Prayer thus stands out in the Church's life as its invincible strength.

The Church, especially today, has no "power" in the political and human sense. It has no autocratic tendencies, nor does it wish to establish, still less impose, an exterior dominion. As Pius XII emphasized at the moment when, by a gesture then prophetic and unheard-of, he wished to extend membership of the Sacred College to all nationalities, it is not the Church's business "to include, and as it were embrace, like a gigantic world Empire, the whole of human society. This conception of the Church, as an earthly empire with world-wide domination, is fundamentally false; at no time in history has this been true and in accordance with reality" (Address for the giving of the Biretta to the new Cardinals, 20February 1946; Discorsi e Radiomessaggi VII, p. 387). No,the Church never had, and does not now have, these pretensions: in carrying out its tasks, which its Divine Founder entrusted to it, the Church, as was emphasized by the Council's Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, "inspired by no earthly ambition seeks but a solitary goal: to carry forward the work of Christ Himself under the lead of the befriending Spirit. And Christ entered this world to give witness to the truth, to rescue and not to sit in judgment, to serve and not to be served" (Gaudium etSpes, 3).

The Church is the People of God, prefigured in the Old Covenantand in the fulness of time (cf. Eph. 1: 10) gathered together from all the nations of the earth through the sacrifice of Christ, who gave himself "not for (his) nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad" (cf. Jn. 11:52). Its policy is the sanctification of souls; its goal is the Kingdom of' Heaven, towards which it is journeying, having here no lasting city (cf. Heb. 13:14); and, in this world, its only task is to establish in the world the Kingdom of truth, that truth to which Christ gave witness before the earthly power (cf. Jn. 18:37),and which it continues to proclaim, being meek as He was, defenceless as He was, persecuted as He was. Its mission, to which it has striven to remain faithful through the centuries, is "to unite all things in Christ" (Eph. 1:10), a mission it fulfils not by force but by persuasion, not by verbiage but by charity, not by the support of the powerful but with the collaboration of all its sons, indeed of all men of good will, by untiring activity, by establishing relationships on an international scale, by offering her two-thousand-year old experience to men of the present time, which is so uneasy and torn to pieces, in order to help them overcome their crises and find their balance again, but, before all else and above increase, for He is the Father of lights, from whom come down every good endowment and every perfect gift (cf. James 1:17).

Into this grand plan, designed to make ever easier the Church's work in following and favouring the prayer of its children, there fits the decision which We have taken to divide the Sacred Congregation of Rites into two distinct Congregations, each with its own independent competence, one for Divine Worship, the other for the Causes of the Saints. We have in fact thought it suitable that there should be a central organization dedicated exclusively to stimulating and watching over the life of the Ecclesia orans in the world, after the awakening which the Council has givento liturgical life in all fields, while another organization, of specifically historical character, should dedicate itself entirely to the study of the Causes of the Saints, in the manifold complexities which they present. We have listened to the reasons that counsel such a division, and We shall therefore, with a special Apostolic Constitution, promulgate the norms concerning the two new Congregations, to outline their nature, list those composing them, and define their tasks.

Finally, We have another important measure to announce to you: the institution of the Theological Commission. Its members will shortly be named, and We shall greet them with great esteem and with heartfelt confidence.

As you well know, as things stand today, it is necessary to make provision for the increase in theological studies and research, especially in reference to the new questions posed by scientific development and the tendencies of modern mentality to the right understanding and better exposition of Catholic doctrine. The Apostolic See follows this state of affairs with the closest attention, and, in order to meet the needs of present times in that field, We have among other things taken steps, in accordance with the guidelines of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, to make the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith correspond more closely to its high and serious task. Apart from the reform effected by the Motu Proprio "Integrae Servandae", We have also accepted the wish expressed by the First Synod of Bishops, namely, that, attached to that Congregation, there should be set up a group of scholars, outstanding experts in theological doctrine and research and faithful to the true doctrine of the teaching Church. We, therefore, in all this time have carried out wide consultation, as was required by the seriousness of the question, and it is this, and nothing else, that has delayed to bringing to completion of the plan. Now it becomes reality. Side by side with the theologians, whose Council the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith uses in the study of current questions, and to whom we express Our satisfaction at the competence, dedication and unselfishness which they place at the disposalof this highly important Congregation, there will now be added this new Commission, so that the Holy See will be able to make use of the special contribution of expert theologians, selected from various parts of the world, and thus profit from wider exchanges and more varied experiences, always for the deepening and protection of the faith, that is, for the deepening and protection of genuine revealed truth, and, as a consequence, also of spiritual life of all the Orders of the Holy Church.

This, Venerable Brothers, is what We wished to communicate to you in the solemn circumstances of this Consistory. Continue to assist us with your wisdom, and your experience, in performing Our burdensome service. Help Us especially in prayer, which unites us all in Christ. For Our part We are happy to assure you of Our continual remembrance, Our most grateful benevolence, Our most sincere satisfaction, while, as a pledge of Heaven's abundant favours on your work, dedicated entirely to the Church's welfare, We bestow on you from Our heart the Apostolic Benediction.  

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
8 May 1969, page 1

L'Osservatore Romano is the newspaper of the Holy See.
The Weekly Edition in English is published for the US by:

The Cathedral Foundation
L'Osservatore Romano English Edition
320 Cathedral St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
Subscriptions: (410) 547-5315
Fax: (410) 332-1069