Bishops´ Pastoral Letter
on the Ecumenical Council
To the Clergy and Faithful of the Philippines, Peace in Our Lord!
It has not escaped your attention that our Holy Mother the Church will on October 11, 1962 hold an Ecumenical Council. The press and other media of information of the Philippines have also reported this important decision to its readers, so that there are few Catholics who do not know that it is to take place.
On January 25, 1959, at the conclusion of the Church Unity Octave, Our Holy Father Pope John XXIII, made the announcement.
In an Ecumenical Council, the successor of St. Peter and the successors of the Apostles, together with certain other prelates of the Church, meet to discuss and decide matters of faith, morals and discipline of grave importance. Ecumenical Councils are the highest and most solemn activity of the teaching office of the Church. They have been of rather rare occurence in her history; the future Council will be the twenty-first.
The Holy Father has declared the purpose and theme of the Council to be strengthening of faith, the renewal of morals, the adaptation of Church law to the changed conditions of the times, and the return of our separated brethren to unity. Among these objectives the last has received the great emphasis: Church unity, the fulfillment of Christ’s prayer that there may be one flock and one shepherd.
The mere convening of the Council, the gathering of so many prelates from all races, lands and nations of the world, working harmoniously for the one cause of Christ, will in itself be a great grace and an example of unity for those who, though they love Christ, for one reason or another strive to serve Him outside the Catholic Church and apart from obedience to the successor of St. Peter.
The number of Bishops and prelates in attendance will be large, larger far than at any previous Council in the history of the Church. Nevertheless, it would be a great mistake to think that the Council is only their concern. It is the concern of the whole Church of Christ, and of the humblest member of His flock.
Therefore the faithful should be intensely interested in the proceedings, problems and outcome of the Council. They should imitate in spirit the people of Ephesus, who, in the year 431, when a Council was being held in that city, waited outside the meeting place and, at the conclusion of the Council, escorted the Fathers to their homes in solemn and triumphal procession. The faithful of our day, who love Christ and His Church, and who know how important for the welfare of the Church will be the decisions of this council, will not be outdone by those early Christians in their interest and loyal spiritual cooperation.
It is this last which is most important of all. The work of the Council will be under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless its conclusions will be arrived at by ordinary supernatural and natural means. The fruits of the Council will in general be in proportion to the efforts of the Fathers and of the whole Catholic Church, clergy and laity.
At Rome many committees have been set up and have been working for many months on a great mass of materials. From all parts of the world have come suggestions regarding questions to be discussed at the Council. Men of special ability have been preparing these materials for the expeditious consideration and decision of the Fathers of the Council. It is clear therefore that human means are not being neglected to assure the success of the deliberations.
But these, though important, are less important than supernatural means. The light of the Holy Spirit must illumine the work of the committees before the Council, and of the Fathers in their deliberations and decisions within the Council. It is God’s ordinary way of dealing with men, even in such highly spiritual activities as an Ecumenical Council, to extend the assistance of His grace in answer to prayer. Here is the part that each Catholic must play in the Council. Through his prayers he can sit with the Fathers and influence the decisions to greater fruitfulness, for the glory of God, for the good of souls, and especially for the union of all men under the Kingship of Christ, with His vicar on earth, and within the fold of the Catholic Church.
In this connection we feel we cannot do better than recall the following words of His Holiness Pope John XXIII:
• “Finally, We make this request to each of the Faithful and to the whole Christian people that, focusing all their attention on the Council, they pour forth abundant prayers to Almighty God that He would benignly watch over this great undertaking so soon to take place and, confirming it with His power, that He grant that it takes place in a worthy manner. Let these universal prayers steadily pour forth from faith, as from a living fountain. Let them be accompanied by voluntary mortification that they may be more acceptable to God and the more efficacious. Likewise, let them be enriched with a generous striving for the Christian life, from which it may be concluded that all are eager to carry out the precepts and the decrees which will be established by the Council itself. “With these Our exhortations, We plead with Our most beloved sons in the clergy everywhere and with all the faithful of every condition. In a special manner, however, we make an appeal to children, whose innocence and the value of whose prayers are known to all, and also the sick and afflicted, since we are convinced that their sufferings and their life –so like a victim because of the cross of Christ — are converted into a strong plea for salvation and into a source of a more holy life for the universal church. Finally, We earnestly request all those who are separated from the Catholic Church to make supplication to God; for the Council will redound too to their benefit.”
The spectacle of so many prelates in session in the Council will turn our eyes towards the Church itself, which God guides by such powerful instruments, and has guided through almost twenty centuries in purity of faith and morals. It will remind us how, in stormy times and peaceful, the teaching office of the Church has always pointed out to her children the true way of Christ. We shall in consequence be moved to great gratitude for the gift of faith, which brings us within the guidance of this constant beacon, and shall be fired with zeal to carry its light to others, who are still separated from the true way.
Thus one fruit of the Council will be an intensifying of the spiritual lives of Catholics, while they thus realize their own personal share in the Council are invited to more fervent prayer, livelier faith and a warmer zeal.
We turn to our parish priest, and to other priests, especially to those in charge of Catholic institutions and organizations, urging them to show themselves leaders in this campaign of prayer and study. Let them frequently lead those under their charge in supplication for the success of the Council. Let sermons and lectures be given which will make the work of the Council more intelligible to the faithful. Let study clubs be organized, symposia be conducted and discussions be promoted for the same purpose.
And we direct this exhortation not only to priests but to all who in one way or another are in a position to promote the participation of Catholics in the proceedings of the Council. Religious and others in charge of schools will be especially well placed for this apostolate. Catholic writers can explain the work of the Council in the religious and secular press. And in general everything proper should be done to prepare the souls of men to derive the greatest possible benefit from this sacred event both during its sessions and afterward in the fitting reception and implementation of the results of the Council’s proceedings.
May the Holy Spirit who has moved our Holy Father to summon the Council, give us in the Philippines the grace to profit by it and realize in our lives its holy directives.
Given in Manila this 9th day of February in the year of Our Lord 1962.
For the Catholic Hierarchy of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+JULIO R. ROSALES, D.D.
Archbishop of Cebu
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines
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Bishops´ Pastoral Letter on the Ecumenical Council