Pope John launches the preparatory commissions

On 5 June 1960, Pope John published a Motu Proprio entitled Superno Dei creating ten specialised commissions to work on preparing for the holding of Vatican II under the supervision of a Central Commission.

The proposed commissions were:

a) Theological Commission: To deal with issues relating to the Scriptures, sacred tradition, and the faith;

b) Commission for the Bishops and diocesan Governance

c) Commission on formation of the clergy and the Christian people;

d) Commission on religious principles;

e) Commission on the Sacraments;

f)  Commission on the Liturgy;

g) Commission on studies and seminaries;

h) Commission on the Eastern Churches;

i) Commission on mission;

i) Commission on the Apostolate of the Laity.

This tenth commission on lay apostolate was to deal with all issues relating to “Catholic Action as well as religious and social action.”

The Antepreparatory Commission under Archbishop Tardini had actually proposed six preparatory commissions. Now, however, Pope John had finally fixed the number at ten, including a commission on lay apostolate that the pope had decided upon himself, describing it as a “real innovation.”

Indeed, it was the first time that an Ecumenical Council had specifically addressed the issue of the apostolate of the laity.

According to Commission secretary, Mgr Achille Glorieux, a former JOC chaplain from Lille, France, this decision exercised “a great influence on the whole Council, contributing to highlight the place of lay people in the Church and the importance of their role in the apostolic mission of the Church.”

Did Cardijn himself have any particular influence on the pope in coming to this decision?

Although we have no documentation to clarify this point, it is significant that Cardijn had raised the issue of “the confusion” over lay apostolate issues in his audience with the pope less than three months earlier.

In any event, it is clear that the issue of lay apostolate was also a personal preoccupation of John himself.

SOURCES

Pope John XXIII, Superno Dei (Vatican website)