At its Third General Congregation on 20 October 1962, the Council Fathers adopted a Message to the World, as originally suggested earlier by MD Chenu.
Chenu’s draft text, which he had discussed with his confrere, Yves Congar, was viewed by conciliar bishops as based too much on ‘natural morality.’
“[T]his was normal terrain for dialogue with non-believers, but it had no chance of being accepted by a Council,” according to Archbishop Emile Guerry.
“The draft made no mention of the Saviour. It therefore had to be discarded.”
The draft text was reworked by Cardinal Liénart, Guerry, Archbishop Garrone of Toulouse and Lyon Auxiliary Bishop Alfred Ancel, all jocist bishops.
Chenu was not satisfied, criticising its “division between nature and grace.”
The final version was “drenched in holy water,” he felt.
Congar agreed that the text was “more dogmatic” than Chenu’s draft and felt it suffered from shades of paternalism.
At this stage of the Council, though, the priority was to find a text acceptable to the Fathers. Thus, Council Secretary-General Archbishop Pericle Felici presented the revised message “as a proposal of the Council of Presidents approved by the Pope.”
This is an unofficial translation of the original Latin text:
We wish to convey to all men and to all nations the message of salvation, love and peace which Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, brought to the world and entrusted to the Church.
In fact, it is for this reason that we, the successors of the apostles, all united in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, forming one single apostolic body whose head is the successor of Peter, are gathered here at the invitation of His Holiness Pope John XXIII.
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we intend in this meeting to seek the most effective ways of renewing ourselves and of becoming increasingly more faithful witnesses of the Gospel of Christ.
We will strive to propose to the men of our times the truth of God in its entirety and purity so that they may understand it and accept it freely.
Conscious of our duties as pastors, we wish deeply to meet the demands of those who seek God “and perhaps grope after him and find him though he is not far from any one of us” (Acts 17: 27).
Faithful, therefore, to the mandate of Christ, who offered Himself a holocaust “in order that he might present to himself the Church in all her glory … but that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27) we shall devote ourselves with all our energies, with all our thoughts toward renewing ourselves and the faithful entrusted to us, that the image of Jesus Christ, which shines in our hearts “to give enlightenment concerning the knowledge of the glory of God” (II Cor. 4:6) may appear to all people.
We believe that the Father loved the world so much He gave His Son to save it; and that He freed us from the slavery of sin through this same Son, “that he should reconcile to himself all things, whether on the earth or in the heavens, making peace through the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:20) that we might be called and truly be His sons.
Moreover, we receive the Holy Spirit from the Father that, living the life of God, we may love God and our brothers, with whom we are united in Christ.
We, therefore, the followers of Christ, are not estranged from earthly concerns and toils. Indeed, the faith, hope and charity of Christ urges us to serve our brothers in imitation of the example of the Divine Master who “has not come to be served, but to serve” (Matt. 20:28).
Neither was the Church born, therefore, to dominate but to serve. “… He laid down His life for us; and we likewise ought to lay down our life for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).
While we hope that the Faith may shine more clearly and brightly from the work of the council, we also expect a spiritual renewal which may provide a happy impetus for human welfare; that is, the findings of science, the progress of the arts and of technology, and a greater diffusion of culture.
United here from every nation under heaven, we carry in our hearts the anxieties of all peoples entrusted to us, the anxieties of body and soul, sorrows and desires, and hopes. We turn our mind constantly toward all the anxieties afflicting men today.
Our concern is directed especially to the more humble, the more poor, the weaker, and, in keeping with the example of Christ, we feel compassion for the throngs who suffer hunger, misery and ignorance.
We are constantly attentive to those who, deprived of the necessary assistance, have not yet reached a standard of living worthy of man.
For this reason, in performing our earthly mission, we take into great account all that pertains to the dignity of man and all that contributes toward the real brotherhood of nations. “For the love of Christ impels us” (2 Cor. 5:14); in fact, “He who has the goods of this world and sees his brother in need and closes his heart to him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17).
Here are two great problems facing us:
In his broadcast message of Sept. 11, 1962, His Holiness Pope John XXIII stressed two points especially. First of all, he recommended everything that favors peace among peoples.
There is no man who does not detest war and who does not ardently desire peace. This is the greatest wish of the Church who is the mother of all. Through the voice of the Roman Pontiffs, she has never ceased to proclaim not only her love for peace, but also her resolve for peace, always ready to give herself wholeheartedly and effectively to every sincere proposal.
She tends, furthermore, with all her strength, to unite all peoples and to create among them a mutual esteem of sentiments and of works.
Is not this conciliar assembly — admirable for its diversity of races, nations and tongues — a testimony of a community bound by fraternal love which it bears as a visible sign?
We proclaim that all men are brothers, irrespective of the race or nation to which they belong.
Secondly, the Pope urges all to social justice. The doctrine outlined in the encyclical letter, “Mater et Magistra” (Mother and Teacher), clearly shows how the Church is needed by the world today to denounce injustices and shameful inequalities and to restore the true order of goods and things so that, according to the principles of the Gospel, the life of man may become more human.
We have neither the riches nor the powers of the earth, but we place our faith in the strength of the Holy Spirit, promised by Jesus Christ to His Church.
Therefore, we humbly and ardently invite all to collaborate with us to establish in the world a more ordered way of living and greater brotherhood. We invite all, not only our brothers of whom we are the pastors, but all our brothers who believe in Christ and all men of good will whom “God … wishes … to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Tim. 2:4).
In fact, it is the divine will that the kingdom of God through the means of charity, shine even now, in a certain sense, upon earth, almost in anticipation of the eternal kingdom.
It is our ardent desire that the light of the great hope in Jesus Christ our only Savior may shine, in this world which is still so far from the desired peace because of the threats engendered by scientific progress itself — marvelous progress — but not always intent upon the supreme law of morality.
Despite its limits, the message “played the very important role,” historian Andrea Riccardi noted, “of accentuating the Church’s expression of sympathy for the world” while several ecclesiological themes it raised “would become supremely important during the Council.”
Stefan Gigacz, The Leaven in the Council, Chapter 7, The Council opens without Cardijn (Australian Cardijn Institute)
Text of Council’s Message to World (Vatican II @ 50)
Catholic Press Photo / Wikipedia