Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
This coming October 11, the Church will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the opening session of Vatican Council II. This great Council was the most significant Catholic event of the last century, and its deliberations and decrees will continue to influence the Church, as have the acts of ecumenical councils before it. The creed we say at Mass each Sunday, for example, comes from the earliest Councils of the Church in the fourth and fifth centuries. Vatican II was the twenty first Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church.
Why did Pope John XXIII call the Council? In a letter dated December 25, 1961 (Humanae salutis), the Pope explained that he hoped the Council would change the relationship between the Church and the world. He called the Council because the world of the twentieth century was so divided by racism, nationalism, communism, Nazism and wars and hatreds of all sorts that men and women had forgotten that the human race is a human family. Who would tell the world that we are all brothers and sisters? Pope John knew that the mission of the Catholic Church is to introduce the world to its savior in every age, and he believed that the unity of the Church should be a leaven to change the world. The Second Vatican Council was called a pastoral council because its purpose was not to examine Church teaching directly but to see what could be changed in the Church in order to place her in better dialogue with a world headed for self-destruction. The Council was missionary in its purpose; to save the world from itself, the Church would have to open dialogues on all fronts.
In order to
enter into dialogue, elements of the Church’s life were examined and sometimes
changed or adjusted. The Council’s major
documents examined the Church’s worship of God, the sources of God’s
self-revelation, the nature of the Church herself and the Church in our times. Each of these four topics will be discussed
in future bulletin articles. My hope is
that recalling the purpose and the teaching of the Second Vatican Council will
renew the sense of mission of the Archdiocese in the coming year. We will continue to implement the Strategic
Pastoral Plan for the Archdiocese and will do so now in light of the universal
Church’s Year of Faith, recently called by Pope Benedict XVI, timed to begin on
the very anniversary of the opening session of the Council. May our hearts be opened anew as we
commemorate this great event in the history of the Church.
God bless you.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Francis Cardinal George, OMI
Archbishop of Chicago