Misericordiae Vultus 4bc: Opening and Closing the Council

head of ChristMercy was part of Pope John’s opening address back in 1962; mercy trumps severity:

We recall the poignant words of Saint John XXIII when, opening the Council, he indicated the path to follow: “Now the Bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy rather than taking up arms of severity … The Catholic Church, as she holds high the torch of Catholic truth at this Ecumenical Council, wants to show herself a loving mother to all; patient, kind, moved by compassion and goodness toward her separated children.”[Opening Address of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Gaudet Mater Ecclesia, 11 October 1962, 2-3]

Note compassion: another favorite Francis virtue, and of the Jesuits as well.

Blessed Paul VI spoke in a similar vein at the closing of the Council: “We prefer to point out how charity has been the principal religious feature of this Council … the old story of the Good Samaritan has been the model of the spirituality of the Council … a wave of affection and admiration flowed from the Council over the modern world of humanity. Errors were condemned, indeed, because charity demanded this no less than did truth, but for individuals themselves there was only admonition, respect and love. Instead of depressing diagnoses, encouraging remedies; instead of direful predictions, messages of trust issued from the Council to the present-day world. The modern world’s values were not only respected but honored, its efforts approved, its aspirations purified and blessed … Another point we must stress is this: all this rich teaching is channeled in one direction, the service of (humankind), of every condition, in every weakness and need.”[Speech at the Final Public Session of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, 7 December 1965]

Three things of note in this excerpt:

  • the imagery of healing–not unlike Pope Francis’ field hospital
  • the posture of respect and engagement with the world, not warfare against it
  • the whole reason for the council is to serve all of humanity, not to build up or make comfortable the insiders.

Gratitude is not a surprising observation for a Jesuit:

With these sentiments of gratitude for everything the Church has received, and with a sense of responsibility for the task that lies ahead, we shall cross the threshold of the Holy Door fully confident that the strength of the Risen Lord, who constantly supports us on our pilgrim way, will sustain us. May the Holy Spirit, who guides the steps of believers in cooperating with the work of salvation wrought by Christ, lead the way and support the People of God so that they may contemplate the face of mercy.[Cf. Lumen Gentium 16: Gaudium et Spes 15.]

And we finish with a prayer of hope. What do you think about all this?

The highlighted text is © copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana. You can find the document in its entirety on the Vatican website here.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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