Bishop Loris Capovilla, former personal secretary of Pope John XXIII, recently recalled the late Pope's announcement of the Second Vatican Council.
Media outlets broke the news of the announcement before John XXIII could tell the cardinals because a celebration that day ran longer than expected, the bishop explained.
Bishop Capovilla, 95, spoke about the events on the 52nd anniversary of the council's announcement in an article published Jan. 25 by L’Osservatore Romano.
He noted that the then-Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Domenico Tardini, wrote the following on his calendar for Jan. 20, 1959: “Important audience. Yesterday afternoon His Holiness spent time in reflection and set in stone the agenda for his pontificate. He came up with three ideas: a Roman Synod, an Ecumenical Council (Vatican II) and an update of the Code of Canon Law. He wants to announce these three things next Sunday to the cardinals after the ceremony for the feast of St. Paul.”
Bishop Capovilla said on that Sunday, Jan. 25, 1959, the Pope got up and prayed, but after celebrating Mass, “He remained kneeling longer than usual.”
He then went to the ceremony for the feast of St. Paul at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. The ceremony ran longer than scheduled, and before he could announce the convening of Vatican II, the press embargo on the announcement expired. The council was then “broadcast by the media before the Pope could communicate it to the cardinals,” the article said.
The Pope still addressed the Roman Curia, “with trembling and a bit of excitement,” about his plans to hold “a twofold celebration: a diocesan synod for the city and an ecumenical council for the universal Church.”
Bishop Capovilla said the council was given three clear directives: to promote interior renewal among Catholics, to raise awareness among Christians of the reality of the Church and of the tasks she is charged with carrying out, and to call on bishops, with their priests and the laity, to assume responsibility for the salvation of all mankind.
The bishop said that 52 years after announcing the council and 46 years after its conclusion in 1965, four Popes have continually emphasized that it was “an event willed by God” and led by “an old man who rejuvenated the Church” at a time when many thought John XXIII was going to be a “transitional Pope.”
“If Vatican II has not yet achieved its goals, this means that our conversion is a task yet to be fulfilled,” he added.
Thanks to John XXIII, Bishop Capovilla said, referring to certain Vatican II documents, “We know today more than ever who we are and where we are going (Lumen Gentium), what language we should speak and what message we should convey (Dei verbum), how much and how hard we should pray (Sacrosanctum concilium), what attitude we should adopt towards the problems and tragedies of contemporary humanity (Gaudium et spes).”
“These are the four pillars that sustain the building of renewed pastoral ministry and encourage us to listen to God’s voice, to speak to God as his children, and that oblige us to dialogue with all the components of the human family,” he concluded.