Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Second Vatican Council according to Albino Luciani


Albino Luciani

Continuity or a break with the past, the meaning of religious freedom. This is how the man who was to become John Paul I interpreted the Council


 The celebrations for the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the ecumenical Second Vatican Council, scheduled for next October, will take place at a time when the interpretation of the Conciliar decrees will be a very poignant and current theme in the life of the Church, after the now famous speech by pope Benedict XVI (December 2005) on the correct interpretation and the lingering dissent on both the progressive and traditionalist sides.

 On the 11th of October 1962, among others, a young cleric who had been appointed bishop of Vittorio Veneto by John XXIII himself four years before attended the opening ceremony. This young man was Albino Luciani who would later become the first pope to have experienced the Council as a bishop and then to put its decrees in action in his dioceses. It’s interesting to look at what the then-bishop of Vittorio Veneto had hoped and wished for, as he himself wrote in the text he sent to Rome during the Council preparations (Marco Roncalli analysed the subject in his recent thorough biography on Luciani, published by San Paolo). Luciani in his letter hoped that the future Council would highlight the “Christian optimism” inherent in the teachings of Christ, against the “widespread pessimism” of relativistic culture. He denounced a fundamental ignorance of the “basic elements of the Faith”.

 The future pope had not expressed much interest for the “technical” issues linked to new collective episcopates’ consultation methods and did not mention issues linked to ecumenism, Gospel and Ecclesiology. He focussed on the need to go back to basics and announce “ the fundamental elements of the Faith”, noticing even back then the advancing crisis in the communication of its contents, a sign of secularization.
In terms of the global interpretation of the Council, Mgr. Luciani took a path that fully corresponds to the reform within continuity hermeneutics proposed by Benedict XVI as the best way to interpret the Vatican II. The then-bishop of Vittorio Veneto wrote: “The physiognomy and structure of the Catholic Church have been determined once and for all by the Lord and cannot be touched. If anything, superstructures can. Things that have not been determined by Christ, but were introduced by popes or councils or the faithful, can be changed, or eliminated today or tomorrow. Yesterday they might have introduced a certain number of dioceses, a certain way to lead missions, to educate priests, they might have chosen to follow certain cultural trends. Well, this can be changed and one can say “ the Church that comes out of the Council is still the same as it was yesterday, but renewed”. No one can ever say “ We have a new Church, different from what it was”. 

It is also interesting to look at the way Luciani experienced the long process that lead to the Council’s declaration on religious freedom «Dignitatis humanae». “Religious freedom, interpreted in the right way“ wrote Luciani  “ so we would not misunderstand. We all agree that there is only one true religion and those who are aware of this truth must practice this religion and no other. That said, there are also other things that are right and we must say them. In other words, those who are not satisfied with Catholicism have the right to profess their own religion for various reasons. Natural Law states that each one of us has the right to search for truth, especially religious truth. One cannot find it by staying shut in a room, reading some books. We truly search for it by talking with other people, by sharing opinions…. The right to the truth is just a common saying, but there are only physical or moral people who do not have the right to search for truth. Therefore do not be scared of slapping truth in the face when you give someone the right to use their freedom”.

“The choice of religious belief must be free.” explained the bishop of Vittorio Veneto “ The freer and more earnest the choice, the more those that embrace the Faith will feel honoured. These are rights, natural rights. Rights always come hand in hand with duties. The non Catholics have the right to profess their religion and I have the duty to respect their right as a private citizen, as a priest, as a bishop and as a State”.

No comments:

Post a Comment