Washington D.C., Nov 17, 2017 / 11:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Second Vatican Council, rightly understood, continues to be a force for evangelization and renewal in the Church, according to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State of the Holy See.
Cardinal Parolin, speaking Nov. 14 at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., reflected on the council’s global impact, its focus on the poor, its efforts to counter clericalism and empower the laity, and its efforts to re-emphasize collegiality among bishops.
“Today we can gratefully turn our gaze to the Second Vatican Council: if we read it and receive it guided by a just hermeneutics, it can be and become more and more a great force for the ever-necessary renewal of the Church,” Parolin said.
The cardinal said that given the global origins of the council fathers, the Second Vatican Council was the first world church council in a geographic sense.
“The consequences were of no little importance: the introduction of local languages into the liturgy, for example, and also the emergence of a theology of a ‘local’ Church are the emerging points of a ‘new’ Church consciousness that is historically realized in the most diverse cultural contexts,” the cardinal said.
The irreversable introduction of the Church as a “world Church” is part of the permanent importance of the council.
The council did indeed introduce “a new style” and grew from “new seeds, drawn from the source of Tradition, especially biblical and patristic.”
He cited Pope Francis’ emphasis on the style of the council. The Pope had said it sowed the seeds of “synodality” or “conciliarity” at all levels of the Church, affecting all priests and bishops and pastoral advice. While the “monarchical” figure is essential in Catholic theology, whether in the parish priest, a diocesan bishop, or the Roman Pontiff, this figure has been “happily completed and balanced by this synodality that brings about real enrichment at all levels.”
The Pope thought this “conciliar” style of the Church was one of the most beautiful legacies of the council.
Cardinal Parolin noted some commentators who see the council through a “hermeneutics of misfortune” that places on Vatican II “all the calamities of the Church.” To these, the cardinal cited Benedict XVI’s arguments against a “hermeneutics of discontinuity and rupture” in favor of a “hermeneutics of reform, of renewal in continuity.” Benedict saw the council as having a prophetic interpretation. In the Pope emeritus’ words, its beneficial influence “preserved humanity and the Church itself from a crisis which at the end of the second millennium could have been much worse.”
Cardinal Parolin gave a lengthy exposition of the council, drawing on Benedict XVI, Francis, various commentators, and Blessed Paul VI.
The cardinal found in Paul VI “the idea of inheritance which is the passage of testimony from generation to generation” and also the image of “a flowing river feeding itself from its source.”
He also cited Francis’ description of the council as “a re-reading of the Gospel in the light of contemporary culture.”
Both Pope Francis and the Second Vatican Council emphasized the dignity of the lay faithful. Cardinal Parolin noted the transformation from a Church that had “the total concentration of every active function in the hands of the clergy” to a Church that recognizes “the right and duty of lay faithful to participate in the life and mission of the Church.”
Cardinal Parolin reflected on the importance of the “sensus fidei,” the “sense of the faith” in guiding Church teaching. He cited the discussions that led to the solemn declarations of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Ahead of hese declarations, the cardinal said, “the entire Church was involved in a large-scale synodal process, where everyone was active, each in its own way: the Pope, who started and ended the process; the bishops, who replied to the Pope attesting their faith and that of the faithful entrusted to them; the People of God, who witnessed a faith that manifested the ‘sense of the Church’.”
For the cardinal, the “sense of the faith” represents “a vital resource for the new evangelization.” He cited Pope Francis’ first Angelus address, which cited an elderly woman who said, “If the Lord did not forgive everything, the world would not exist.” The Pope commented on this statement: “That is the wisdom which the Holy Spirit gives.”
“The intuition of that woman is a touching manifestation of the ‘sensus fidei’, which allows a certain discernment of the things of faith and at the same time nourishes true wisdom and arouses the proclamation of truth,” said the Pope.
The Pope’s 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium stressed the importance of the laity, praising those with “a rooted sense of community and a great fidelity to the commitment of the love of Christ.”
Cardinal Parolin noted that the exhortation characterizes clericalism as “a sin against the lay faithful.” While in some cases the laity have not been formed for important responsibilities, in others the laity have not found space in their particular churches “because of excessive clericalism that keeps them on the margin of decisions.”
Parolin cited Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro of Bologna’s intervention during the council, in which he linked the “mystery of Christ in the Church” to the “mystery of Christ in the poor” and emphasized the need for the council to be for “the Church of the poor.” For Cardinal Parolin, this was a very strong statement, meaning poverty is understood “as the mode of being essential to the mystery of the Church.”
Also a topic of the cardinal’s speech were various efforts to reconsider papal primacy, centralization, and local authority. He noted then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s concerns that bishops’ conferences might suppress the role of the individual bishop.
At the same time, the council documents Christus Dominus and Lumen gentium discuss the collegial nature of bishops’ ministry and base these conferences’ mission in the sacramental origin of the bishops’ ministry.
“In other words, these conferences are really ‘episcopal’: they have their reason for being not in a sociological principle of collaboration, but in the implementation of the ministry conferred on each bishop with episcopal consecration,” the cardinal said.
Cardinal Parolin’s U.S. visit included attendance at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fall assembly and a visit with Vice President Mike Pence.
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