Ecumenical Council Ends Its Work; Fails to Act on Decree on Jews

The Ecumenical Council at the Vatican concluded its final working day of the current session today without a decision to discuss Chapters Four and Five of its proposed schema on ecumenism. Those chapters deal with the relations of the Catholic Church toward the Jewish people, and with religious liberty.

However, Augustin Cardinal Bea, head of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity, the principal proponent of both chapters, told the assembled 2,200 prelates at the Council that he expects written comments on the chapters by March, and will present both subjects again for discussion and voting when the Council reconvenes, next September.

Questioning the failure of the Council even to admit the two disputed chapters as a basis for discussion at the current session, Cardinal Bea told the prelates;

“One could ask: Could not a vote have been taken at least to admit these chapters as a basis for discussion? To this question, one might perhaps answer in the affirmative. Nevertheless, I think we should be grateful to the moderators (the cardinals who administer the Council’s proceedings) because they wished to give ample opportunity for speaking on these fundamental chapters, to prevent creating the danger that someone might say that a hasty vote was taken on two chapters which treat of matters that are sufficiently difficult, that present something new and are of greatest importance for the life and activity of the Church in our time.”

Cardinal Bea started his discussion of the chapters–one of which, Number Four, absolves the Jewish people of responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus–by telling the Council: “We all regret that it is not permitted to us to have at least a foretaste of discussion concerning these chapters because of lack of time and for no other reason.” He emphasized that phrase, and continued; “In this way, our Secretariat would have received greater illumination toward making a definitive edition of each chapter. However, as things turned out, I am sincerely persuaded that even this offers several useful things to us.”

PRELATES URGED TO BE PREPARED FOR DISCUSSION AT NEXT SESSION

After expressing regret about the failure of the Council to decide even to discuss the two chapters. Cardinal Bea said: “It is fitting, therefore, to meditate and ponder everything carefully, over and over again, without haste and with tranquil spirit, so that, at the next session of the Council, they (the two chapters) may be treated at once and judged with mature consideration. The ancient saying applies here: ‘What is put off–is not put away.’

“Therefore, the questions treated in these two last chapters remain entrusted to your study and examination during the months to come. Discussion which we could not accomplish here will be held in the next session of the Council, and will be properly prepared during the next months. For this reason, I earnestly ask attentive consideration of these chapters and indication of proposals and corrections before March. For our part, we shall diligently examine both what has already been said in this hall, and what we will receive in writing, and will propose them in the presentation of these two chapters for discussion, so that we may obtain what will contribute to the greater service of God and the more efficacious good of our souls.”

Meanwhile, today, another Council prelate. Cardinal Lercaro, of Bologna, said in an address to a conference of Catholic journalists here, that the two chapters presented by Cardinal Bea will be first on the agenda of the next Ecumenical Council session, in September. Tomorrow and Wednesday, the last two days of the current session, will be given over entirely to ceremonials. Pope Paul VI will formally announce, on Wednesday, the call for the third session of the Council, to open Sept. 14.

(“Regret and sorrow” that the Ecumenical Council at Rome had closed without any action having been taken on the proposed declaration on the Catholic attitude toward Jews was expressed today by A. M. Sonnabend, president of the American Jewish Committee. “This inaction on the part of the Council, coming as it does at a time of great hopefulness for increased understanding among Catholics and Jews, is a source of deep disappointment,” Mr. Sonnabend added.)

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