Second Vatican Council II Closing Speeches and Messages
COUNCIL CLOSING SPEECH DECEMBER 8, 1965
Delivered by Pope Paul VI at the closing of the Council.
Your eminences, venerable brothers, representatives of governments,
gentlemen of the city of Rome, authorities and citizens of the entire
world! You, observers belonging to so many different Christian
denominations, and you, faithful and sons here present, and you also
scattered across the earth and united with us in faith and charity!
You will hear shortly, at the end of this holy Mass, a reading of some
messages which, at the conclusion of its work, the ecumenical council is
addressing to various categories of persons, intending to consider in
them the countless forms in which human life finds expression. And you
will also hear the reading of our official decree in which we declare
terminated and closed the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. This is a
moment, a brief moment of greetings. Then, our voice will be silent.
This council is completely terminated, this immense and extraordinary
assembly is disbanded.
Hence, this greeting which we address to you has particular
significance, which we take the liberty of pointing out to you, not to
distract you from prayer, but to occupy the better your attention in
this present celebration.
This greeting is, before all, universal. It is addressed to all of you
assisting and participating here in this sacred rite: to you, venerable
brothers in the episcopate; to you, representatives of nations; to you,
people of God. And it is extended and broadened to the entire world. How
could it be otherwise if this council was said to be and is ecumenical,
that is to say, universal? Just as the sound of the bell goes out
through the skies, reaching each one within the radius of its sound
waves, so at this moment does our greeting go out to each and every one
of you. To those who receive it and to those who do not, it resounds
pleadingly in the ear of every man. From this Catholic center of Rome,
no one, in principle, is unreachable; in principle, all men can and must
be reached. For the Catholic Church, no one is a stranger, no one is
excluded, no one is far away. Every one to whom our greeting is
addressed is one who is called, who is invited and who, in a certain
sense, is present. This is the language of the heart of one who loves.
Every loved one is present! And we, especially at this moment, in virtue
of our universal pastoral and apostolic mandate, we love all, all men.
Hence, we say this to you good and faithful souls who, absent in person
from this gathering of believers and of nations, are here present in
spirit with your prayer. The Pope is thinking of you too, and with you
he celebrates this sublime moment of universal communion.
We say this to you, you who suffer like prisoners of your infirmities,
to you who, if you were without the comfort of our heartfelt greeting,
would, because of your spiritual solitude, experience a redoubling of
This we say especially to you, brothers in the episcopate, who through
no fault of your own were missing from the council and now leave voids
in the ranks of your brother bishops and still more in their hearts and
ours, a void which gives us such sufferings and which condemns the
injustices which shackle your liberty--would that this were all that was
wanting to enable you to come to our council.
Greetings to you, brothers, who are unjustly detained in silence, in
oppression, and in the privation of the legitimate and sacred rights
owed to every honest man, and much more to you who are the workmen of
nothing but good, piety and peace. To hindered and humiliated brethren,
the Church is with you. She is with your faithful and with all those who
have a part in your painful condition! May this also be the civil
conscience of the world!
Lastly, our universal greeting goes out to you, men who do not know us,
men who do not understand us, men who do not regard us as useful,
necessary or friendly. This greeting goes also to you, men who, while
perhaps thinking they are doing good, are opposed to us. A sincere
greeting, an unassuming greeting but one filled with hope and, today,
please believe that it is filled with esteem and love.
This is our greeting. But please be attentive, you who are listening to
us. We ask you to consider how our greeting, differently from what
ordinarily happens in day to day conversation, would serve to terminate
a relationship of nearness or discourse. Our greeting tends to
strengthen and, if necessary, to produce a spiritual relationship whence
it draws its meaning and its voice. Ours is a greeting, not of farewell
which separates, but of friendship which remains, and which, if so
demanded, wishes to be born. It is even precisely in this last
expression that our greeting, on the one hand, would desire to reach the
heart of every man, to enter therein as a cordial guest and speak in the
interior silence of your individual souls, the habitual and ineffable
words of the Lord: "My peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you,
but not as the world gives it" (John 14:27)--Christ has His own special
way of speaking in the secrets of hearts--and in the other hand, our
greeting wants to be a different and higher relationship because it is
not only a two-sided exchange of words among us people of this earth,
but it also brings into the picture another present one, the Lord
Himself, invisible but working in the framework of human relationships.
It invites Him and begs of Him to arouse in him who greets and in him
who is greeted new gifts of which the first and highest is charity.
Behold, this is our greeting. May it rise as a new spark of divine
charity in our hearts, a spark which may enkindle the principles,
doctrine and proposals which the council has organized and which, thus
inflamed by charity, may really produce in the Church and in the world
that renewal of thoughts, activities, conduct, moral force and hope and
joy which was the very scope of the council.
Consequently, our greeting is in the ideal order. Is it a dream? Is it
poetry? Is it only a conventional and meaningless exaggeration, as often
happens in our day-to-day expression of good wishes? No. This greeting
is ideal, but not unreal. Here we would ask for a further moment of your
attention. When we men push our thoughts and our desires toward an ideal
conception of life, we find ourselves immediately in a utopia, in
rhetorical caricature, in illusion or delusion. Man preserves an
unquenchable yearning toward ideal and total perfection, but of himself
he is incapable of reaching it, perhaps not in concept or much less with
experience or reality. This we know, it is the drama of man, the drama
of the fallen king.
But note what is taking place here this morning. While we close the
ecumenical council, we are honouring Mary Most Holy, the mother of
Christ, and consequently, as we declared on another occasion, the mother
of God and our spiritual mother. We are honouring Mary Most Holy, the
Immaculate One, therefore innocent, stupendous, perfect. She is the
woman, the true woman who is both ideal and real, the creature in whom
the image of God is reflected with absolute clarity, without any
disturbance, as happens in every other human creature.
Is it not perhaps in directing our gaze on this woman who is our humble
sister and at the same time our heavenly mother and queen, the spotless
and sacred mirror of infinite beauty, that we can terminate the
spiritual ascent of the council and our final greeting? Is it not here
that our post-conciliar work can begin? Does not the beauty of Mary
Immaculate become for us an inspiring model, a comforting hope?
Oh, brothers, sons, and gentlemen who are listening to us, we think it
is so for us and for you. And this is our most exalted and, God willing,
our most valuable greeting.