COUNCIL CLOSING MESSAGES DECEMBER 8, 1965 BY POPE PAUL TO COUNCIL FATHERS
The hour for departure and separation has sounded. In a few moments you
are about to leave the council assembly to go out to meet mankind and to
bring the good news of the Gospel of Christ and of the renovation of His
Church at which we have been working together for four years.
This is a unique moment, a moment of incomparable significance and
riches. In this universal assembly, in this privileged point of time and
space, there converge together the past, the present and the future--the
past: for here, gathered in this spot, we have the Church of Christ with
her tradition, her history, her councils, her doctors, her saints; the
present: for we are taking leave of one another to go out towards the
world of today with its miseries, its sufferings, its sins, but also
with its prodigious accomplishment, its values, its virtues; and lastly
the future is here in the urgent appeal of the peoples of the world for
more justice, in their will for peace, in their conscious or unconscious
thirst for a higher life, that life precisely which the Church of Christ
can and wishes to live them.
We seem to hear from every corner of the world an immense and confused
voice, the questions of all those who look towards the council and ask
us anxiously: "Have you not a word for us?" For us rulers? For us
intellectuals, workers, artists? And for us women? For us of the younger
generation, for us the sick and the poor?
These pleading voices will not remain unheeded. It is for all these
categories of men that the council has been working for four years. It
is for them that there has been prepared this Constitution on the Church
in the Modern World, which we promulgated yesterday amidst the
enthusiastic applause of your assembly.
From our long meditation on Christ and His Church there should spring
forth at this moment a first announcement of peace and salvation for the
waiting multitudes. Before breaking up, the council wishes to fulfill
this prophetic function and to translate into brief messages and a
language accessible to all men, the "good news" which it has for the
world and which some of its most respected spokesmen are now about to
pronounce in your name for the whole of humanity.
(read by Achille Cardinal Lienart of Lille, France, assisted
by Bernard Cardinal Alfrink of Utrecht, the Netherlands, and Giovanni
Cardinal Colombo of Milan, Italy.)
At this solemn moment, we, the Fathers of the 21st ecumenical council of
the Catholic Church, on the point of disbanding after four years of
prayer and work, with the full consciousness of our mission toward
mankind, address ourselves respectively and confidently to those who
hold in their hands the destiny of men on this earth, to all those who
hold temporal power.
We proclaim publicly: We do honor to your authority and your
sovereignty, we respect your office, we recognize your just laws, we
esteem those who make them and those who apply them. But we have a
sacrosanct word to speak to you and it is this: Only God is great. God
alone is the beginning and the end. God alone is the source of your
authority and the foundation of your laws.
Your task is to be in the world the promoters of order and peace among
men. But never forget this: It is God, the living and true God, who is
the Father of men. And it is Christ, His eternal Son, who came to make
this known to us and to teach us that we are all brothers. He it is who
is the great artisan of order and peace on earth, for He it is who
guides human history and who alone can incline hearts to renounce those
evil passions which beget war and misfortune. It is He who blesses the
bread of the human race, who sanctifies its work and its suffering, who
gives it those joys which you can never give it, and strengthens it in
those sufferings which you cannot console.
In your earthly and temporal city, God constructs mysteriously His
spiritual and eternal city, His Church. And what does this Church ask of
you after close to 2,000 years of experiences of all kinds in her
relations with you, the powers of the earth? What does the Church ask of
you today? She tells you in one of the major documents of this council.
She asks of you only liberty, the liberty to believe and to preach her
faith, the freedom to love her God and serve Him, the freedom to live
and to bring to men her message of life. Do not fear her. She is made
after the image of her Master, whose mysterious action does not
interfere with your prerogatives but heals everything human of its fatal
weakness, transfigures it and fills it with hope, truth and beauty.
Allow Christ to exercise His purifying action on society. Do not crucify
Him anew. This would be a sacrilege for He is the Son of God. This would
be suicide for He is the Son of man. And we, His humble ministers, allow
us to spread everywhere without hindrance the Gospel of peace on which
we have meditated during this council. Of it, your peoples will be the
first beneficiaries, since the Church forms for you loyal citizens,
friends of social peace and progress.
On this solemn day when she closes the deliberations of her 21st
ecumenical council, the Church offers you through our voice her
friendship, her services, her spiritual and moral forces. She addresses
to you all her message of salvation and blessing. Accept it, as she
offers it to you with a joyous and sincere heart and pass it on to your
TO MEN OF THOUGHT AND SCIENCE
(read by Paul Emile Cardinal Leger of
Montreal, assisted by Antonio Cardinal Caggiano of Buenos Aires and
Norman Cardinal Gilroy of Sydney, Australia.)
A very special greeting to you, seekers after truth, to you, men of
thought and science, the explorers of man, of the universe and of
history, to all of you who are pilgrims enroute to the light and to
those also who have stopped along the road, tired and disappointed by
their vain search.
Why a special greeting for you? Because all of us here, bishops and
Fathers of the council, are on the lookout for truth. What have our
efforts amounted to during these four years except a more attentive
search for and deepening of the message of truth entrusted to the Church
and an effort at more perfect docility to the spirit of truth.
Hence our paths could not fail to cross. Your road is ours. Your paths
are never foreign to ours. We are the friends of your vocation as
searchers, companions in your fatigues, admirers of your successes and,
if necessary, consolers in your discouragement and your failures.
Hence for you also we have a message and it is this: Continue your
search without tiring and without ever despairing of the truth. Recall
the words of one of your great friends, St. Augustine: "Let us seek with
the desire to find, and find with the desire to seek still more." Happy
are those who, while possessing the truth, search more earnestly for it
in order to renew it, deepen it and transmit it to others. Happy also
are those who, not having found it, are working toward it with a sincere
heart. May they seek the light of tomorrow with the light of today until
they reach the fullness of light.
But do not forget that if thinking is something great, it is first a
duty. Woe to him who voluntarily closes his eyes to the light. Thinking
is also a responsibility, so woe to those who darken the spirit by the
thousand tricks which degrade it, make it proud, deceive and deform it.
What other basic principle is there for men of science except to think
For this purpose, without troubling your efforts, without dazzling
brilliance, we come to offer you the light of our mysterious lamp which
is faith. He who entrusted this lamp to us is the sovereign Master of
all thought, He whose humble disciples we are, the only one who said and
could have said: "I am the light of the world, I am the way, the truth
and the life."
These words have meaning for you. Never perhaps, thank God, has there
been so clear a possibility as today of a deep understanding between
real science and real faith, mutual servants of one another in the one
truth. Do not stand in the way of this important meeting. Have
confidence in faith, this great friend of intelligence. Enlighten
yourselves with its light in order to take hold of truth, the whole
truth. This is the wish, the encouragement and the hope, which, before
disbanding, is expressed to you by the Fathers of the entire world
assembled at Rome in council.
(read by Leo Cardinal Suenens of Malines Brussels, Belgium,
assisted by Lawrence Cardinal Shehan of Baltimore and Jaime Cardinal de
Barros Camara of Rio de Janeiro.)
We now address you, artists, who are taken up with beauty and work for
it: poets and literary men, painters, sculptors, architects, musicians,
men devoted to the theater and the cinema. To all of you, the Church of
the council declares to you through our voice: if you are friends of
genuine art, you are our friends.
The Church has long since joined in alliance with you. You have built
and adorned her temples, celebrated her dogmas, enriched her liturgy You
have aided her in translating her divine message in the language of
forms and figures, making the invisible world palpable. Today, as
yesterday, the Church needs you and turns to you. She tells you through
our voice: Do not allow an alliance as fruitful as this to be broken. Do
not refuse to put your talents at the service of divine truth. Do not
close your mind to the breath of the Holy Spirit.
This world in which we live needs beauty in order not to sink into
despair. It is beauty, like truth, which brings joy to the heart of man
and is that precious fruit which resists the year and tear of time,
which unites generations and makes them share things in admiration. And
all of this is through your hands. May these hands be pure and
disinterested. Remember that you are the guardians of beauty in the
world. May that suffice to free you from tastes which are passing and
have no genuine value, to free you from the search after strange or
unbecoming expressions. Be always and everywhere worthy of your ideals
and you will be worthy of the Church which, by our voice, addresses to
you today her message of friendship, salvation, grace and benediction.
(read by Leon Cardinal Duval of Algiers, Algeria, assisted by
Julius Cardinal Doepfner of Munich, Germany, and Raul Cardinal Siloa of
And now it is to you that we address ourselves, women of all states--
-girls, wives, mothers and widows, to you also, consecrated virgins and
women living alone--you constitute half of the immense human family. As
you know, the Church is proud to have glorified and liberated woman, and
in the course of the centuries, in diversity of characters, to have
brought into relief her basic equality with man. But the hour is coming,
in fact has come, when the vocation of woman is being achieved in its
fullness, the hour in which woman acquires in the world an influence, an
effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment
when the human race is under-going so deep a transformation, women
impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid mankind
in not falling.
You women have always had as your lot the protection of the home, the
love of beginnings and an understanding of cradles. You are present in
the mystery of a life beginning. You offer consolation in the departure
of death. Our technology runs the risk of becoming inhuman. Reconcile
men with life and above all, we beseech you, watch carefully over the
future of our race. Hold back the hand of man who, in a moment of folly,
might attempt to destroy human civilization.
Wives, mothers of families, the first educators of the human race in the
intimacy of the family circle, pass on to your sons and your daughters
the traditions of your fathers at the same time that you prepare them
for an unsearchable future. Always remember that by her children a
mother belongs to that future which perhaps she will not see.
And you, women living alone, realize what you can accomplish through
your dedicated vocation. Society is appealing to you on all sides. Not
even families can live without the help of those who have no families.
Especially you, consecrated virgins, in a world where egoism and the
search for pleasure would become law, be the guardians of purity,
unselfishness and piety. Jesus who has given to conjugal love all its
plenitudes, has also exalted the renouncement of human love when this is
for the sake of divine love and for the service of all.
Lastly, women in trial, who stand upright at the foot of the cross like
Mary, you who so often in history have given to men the strength to
battle unto the very end and to give witness to the point of martyrdom,
aid them now still once more to retain courage in their great
undertakings, while at the same time maintaining patience and an esteem
for humble beginnings.
Women, you do know how to make truth sweet, tender and accessible, make
it your task to bring the spirit of this council into institutions,
schools, homes and daily life. Women of the entire universe, whether
Christian or non-believing, you to whom life is entrusted at this grave
moment in history, it is for you to save the peace of the world.
TO THE POOR, THE SICK AND THE SUFFERING
(read by Paul Cardinal
Meouchi, Maronite-rite patriarch of Antioch; assisted by Stefan Cardinal
Wyszynski of Warsaw and Peter Cardinal Doi of Tokyo.)
To all of you, brothers in trial, who are visited by suffering under a
thousand forms, the council has a very special message. It feels on
itself your pleading eyes, burning with fever or hollow with fatigue,
questioning eyes which search in vain for the why of human suffering and
which ask anxiously when and whence will come relief.
Very dear brothers, we feel echoing deeply within our hearts as fathers
and pastors your laments and your complaints. Our suffering is increased
at the thought that it is not within our power to bring you bodily help
nor the lessening of your physical sufferings, which physicians, nurses
and all those dedicated to the service of the sick are endeavoring to
relieve as best they can.
But we have something deeper and more valuable to give you, the only
truth capable of answering the mystery of suffering and of bringing you
relief without illusion, and that is faith and union with the Man of
Sorrows, with Christ the !Son of God, nailed to the cross for our sins
and for our salvation. Christ did not do away with suffering. He did not
even wish to unveil to us entirely the mystery of suffering. He took
suffering upon Himself and this is enough to make you understand all its
value. All of you who feel heavily the weight of the cross, you who are
poor and abandoned, you who weep, you who are persecuted for justice,
you who are ignored, you the unknown victims of suffering, take courage.
You are the preferred children of the kingdom of God, the kingdom of
hope, happiness and life. You are the brothers of the suffering Christ,
and with Him, if you wish, you are saving the world.
This is the Christian science of suffering, the only one which gives
peace. Know that you are not alone, separated, abandoned or useless. You
have been called by Christ and are His living and transparent image. In
His name, the council salutes you lovingly, thanks you, assures you of
the friendship and assistance of the Church, and blesses you.
(read by Paul Cardinal Zoungrana of Ouagadougou, Upper
Volta, assisted by Jose Cardinal Quintero of Caracas, Venezuela, and
Jose Cardinal Bueno y Monreale of Seville, Spain.)
In the course of this council, we, the Catholic bishops of the five
continents, have, among many other subjects, reflected together on the
grave questions posed for human conscience by the economic and social
conditions of the contemporary world, the coexistence of nations, the
problem of armaments, of war and peace. We are fully aware of the
repercussions which the solution provided for these problems can have on
the concrete life of the working men and women of the entire world.
Thus, at the end of our deliberations, we wish to address to all of them
a message of confidence, peace and friendship.
Very loved sons, rest assured first of all that the Church is aware of
your sufferings, your struggles and your hopes, and that she appreciates
highly the virtues which ennoble your souls--namely courage, dedication,
professional conscience, love of justice--and that she recognizes fully
the immense services which, each in his own place and in positions often
the most obscure and the most ignored, you render to the whole of
society. The Church is grateful to you for this and thanks you through
In these recent years, she has never ceased to keep before her eyes the
increasingly complex problems of the working world and the echo which
recent pontifical encyclicals have found in your ranks has proved to
what degree the soul of the working man of our time was attuned to that
of his highest spiritual leaders. Pope John XXIII who enriched the
patrimony of the Church with his incomparable messages knew how to find
the road to your heart. He, in his own person, gave a shining example of
the Church's love for the working man as well as for truth, justice,
liberty and charity, on which is founded the peace of the world. We wish
also to be before you witnesses of this love of the Church for you
working men, and we declare to you with all the conviction of our souls:
The Church is your friend. Have confidence in her. In the past,
regrettable misunderstandings have, over too long a period, maintained a
spirit of mistrust and lack of understanding between us, and both the
Church and the working class have suffered from this. Today the hour for
reconciliation has sounded and the Church of the council invites you to
celebrate this hour without suspicion.
The Church is ever seeking to understand you better. But on your part
you must endeavor to understand what the Church means for you, working
men, who are the chief artisans of the prodigious changes which the
world is undergoing today. For you know full well that unless a mighty
spiritual inspiration animates these changes, they will cause disaster
for humanity instead of bringing it happiness. It is not hatred which
serves the world. It is not only the bread of this earth which can
satisfy man's hunger. Thus, accept the message of the Church. Accept the
faith which she offers you to light your path. It is the faith of the
successor of Peter and of the 2,000 bishops assembled in council. It is
the faith of the Christian people. May it be your light. May it be your
guide. May it bring you to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, your Companion
in work, Master and Savior of the whole human race.
(read by Gregorio Cardinal Agagianian of the Roman curia,
assisted by Joseph Cardinal Ritter of St. Louis and Valerian Cardinal
Gracias of Bombay.)
Lastly, it is to you, young men and women of the world, that the council
wishes to address its final message. For it is you who are to receive
the torch from the hands of your elders and to live in the world at the
period of the most gigantic transformations ever realized in its
history. It is you who, receiving the best of the example of the
teaching of your parents and your teachers, are to form the society of
tomorrow. You will either save yourselves or you will perish with it.
For four years the Church has been working to rejuvenate her image in
order to respond the better to the design of her Founder, the great
Living One, the Christ who is eternally young. At the term of this
imposing re-examination of life, she now turns to you. It is for you,
youth, especially for you that the Church now comes through her council
to enkindle your light, the light which illuminates the future, your
future. The Church is anxious that this society that you are going to
build up should respect the dignity, the liberty and the rights of
individuals. These individuals are you. The Church is particularly
anxious that this society should allow free expansion to her treasure
ever ancient and ever new, namely faith, and that your souls may be able
to bask freely in its helpful light. She has confidence that you will
find such strength and such joy that you will not be tempted, as were
some of your elders, to yield to the seductions of egoistic or
hedonistic philosophies or to those of despair and annihilation, and
that in the face of atheism, a phenomenon of lassitude and old age, you
will know how to affirm your faith in life and in what gives meaning to
life, that is to say, the certitude of the existence of a just and good
It is in the name of this God and of His Son, Jesus, that we exhort you
to open your hearts to the dimensions of the world, to heed the appeal
of your brothers, to place your youthful energies at their service.
Fight against all egoism. Refuse to give free course to the instincts of
violence and hatred which beget wars and all their train of miseries. Be
generous, pure, respectful and sincere, and build in enthusiasm a better
world than your elders had.
The Church looks to you with confidence and with love. Rich with a long
past ever living in her, and marching on toward human perfection in time
and the ultimate destinies of history and of life, the Church is the
real youth of the world. She possesses what constitutes the strength and
the charm of youth, that is to say the ability to rejoice with what is
beginning, to give oneself unreservedly, to renew one's self and to set
out again for new conquests. Look upon the Church and you will find in
her the face of Christ, the genuine, humble and wise Hero, the prophet
of truth and love, the companion and friend of youth. It is in the name
of Christ that we salute you, that we exhort and bless you.