Tuesday, October 11, 2011

For the Council, The 50th Year

Today, the church marks the 49th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council...

...while fittingly celebrating the feast-day of the Pope who convoked it: Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli -- Blessed John XXIII.

Ergo, in the spirit of the milestone -- and, to be sure, its letter, too -- here's some footage from the dramatic end of that Opening Day, which set the stage for one of the most memorable and beloved papal messages of modern times... not to mention Catholicism's most thoroughgoing makeover since the Reformation:

Dear sons and daughters,

I feel your voices! Mine is just one lone voice, but it sums up the voice of the whole world.

And here, in fact, all the world is represented here tonight. It could even be said that even the moon hastens close tonight, that from above, it might watch this spectacle that not even St Peter's Basilica, over its four centuries of history, has ever been able to witness.

We ask for a great day of peace. Yes, of peace! 'Glory to God, and peace to men of goodwill.'' If I asked you, if I could ask of each one of you: where are you from? The children of Rome, especially represented here, would respond: ah, we are the closest of children, and you're our bishop. Well, then, sons and daughters of Rome, always remember that you represent 'Roma, caput mundi' ['Rome, the capital of the world'] which through the design of Providence it has been called to be across the centuries.

My own person counts for nothing -- it's a brother who speaks to you, become a father by the will of our Lord, but all together, fatherhood and brotherhood and God's grace, give honor to the impressions of this night, which are always our feelings, which now we express before heaven and earth: faith, hope, love, love of God, love of brother, all aided along the way in the Lord's holy peace for the work of the good. And so, let us continue to love each other, to look out for each other along the way: to welcome whoever comes close to us, and set aside whatever difficulty it might bring.

When you head home, find your children. Hug and kiss your children and tell them: 'This is the hug and kiss of the Pope.' And when you find them with tears to dry, give them a good word. Give anyone who suffers a word of comfort. Tell them 'The Pope is with us especially in our times of sadness and bitterness.' And then, all together, may we always come alive -- whether to sing, to breathe, or to cry, but always full of trust in Christ, who helps us and hears us, let us continue along our path.
--Pope John XXIII
"Moonlight Speech"
Window of the Apostolic Palace
11 October 1962

While the pontiff still known as "Il Buon Papa" -- the "Good Pope" -- gave a more highbrow discourse that morning to formally open the 21st edition of Christianity's most eminent gathering, the afore-quoted talk (even today, one that looms large in Italian lore) was delivered by Papa Roncalli spontaneously from his apartment window following a torchlight prayer-vigil for the Council's success.