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‘The Council had entered into our way of being Christians’: Pope Francis

Partecipanti al Vaticano II nella Basilica di San Pietro (11 ottobre 1962) – ar


Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 10/11/21

The Pope reflected on the Council in the preface to a new book.

October 11 is the feast of Pope St. John XXIII. His feast is celebrated on this date not because it marks when he entered into eternity, but because it was the day that he opened the Second Vatican Council in 1962.

Pope Francis has recently reflected on how that Council marked him personally and marked the course of the Holy Spirit guiding the Church.

Here is an Aleteia translation of an excerpt from Pope Francis’ preface to “Fraternity, a Sign of the Times. Pope Francis’ social magisterium.”


I am grateful to Card. Michael Czerny and Fr. Christian Barone, brothers in the faith, for this contribution they offer on fraternity and for these pages which, while intended as an introduction to the Encyclical Fratelli Tutti, seek to bring to light and make explicit the profound link between the current social Magisterium and the statements of the Second Vatican Council.

Sometimes this connection does not emerge at first glance, and I’ll try to explain why. In the history of Latin America in which I have been immersed, first as a young Jesuit student and then in the exercise of my ministry, we have breathed an ecclesial climate which has enthusiastically absorbed and made its own the theological, ecclesial and spiritual insights of the Council and has inculturated and implemented them. For those of us who were younger, the Council became the horizon of our belief, our language, and our praxis; that is, it soon became our ecclesial and pastoral ecosystem, but we did not get into the habit of often quoting the Council’s decrees or dwelling on speculative reflections. Quite simply, the Council had entered into our way of being Christians and of being Church, and throughout my life, my intuitions, perceptions and spirituality were simply inspired by the suggestions of the doctrine of Vatican II. There was not so much need to quote the texts of the Council. Today, probably, several decades having passed and finding ourselves in a profoundly changed world—also the ecclesial world—it is necessary to make more explicit the key concepts of the Second Vatican Council, the foundations of its arguments, its theological and pastoral horizon, the arguments and the method it used.

… throughout my life, my intuitions, perceptions and spirituality were simply inspired by the suggestions of the doctrine of Vatican II. 

Card. Michael and Fr. Christian, in the first part of this precious book, help us a lot in this. They read and interpret the social Magisterium that I am trying to carry forward, bringing to light something that is somewhat hidden between the lines, that is, the teaching of the Council as a fundamental basis, a starting point, a source that inspires questions and ideas and which, therefore, also orients the invitation that I address to the Church and to the entire world today regarding fraternity. Because fraternity, which is one of the signs of the times that Vatican II brings to light, is what our world and our common home, in which we are called to live as brothers and sisters, greatly needs. Within this horizon, then, the book I am about to present also has the advantage of rereading in the present day the Council’s intuition of an open Church, in dialogue with the world. To the questions and challenges of the modern world, Vatican II sought to respond with the breath of Gaudium et Spes; but today, continuing along the path traced out by the Council Fathers, we realize that there is a need not only for a Church that is in the modern world and in dialogue with it, but above all for a Church that places herself at the service of mankind, taking care of creation and proclaiming and making reality a new universal fraternity, in which human relationships are healed of selfishness and violence and are founded on mutual love, acceptance, and solidarity.

… there is a need not only for a Church that is in the modern world and in dialogue with it, but above all for a Church that places herself at the service of mankind …

If this is what the current historical moment is asking of us, especially in a society strongly marked by imbalances, wounds and injustices, we realize that this is also in the spirit of the Council, which invited us to read and listen to the signals coming from human history. The book by Card. Michael and Fr. Christian also has this merit: it offers us a reflection on the methodology used by post-Conciliar theology and by the social Magisterium itself, showing how it is intimately connected to the methodology used by the Council, that is, a historical-theological-pastoral method, in which history is the place of God’s revelation, theology develops its orientations through reflection, and pastoral care embodies them in ecclesial and social praxis. In this sense, the Magisterium of the Holy Father always needs to listen to history and needs the contribution of theology. Finally, I would like to thank Card. Czerny also for the involvement, in this work, of a young theologian, Fr. Barone. This union is fruitful: a cardinal, called to serve the Holy See and to be a pastoral guide, and a fundamental theologian. It is an example of how study, reflection and ecclesial experience can be united, and this also points us to a method: an official voice and a young voice, together. This is how we must always walk: the Magisterium, theology, pastoral practice, leadership. Always together. Fraternity will be more credible if we also begin in the Church to feel that we are “all brothers” and to live our respective ministries as a service to the Gospel and to the building up of the Kingdom of God and the care of the Common Home.

Pope Francis
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