In Your Midst

From the Archives

November 2012

Vatican II Begins

One of the latest additions to the Cathedral archives is an especially timely one:  a copy of L’Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of Vatican City, for October 11, 1962—the date of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.

Though no one knew what kinds of changes or insights the Council might bring, the souvenir issue makes it clear that everyone was agreed on one point:  it would not be business as usual.  There are extensive articles about Vatican I and how Vatican II would be different.  There are reflections (many of them by cardinals of the Church or noted historians) on the laity, ecumenism, the Church in the East, liturgy, and the missions—all themes which would be taken up in the course of the Council.  There are greetings from heads of state in Europe, Africa, and the Americas, including President Kennedy—we “have followed with sympathetic and lively interest” the preparatory work for the Council, he writes, and “we hope that the Council will be able to present in clear and persuasive language effective solutions to the many problems confronting all of us and, more specifically, that its decisions will significantly advance the cause of international peace and understanding.”

The souvenir issue also includes many advertisements aimed at the thousands of bishops, priests, theologians, newspaper reporters, and others who were in Rome for the Council:  Japan Air Lines, Alitalia, and even an ad for Hertz rental cars—in Latin!  “Liberissima optione novae automobiles, quacumque amplitudine, omnibusque numeris absolutae, apud Hertz, quod Roma” (Unlimited choice of new cars! Any size! Any number!  Come to Hertz in Rome!)

On the cover of the issue, below the color portrait of Pope John XXIII, are words written in his own hand:  “Ecclesia Christi—lumen gentium” (The Church of Christ – light of the peoples).  Three years later, Pope John’s words would be echoed in the Council’s Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium.

A special thank you to Peg Haggerty for making this fascinating glimpse of an historic moment, the opening day of the Council, a part of the Cathedral Archives in this fiftieth anniversary year.

Corinna Laughlin is the Director of Liturgy at St. James Cathedral


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