Your Holiness, Reverend Fathers,
brothers and sisters in Christ – dear Friends
1. I am deeply honored by the Holy Father’s invitation to speak in this gathering: as the Psalmist says, “Ecce quam bonum et quam jucundum habitare fratres in unum”. The gathering of bishops in Synod for the good of all Christ’s people is one of those disciplines that sustain the health of Christ’s Church. And today especially we cannot forget that great gathering of “fratres in unum” that was the Second Vatican Council, which did so much for the health of the Church and helped the Church to recover so much of the energy needed to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ effectively in our age. For so many of my own generation, even beyond the boundaries of the Roman Catholic Church, that Council was a sign of great promise, a sign that the Church was strong enough to ask itself some demanding questions about whether its culture and structures were adequate to the task of sharing the Gospel with the complex, often rebellious, always restless mind of the modern world.
2. The Council was, in so many ways, a rediscovery of evangelistic concern and passion, focused not only on the renewal of the Church’s own life but on its credibility in the world. Texts such as Lumen gentium and Gaudium et spes laid out a fresh and joyful vision of how the unchanging reality of Christ living in his Body on earth through the gift of the Holy Spirit might speak in new words to the society of our age and even to those of other faiths. It is not surprising that we are still, fifty years later, struggling with many of the same questions and with the implications of the Council; and I take it that this Synod’s concern with the new evangelization is part of that continuing exploration of the Council’s legacy.
3. But one of the most important aspects of the theology of the second Vaticanum was a renewal of Christian anthropology. In place of an often strained and artificial neo-scholastic account of how grace and nature were related in the constitution of human beings, the Council built on the greatest insights of a theology that had returned to earlier and richer sources – the theology of spiritual geniuses like Henri de Lubac, who reminded us of what it meant for early and mediaeval Christianity to speak of humanity as made in God’s image and of grace as perfecting and transfiguring that image so long overlaid by our habitual ‘inhumanity’. In such a light, to proclaim the Gospel is to proclaim that it is at last possible to be properly human: the Catholic and Christian faith is a ‘true humanism’, to borrow a phrase from another genius of the last century, Jacques Maritain.
Read the entire address HERE. Thanks to my friend Val Russo for the link.