[THE RENEWAL OF THE CHURCH]
SPEECH OF PAUL VI
The same hopes can also be entertained on another chief subject of the Council's deliberations, that, namely, of the renewal of the Church. This too, in our opinion, must follow from our awareness of the relationship by which Christ is united to his Church.
We have just spoken of the bride of Christ looking upon Christ to discern in him her true likeness. If in doing so she were to discover some shadow, some defect, some stain upon her wedding garment, what should be her instinctive, courageous reaction? There can be no doubt that her primary duty would be to reform, correct and set herself aright in conformity with her divine Model.
Reflect upon the words Christ spoke in his priestly prayer as the hour of his Passion pressed close upon him: ". . . I sanctify myself that they also may be sanctified in truth" (John 17:19). To our way of thinking, this is the essential attitude, desired by Christ, which the Second Vatican Council must adopt.
It is only after this work of internal sanctification has been accomplished that the Church will be able to show herself to the whole world and say: "Who sees me, sees Christ," as Christ said of himself: "He who sees me sees also the Father" (John 14:9).
In this sense the Council is to be a new spring, a reawakening of the mighty spiritual and moral energies which at present lie dormant. The Council is evidence of a determination to bring about a rejuvenation both of the interior forces of the Church and of the regulations by which her canonical structure and liturgical forms are governed. The Council is striving to enhance in the Church that beauty of perfection and holiness which imitation of Christ and mystical union with him in the Holy Spirit can alone confer.
Yes, the Council aims at renewal. Note well, however, that in saying and desiring that, we do not imply that the Catholic Church of today can be accused of substantial infidelity to the mind of her divine Founder. Rather it is the deeper realization of her substantial faithfulness that fills her with gratitude and humility and inspires her with the courage to correct those imperfections of human weaknesses.
The reform at which the Council aims is not, therefore, a turning upside down of the Church's present way of life or a breaking with what is essential and worthy of veneration in her tradition. It is, rather, an honoring of tradition by stripping it of what is unworthy or defective so that it may be rendered firm and fruitful. Did not Jesus say to his disciples: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit he will take away; and every branch that bears fruit he will cleanse, that it may bear more fruit"? (John 15:1-2).
This verse is a good summary of the perfecting process which the Church today desires, above all as regards her interior and exterior vitality. May the living Church be conformed to the living Christ. If faith and charity are the principles of her life, it is clear that no pains must be spared to make faith strong and joyful and to render Christian instruction and teaching methods more effective for the attaining of this vital end.
The first requirement of this reform will certainly be a more diligent study and a more intensive proclamation of the Word of God. Upon this foundation an education of love will be built up. We must give the place of honor to love, and strive to construct the Ecclesia caritatis if we would have a Church capable of renewing herself and renewing the world around her. This indeed is a tremendous undertaking.
Love must be fostered because it is the chief and root of the other Christian virtues: humility, poverty, religion, the spirit of sacrifice, fearless truth, love of justice, and every other force by which the new man acts.
At this point the Council's program broadens to take in immense fields. One subject of the greatest importance is that of the sacred liturgy. The first session of the Council devoted long discussions to this subject. We hope that the matter will be brought to a happy conclusion in the second.
Other fields will also receive the earnest attention of the Council Fathers. However we fear that the brief time at our disposal will not permit us to treat them as fully as they deserve and that it will be necessary to treat them in a future session.