Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
21 May 2013
The three-day conference recognises the fifty years since the opening of the Second Vatican Council. Delegates to the conference will hear from international keynote speakers and those from around Australia about how the Council continues to be a great gift of great to the church.
Cardinal Pell's address last night was titled "Yesterday's Council for Tomorrow's World".
Those present included international speakers Cardinal March Ouellet PSS, Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops in Rome; Archbishop Allen Vigneron from Detroit; Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Rome; Bishop Peter Ingham, the Bishop of Wollongong and Sydney's Auxiliary Bishops, Bishop Peter Comensoli, Bishop Julian Porteous and Bishop Terry Brady.
Cardinal Pell's reflected on life prior to the Second Vatican Council - a Europe severely wounded by the Second World War but where churchgoing was generally high although France was seeing the start of an exodus from the Church.
"It was January 25th 1959 when the much loved Pope John XXIII announced, to general surprise and astonishment, that he would summon a new council to renew the religious life of the Church and bring her teachings, discipline and organisation up to date," Cardinal Pell said.
"The unity of all Christians was its ultimate goal and the first Session opened on October 11th, 1962."
However Pope John died on June 3rd, 1963. He was succeeded by John Baptist Montini, then archbishop of Milan who took the name Pope Paul VI.
"The Council was saved by the accession of Pope Paul who guided it through to a successful conclusion with the Council producing a number of truly excellent documents and realignments of Church life in conformity with the Scriptures and the soundest tradition," Cardinal Pell said.
Cardinal Pell spoke of the Council itself, pointing to an important distinction made by Pope Benedict which helps us understand what happened not only during the Council but after it as well.
"He distinguished between the 'true Council' and the 'Council of the media', between the real Council and what he called a virtual council," he said.
"The true Council of the Fathers, as the bishops of the Council were called, obviously moved within the faith tradition, but the Council of the journalists was seen through the categories of the secular media."
The Council set out to be pastoral rather than dogmatic, with the Council Fathers opening address urging renewal, their ambition for the Church to be "increasingly faithful to the gospel of Christ while the two special issues they emphasised as important were peace rather than war and social justice.
In all the Council produced sixteen documents, dogmatic institutions, decrees and declarations on the major areas of church life.
Although the Council brought many blessings and changes which have benefited church communities, Cardinal Pell said there have been many unexpected developments and plenty of surprises.
"I did not predict the doctrinal and moral confusion which developed, as largely secular majority views in Australian society penetrated into Catholic hearts and minds," he said.
This confusion was particularly marked in the understanding of sexual morality, marriage and family, he said, and a "contraceptive Christianity" where nearly everything appears normal on the surface, but is unable to produce new life.
However there is much to support the Christian virtue of hope, Cardinal Pell said.
For the full text of Cardinal Pell's address click here