Yves Congar, My Journal of the Council, Part XXXIII

Monday 8 June 1964 (St Medard!)

This morning examination, of the Chapter on the Church triumphant, at Cardinal Browne’s (a very enviable apartment, a haven of calm). Present were the Cardinal, Msgr. Philips, Moeller, Frs. Molinari, SJ, (principal redactor), Rahner, Tromp, Salaverri, Gagnebet and myself. It went well.

I left at midday for my audience. A series of antechambers and salons, with tronetto [throne] or without. Cardinal König emerged from his audience. The Czech bishop from the Commission on the Laity, Mgr Tom, was waiting and went in before me. About 12.40 pm I entered the Pope’s private library. While I was waiting I chatted with a colonel of the Swiss Guard, and with the chamberlain, Msgr. Del Gallo. He told me about the habits of the popes. Pope John XXIII sometimes had a little snooze between audiences. He put his head down on his arms and went to sleep. Sometimes he snored. The doors were carefully shut. He used to work until 2.00 am.—He will not hold out. …

The Holy Father was seated at a table with little on it. First I offered him my books: Sainte Eglise and Chretiens en dialogue; Tradition I & II; Foi et Theologie; my two chronicles of the Council, and Eglise servante et pauvre.

The Pope congratulated me and thanked me for my fidelity and my service, especially at this time of the Council, when things had to be explained in a new way.

I said to him that the ecumenical openness and the gestures he had made towards the Patriarchs call for (just as the renewal of the liturgy calls for) an ecclesiology that has not yet been worked out, an ecclesiology of Communion, in which the Church would be seen as a Communion of Churches. The Holy Father said he did not see quite what I meant. I explained a little further. But the Pope said: there is only one church. Our Lord wanted only one. Certainly it admits of a variety of rites, usages and customs. But it must be ONE single church.

Myself: Yes, but not monolithic. It is not a question of a federation. But neither of a monolithic organization.

He: The others (he seemed to be thinking of the Orthodox) will have to come round to this idea.

Myself: Yes, Most Holy Father. But it will be necessary, without denying the concept of a communion of churches, to widen their outlook to accept an idea that they have never well recognized.

From there, I went on to the disgraceful article in L’Osservatore Romano. [Cf, Bernardino Bilogeric, ‘Pensieri sulla collegialita episcopale’ in the edition of 7 June 1964; the article opposed ecumenical currents, and relied particularly on the proposal of Anselm of Havelberg in his discussion with Nicetas of Nicomedia.] The Holy Father told me that he disapproved of it and had already made this known. This gave me the opportunity to give the Holy Father the text of Nicetas of Nicomedia, which I had copied out for him, [The theologian Nicetas of Nicomedia, Byzantine metropolitan of the thirteenth century, had been a defender of the collegial and conciliar structure of the Church; he considered that papal primacy had come about for only historical reasons.] and which explained the difficulty of the Easterners. He took the text and said he would read it. But (he pointed to the library), he added, I have the Patrology here . . .

I spoke about my wish that the Council would draw up a new profession of faith, as Lateran IV or Trent had done, but in a more biblical and kerygmatic style, adapted to our own times. The Holy Father agreed with me, and said: draw up a text, I am asking you as a private request. I replied: I will try. I will send you my attempt through Msgr. Colombo.

– You know him?
– Yes, very well.
– He is a great asset to the Council, as a Council Father.

Then I spoke about the journal Concilium. The Holy Father told me that there should be two or three Roman theologians on the committee, not to supervise or impede, but to establish contact with the Roman milieu. He asked me if I had any names to suggest? I mentioned Fr. Gagnebet. The Pope, replied (after repeating the name, which meant nothing to him): I do not know this religious. Tell him to come and see me (but I am going to write to Concilium first) . . . But, he added, there ought to be a diocesan priest as well. The Pope also asked me if the journal was about to come out . . .

He spoke to me, I no longer know on account of what, about Guitton, saying that he has spoken of me. He thinks Guitton is capable of making the voice of the Church heard among the laity, which he represents well.—I was cowardly. I did not dare tell him that that was only half true. I said nothing.

I said a word about the project of the Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem which could, the Pope said, study theology according to an historical method (I completed the sentence—historical and concrete theology). I made my critical remarks about Jerusalem as the place for it. The Holy Father replied: No, it is THERE that all must return.

Then I said that this should be linked with some other ecumenical institute, established for example at Gazzada.

The Pope did not prolong the conversation. I sensed that this was the end. I asked him to sign the photo of himself with Patriarch Athenagoras. He did so. He gave me a medal of the Council. He blessed me, and my intentions and my family (while repeating his pleasure at my fidelity and service to the Church). I asked for a special blessing for my sick sister-in-law. He went back to his desk and took from it a rosary for Annette.

I wanted to say something about Galileo, but I was not able to. A clock struck as I came down into the cortile di san Damaso. After me there were the mayor and town council of Bergamo, and then other visitors.

I do not now know at what point or in what connection the Holy Father said to me: things will change little by little. There are some journals in Holland and Belgium that are ‘too energetic’. I wondered for a moment whether, with regard to Belgium, he was thinking of Janssens’ article for Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses about the pill. I asked a question to get greater precision. The Pope was referring to an article in Eglise vivante, where L’Osservatore Romano was criticized for something like yesterday’s article, and where Rome was criticized. I took the opportunity to say how well and how hard the Belgians had worked in the Council, on the Theological Commission (which had just finished the work of drawing up a response to the Holy Father’s thirteen questions. He did not take this up.)

And I referred to Msgr. Philips, saying that he was the one who had done most. The Pope replied: I do not know him, but I am waiting for him to ask to come and see me. For the moment I want to leave him completely free.

Perhaps I have not noted down this interchange very well. I got the impression that the Holy Father is a man under strain, intensely attentive, knowing how to affirm what he has seen needs to be retained. It seemed to me that, on the ECCLESIOLOGICAL plane, he does not have the theological vision that his openness calls for. He is very bound to a Roman point of view.

In the evening, Msgr. Philips told us that he could do nothing with Parente. It was absolutely necessary to introduce mediatrix into the De Beata [the document on the Blessed Virgin Mary] , and even (this had neither been asked for, nor voted on by the Commission), prae coeteris social Christi Redemptoris [more than others the associate of Christ the Redeemer]. So, the division among Catholics about the De Beata remains profound. …

Dinner, to which Msgr. Prignon invited us (Philips, Moeller, Thils) at a restaurant in the Piazza Navona, in the open air. We saw normal people again, to whom our byzantine intrigues would have absolutely NOTHING to say!

Yves Congar, My Journal of the Council, pp. 555-558. For previous posts in this series, simply enter “Congar” in the search box in the upper right. The 1100-page book can be purchased from Liturgical Press. 



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