The Second Vatican Council, recessed by Pope John XXIII for resumption on May 12, has already been acclaimed “the greatest ecclesiastical event of the twentieth century.” Certainly it will be remembered as the most-publicized religious spectacle in a century engrossed in scientific research and social revolution. What effect its debates, decrees, and declarations will have upon the unresolved tensions of our fear-ridden nuclear age is, at this stage, unpredictable. Though answers will understandably vary, we may ask which of the council’s actions seem most significant, and why.

In the fourth General Congregation, October 22, the Secretary General called the council fathers’ attention to the following information:

“The Secretariate for the Promotion of Christian Union has been granted a position of complete equality with the conciliar commissions in the work of the Council. This means: first, the Secretariate itself will present its schemata in the Council assembly; second, the schemata will be discussed, emendated, and edited in an equal manner with those presented by the other commissions; third, in mixed matters the Secretariate will be invited to cooperate with the other commissions in matters related to its competence.”

New Strategy for Unity

Prior to this announcement the secretariate functioned solely as a public relations office serving non-Catholics desirous of following the work of the council. It now has been given full commission status within the council itself plus the authority to speak in the sessions of all other commissions whenever their deliberations bear upon the delicate and complex question of reunion. The action has the double effect of making the cause of unity central in all council discussions and of ...

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