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Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Vatican City,  (VIS) - A conference was held in the Holy See Press Office this morning to present an International Academic Conference: "Vatican Council II in the Light of the Archives of the Council Fathers, on the Fiftieth Anniversary of its Opening (1962-2012)". The event has been organised by the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences in collaboration with the "Vatican Council II" Centre for Research and Study of the Pontifical Lateran University, and will take place from 3 to 5 October.

Participating in this morning's presentation were Fr. Bernard Ardura O. Praem., president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, and Philippe Chenaux, director of the "Vatican Council II" Centre for Research and Study of the Pontifical Lateran University and a member of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences.

Fr. Ardura explained how a global project has been organised in view of the anniversary of Vatican Council II, involving an examination of the personal archives of the Council Fathers, the aim being to produce original and academically valid research and to favour an increasingly deep understanding of an event "which has profoundly marked the life of the Church over the last half century".

"Following the path laid down by Blessed Pope John XXIII in his opening address to the Council, all available archive material must be submitted to careful historical scrutiny, in order to ensure that people do not, as the Pope himself said, 'act as if they had nothing to learn from history, which is a teacher of life'. The consultation and publication of diaries, memories and correspondence of important figures who participated in Vatican Council II has already contributed to the development of an hermeneutic of the Council; ... that 'hermeneutic of reform in continuity' identified by Benedict XVI as the way to ensure authentic ecclesial interpretation.

"In this light", Fr. Ardura added, "we have begun researching the private archives of the Council Fathers, in order to identify and catalogue the documents they produced: diaries, notes on the various meetings of commission, ... and all the documents that may help us to understand how the Council Fathers experienced the great event, how they viewed it and how they reacted to the various opinions expressed".

The current conference is to be the first of two events on Vatican Council II. It aims to "present the current state of research and to highlight, for example, the difficulties encountered in searching the archives". Of the Council Fathers, 2,090 were from Europe and the Americas, while 408 were from Asia, 351 from Africa and 74 from Oceania. A large number of the latter came from mission lands and belonged to missionary institutions, for which reason much of their documentation is held in convents. Moreover the 'cult of the archive' which is habitual in Europe and America is not equally widespread in Asia and Africa, although the archives of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples do, to some extent, make up for these shortcomings".

Fr. Ardura explained that "the intention of the Pontifical Committee is to promote, in the light of the Holy Father's Magisterium and following a strict historical-critical methodology divorced from any ideology, a pondered and academically grounded historiographical re-reading of what was undeniably 'the great event' of Vatican Council II".

The conference will begin with a documentary prepared by the Vatican film library, and an opening address by two speakers. The first of these will be Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, Italy, who will focus on the months between the announcement and the opening of the Council because, Fr. Ardura said, "the preparatory period offers many keys to understanding the subsequent development of the Council". The other opening speaker will be Professor Philippe Chenaux himself, who will discuss historiography with relation to Vatican Council II. In order to recall the ecumenical dimension, "strongly underlined" by Blessed John XXIII, one representative from the Patriarchate of Moscow and one from the Protestant churches will also attend the conference.

The results of the research of recent years, and of the conference, "will be a preliminary inventory of the Council Fathers' archives. This will be fed into an online database which may be consulted free of charge on the website of the Pontifical Council".

For his part, Philippe Chenaux explained that "the attempt to write a history of Vatican Council II involves not only research into the sources, ... but also interpretation, the so-called conciliar 'hermeneutic'. In other words, the historians who devised this project of the history of Vatican II have 'excogitated' the Council, whence have emerged two interpretative criteria which guided their work: the Council as 'event' and the Council as 'rupture'".

"The fundamental challenge for historians of the Council is, then, how to reconcile these two opposing readings of Vatican II and its decisions. This does not mean writing a 'counter history' of Vatican Council II. Rather, more modestly, it means resuming historical research on the basis of the widest possible documentation and with no ideological bias. It means avoiding the manipulation of conciliar history for ends other than the history itself, in order to achieve a more balanced and shared understanding of the event and its decisions. 'Starting again from the archives', that is the challenge underlying the great research project of into the archives of the Council Fathers", he concluded.


Vatican City,  (VIS) - Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States, yesterday spoke before the sixty-seventh General Assembly of the United Nations, which has as its theme: "Adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations by peaceful means".

In his address the archbishop highlighted how "loss of faith in the value of dialogue, and the temptation to favour 'a priori' one of the sides in regional and national conflicts, threaten respect for the juridical mechanisms of the United Nations. However, the pre-eminence of the values contained in the Charter should lead to the adoption of all possible means to ensure the protection of the most vulnerable, the promotion of respect for the rule of law and the rights of man, and the safeguarding of centuries-old cultural and religious balances".

The secretary for Relations with States went on: "The urgency of the situation is even more evident with respect to current events in the Middle East, and in particular in Syria. A solution is impossible if it fails to respect the rules of international and humanitarian law, or falls outside the mechanisms established in the United Nations Charter. All interested parties should not only facilitate the mission of the special envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League, but also ensure humanitarian assistance to the suffering peoples. The international community must unite its efforts so that all sides replace the race to arms with negotiation, just as it must insist on effective respect for religious liberty, human rights and all fundamental freedoms".

"Only an international community strongly anchored in values that are truly concordant with human dignity will be capable of suggesting feasible solutions to new types of conflict. These include transnational groups which diffuse a hegemonic, pseudo-religious ideology that fails to respect the rights of persons and civil peace. We are thinking of recent terrorist attacks in certain parts of Africa and Asia, and of the collusion between drug trafficking and terrorism in other parts of the world".

"It is of vial importance", Archbishop Mamberti concluded, "to reach an effective outcome in the debate about the reform and improvement of the working of the United Nations Organisation, in order to revive its capacities to foresee conflicts and to resolve then using peaceful means".

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