Published December 6, 2013
The second session of the Second Vatican Council came to an end on Dec. 4, 1963, with the approval of a “sweeping reform of the public worship of the Church by passing the Liturgical Constitution by an overwhelming majority of 2,147 to 4,” according to a front-page article in the Dec. 5 edition of The Georgia Bulletin. “A tremendous burst of applause greeted announcement of the vote. The Pope than approved and promulgated the Constitution, making it the law of the Church,” the article continued. No changes were to be made immediately. A papal instruction was to be promulgated on the first Sunday of Lent in 1964, giving instructions as to when and how the Liturgical Constitution’s provisions were to be put into practice.
Pope Paul VI also gave a lengthy address in which he asked that the third and final full session of the Second Vatican Council convene from Sept. 14 to Nov. 20, 1964. After that session he asked that council work be continued in commissions, with the world’s bishops being summoned to Rome for a final ceremony to promulgate the council’s total decrees.
In an interview in Rome, Atlanta Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan said that preliminary steps to change parts of the Mass from Latin to English had been undertaken by the bishops of the United States at a meeting in the Vatican. After the changes had been overwhelmingly approved by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, and solemnly promulgated by Pope Paul VI Dec. 4, Archbishop Hallinan said the American bishops “voted full use of the concessions granted in the new decrees, which allow the vernacular language in the parts of the Mass that are said aloud up to the Offertory, with one exception, the Collect.” Archbishop Hallinan was a member of the Second Vatican Council’s liturgical commission and on the American Bishops’ Commission on the Liturgical Apostolate. Among other significant points discussed in the interview with Archbishop Hallinan were that in the administration of sacraments, such as baptism, the entire rite could now be celebrated in English. It was also expected, Archbishop Hallinan said, that the Daily Office would be translated into English. Asked how soon the use of the vernacular would become permissible in the United States, Archbishop Hallinan said, “Not even an approximate date for this can be set. For it will take quite some time to select, edit and properly arrange the translations. However, the American Bishops have agreed to put the vernacular concessions of the new decrees into effect at the earliest possible date.”
Pope Paul VI also announced that he would travel on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in January 1964, the first pope since St. Peter to be in that land. He said he believed prayers and good works were needed for the “final happy conclusion” of the council and so he would become “a pilgrim.”
A statement by the 13 lay auditors at the Second Vatican Council said the work of the council would change the religious life of Catholics throughout the world. “For the first time in history an Ecumenical Council has fully faced the question of the laity, endeavoring to situate them in the People of God on pilgrimage,” the statement said. “As a result, our entire participation in the life of the Church will, little by little, be transformed. The difference will be felt to the ends of the earth, in every community even to the smallest parish.” Appointed by Pope Paul VI, the attendance of the lay auditors marked the first time in Catholic Church history that laymen had been asked to be present at an Ecumenical Council. While they were a small group and could not represent all forms of the lay apostolate, the auditors said their presence at the council was a reminder to the hierarchy of the concerns of the world.
In the Dec. 12, 1963, edition of The Georgia Bulletin, a story noted that the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian medal given by the United States, was awarded posthumously to Pope John XXIII by President Lyndon B. Johnson. He said the late pontiff was “a man of simple origins, of simple faith, or simple charity,” who, despite his exalted office, remained a “simple pastor” and “profoundly respected the dignity of man.” He was honored for his great influence for peace in the world.