Priest recalls 'insider' role to bring church closer to other religions
Published: October 12, 2012
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As 2,540 bishops processed into St. Peter's Basilica to begin the Second Vatican Council Oct. 11, 1962, Paulist Father Thomas F. Stransky remembers Pope John XXIII looking directly at him and his two colleagues from the Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity, smiling at them and raising his hand in blessing. Ascending to the basilica's high altar, Blessed John XXIII began to pray an ancient prayer: "Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blessed!" The council's opening began "an unknown journey and unpredictable outcome," Father Stransky told an audience at Georgetown University's Gaston Hall Oct. 11 during a symposium marking the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II. "Unlike those who celebrated the opening, today we celebrate Vatican II because we do know its outcome," Father Stransky continued. "But we still lack consensus about its meanings and intents and the ongoing enfleshments of perennial renewal and reform." Wisconsin-born Father Stransky spent 45 minutes in an occasionally humorous but sincere reflection of his work as a Vatican "insider" in preparing for the Vatican council as one of four staff members of the secretariat under the direction of Cardinal Augustin Bea. The cardinal, a German Jesuit, shepherded Blessed John's vision of a unified Christian community and improved relations with other religions through the council's four sessions. He recalled how in 1960 then-Msgr. Johannes Willebrands, a pioneer in ecumenism, invited him to join the secretariat. The Dutch churchman later would become cardinal and president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the secretariat's successor.
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