How Pope Francis is fulfilling a legacy of Vatican II

How Pope Francis is fulfilling a legacy of Vatican II December 11, 2015

Vatican City, Dec 11, 2015 / 03:40 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Attention to the poor was one of the greatest of the bishops' contributions during the Second Vatican Council – and is a legacy Pope Francis carries forward with impressive force, according to some.

“A true legacy of the Second Vatican Council is being fulfilled in the person and pontificate of Pope Francis,” Father Paulo Anto Pulikkan told CNA Dec. 11.

As someone who routinely calls for justice and care for those who are poor and marginalized, the Pope and his plea for “a poor Church for the poor” is a concrete fulfillment of what the bishops of the Second Vatican Council asked for, Fr. Pulikkan said.

The underprivileged “was the theme of the council, but this has been recently very clearly stressed by Francis.”

Fr. Pulikkan, director of the Chair for Christian studies at the University of Calicut in the Indian state of Kerala, was one of the speakers at a Dec. 9-11 conference in Rome on the protagonists of the Second Vatican Council as seen through the archives.

The conference was organized by the Pontifical Committee for Historic Sciences as well as the Pontifical Lateran University's Center for Research and Studies on the Second Vatican Council.

In his speech, titled “English speaking bishops on the Church in the modern world,” Fr. Pulikkan noted how the English-speaking council fathers, particularly those from Asia and the developing world, pushed for a greater inclusion of the poor in the council's final documents.

The council, he told CNA, “is the council for the poor,” which can be particularly seen in the pastoral constitution “Gaudium et Spes,” dedicated to the Church in the Modern World.

In the initial draft, “the concern for the poor was neglected,” he said noting that the same held true for the council's fourth session in 1965.

Despite the fact that the session took place right after the 1964 Eucharistic Congress in Bombay, which focused heavily on solidarity with the poor and was attended by many of the councils protagonists, concern for the poor was “totally neglected.”

“The situation of the farmers, the question of poverty, the question of our population, all these were neglected or not discussed at all properly in the draft,” he said, noting that the duty of rich nations to share and allow people to migrate with equal opportunity were rarely spoken about.

Fr. Pulikkan stressed that the poor “should be able to migrate, the agricultural farmers should be given opportunity to develop agriculture because normally it is a very disorganized profession,” and also pointed to other key themes such as fighting against racism and in favor of human dignity.

“These were the concerns of the Indian English speaking Bishops. Not only them, but all the English speaking Bishops from the English speaking world in the Council,” he said.

It was after hearing these voices that the draft Gadium et Spes was reworked to include the concerns of the poor, making for “a much more satisfactory” text in the council.

Pope Francis’ desire for a Church in the midst of her people is firm continuation of this legacy, he said, explaining that the Pope’s concern isn’t just limited to the Church, but extends to the entire world.

Other than his constant pleas in favor of the poor, another concrete sign of this is the concern he expressed for creation in his environmental encyclical “Laudato Si,” as well as his focus on inter-religious dialogue.

However, while much has already been done in this area, particularly under Pope Francis, Fr. Pulikkan said that there’s still a long way to go.

He emphasized that the Church “should not run away” from problems surrounding the poor and impoverished nations, but must instead “identify with the joys, hope, anguish and concerns of the people,” which is what Gaudium et Spes and the Second Vatican Council are all about.

“I think today it’s our duty to go forward and as Gaudium et Spes number 4 says ‘we have to scrutinize, we have to discern the signs of the times and interpret them like the Gospel.’”

Pope Francis, he said, “is doing simply that. He understands today’s situations and interprets them in light of the Gospel.”

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