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VATICANII-MOLINARI Oct-12-2005 (710 words) With photos. xxxi

Jesuit expert continues to examine Vatican II's implementation

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- From a very specific perspective, a Jesuit who served as a theological expert at the Second Vatican Council continues to examine its deliberations, outcome and implementation.

Forty years after serving as a "peritus" or expert at the council, Jesuit Father Paolo Molinari is shepherding the sainthood cause of Pope Paul VI, the pope who presided over three of the council's four sessions and oversaw its implementation until his death in 1978.

Father Molinari told Catholic News Service that Pope John XXIII set up the council and "thought it would be a happy family gathering. But it was not only that.

"The council launched discussions that required the church to deal with a myriad of theological issues that already had begun to be debated by some bishops and theologians, and not always in a way consistent with church teaching," he said.

"The council lasted four years and, in between one session and another, there was much discussion in an attempt to clarify the issues," Father Molinari said.

To further complicate matters, the media covered the process at a level completely unknown at previous councils. Many of the debates and attempts to influence the bishops took place in newspapers and magazines rather than on the council floor, in small group meetings or through private correspondence.

The public discussion sharpened the differences between so-called liberals and conservatives by making it appear that some people in the church thought everything really was open to debate, Father Molinari said.

For the 81-year-old Jesuit, the council's focus on Scripture is the key to understanding the positive changes in the church over the past 40 years.

By strongly supporting biblical scholarship, promoting Bible reading and study among the faithful and raising its stature in the Mass, he said, the council helped make all Catholics familiar with the main themes of God's revelation.

Knowing "how God has loved and cared for humanity, his coming to us in Jesus Christ and Christ's giving himself up to death for us facilitated a new, stronger relationship with Jesus Christ," the Jesuit said.

The focus on a relationship with Jesus, lived within the community of the church, strengthened Catholics' understanding of the gift of the Eucharist and of what Christian life is meant to be: "It is a unity arising from love lived in a vocation of self-giving," whether in the priesthood, religious life, marriage or as a single person, he said.

Father Molinari said the scriptural vision of God creating the world, accompanying his people as they move through it, calling them to act uprightly and to care for the weak also has had huge implications for the way the church and its individual members relate to the world.

Following the example of Jesus, he said, the council affirmed that "when money, governments, knowledge or even religion are used to exploit people, it must be criticized."

While the council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, "Lumen Gentium," spoke of the church as the "people of God" or as a "pilgrim" church, he said, "the 'body of Christ' was the most important expression: The life that flows from Jesus, the head, unites us with each other and sends us out into the world."

As for the ongoing debate about what the council intended for the church, Father Molinari said a certain lack of prudence was demonstrated even before and during the council by those who wanted nothing to change and those who wanted everything to change.

He said that far from trying to turn the clock back many church leaders and faithful today are trying to recuperate "certain values and practices that were put aside, or even ridiculed, mainly because the way they were expressed no longer spoke to people."

"It is not that these people say 'We have gone too far,' but that they say 'Maybe we are missing something,'" he said.

The need for moments of silence and for an appreciation of the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist are examples, he said. So is the decision to publish a catechism of church teaching accessible and intelligible to modern men and women.

"The Holy Spirit is active in the church, guiding the wise activity of those who are neither closed-minded nor rebels," Father Molinari said.


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