Second Vatican Council

Pope John pays visit to shrines

(The following is the complete reprint of a 1962 article run in The Criterion in the final days leading up to the Second Vatican Council)

Criterion logo from the 1960sVATICAN CITY—As the world awaits the opening of the historic Second Vatican Council on October 11, hundreds of bishops and prelates are converging on the center of Christendom from the every part of the globe.

One week before the council’s opening. His Holiness Pope John XXIII took a 400-mile train trip so that he might pray for the success of the coming conclave at two of Italy’s most famous shrines.

Pope John’s railroad journey to the shrine of Our Lady at Loreto and of St. Francis at Assisi was the longest a pontiff has taken away from the Holy See in 105 years and the first time a pope has traveled away from Rome by train in more than a century.

The pope’s trip took place on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi (Oct. 4). He went to the shrines, he said, “as a more intense invocation for heavenly protection” for the coming council.

He left from the Vatican railroad station at 7 a.m. and arrived in Loreto at 11 a.m. After visiting the basilica there, he left for Assisi, arriving there about 4:30 p.m. He returned to Rome in the evening.

During the trip, the train slowed down at railroad stations in the principal cities so the Pontiff could greet the crowds that had gathered.

The last visit to Loreto by a pope was made in May, 1857, by Pius IX, who also stopped at Assisi during his trip.

Meanwhile, the preliminary agenda released by the press office indicates that the Fathers of the council face a heavy schedule during its opening weeks.

The agenda covers council activities until the end of October.

Opening ceremonies of the council will take place on October 11, but the Fathers will start on October 13, according to the agenda.

The first order of business will be the election of members of the 10 commissions of the council. Each commission will have 24 members, eight of whom will be named by His Holiness Pope John XXIII while the remaining 16 will be chosen by members of the council. This means that 160 members of commissions will be elected by direct ballot by more than 2,500 voters.

The agenda allows four general meetings for this task, to be held on October 13, 16, 18 and 20. The intervening days will be used to count the votes of the Fathers, which will number more than 400,000 by the time all the commission members are selected.

From October 22 to 31, general meetings will be held daily except on Thursday and Sundays. The general meetings—or congregations—in which matters before the council are to be debated will begin at 9 a.m.

Save for the ceremonies on the council’s opening and closing days, the Fathers will not enter St. Peter’s Basilica in procession, but will go to their places directly.

Mass will be offered daily by a cardinal. The Gospels will be enthroned on a special stand. Ritual prayers will be recited, the hymn to the Holy Ghost, Veni Creator Spiritus, will be chanted and then the work of the session will begin.

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