Nemi: A Pope's fond memories of Vatican II
by Emer McCarthy | Source: www.radiovaticana.org
(Vatican Radio) Pope
Benedict XVI took a private and very personal trip down memory lane Monday as he returned to the
house overlooking Lake Nemi, the setting of his fondest and “most memorable” recollections of the
Second Vatican Council.
In a short unscripted speech to the 140 capitulars gathered at the
Divine Word Missionaries Ad gentes centre, he revealed how in 1965 as a “a very young
theologian of no great importance”, to his eternal wonder he was invited by the then Superior
General of the world-wide order and Council Father, Johannes Schütte, to take part in an “important
and beautiful task, to prepare a decree on mission”.
Pope Benedict arrived at the retreat house shortly before midday.
The men representing over 70 countries worldwide had gathered in the Chapel, where strong sunlight
illuminated stained glass windows depicting Gospel scenes. “His arrival was electric”, reveals Fr.
Pat Byrne SVD, provincial superior for Great Britain and Ireland. “The very first thing he did was
kneel before the altar and the Blessed Sacrament and we joined him in silent prayer. Then he spoke
from the heart, in Italian, taking a trip down memory lane to bring us a message of
said : “I am truly grateful for this opportunity to see this house in Nemi once again, after 47
years. I have fond memories of it, perhaps the most memorable of the whole Council. I lived in the
center of Rome, in the Collegio dell’Anima with all the noise. This too was nice, but staying
here, surrounded by this greenery, having this breath of nature, this fresh air, was in itself a
beautiful thing. And then, in the company of many great theologians and a such an important and
beautiful task, to prepare a decree on mission.
First of all, I remember, the General of that time, Father Schütte,
who had suffered in China, had been convicted, then expelled: he was full of missionary zeal, the
need to give new impetus to the missionary spirit and had invited me - a very young theologian of no
great importance – I do not know why, but it was a great gift for me. Then there was Fulton Sheen
who would fascinate us in the evenings with his talks; Father Congar [Dominican Cardinal and
prominent theologian], the great Missiologists of Louvain, et cetera. For me, it was spiritual
enrichment, a great gift.
It was a
decree without great controversy. There was this controversy that I never really understood between
the schools of Louvain and Münster: is the main purpose of the mission implantatio Ecclesiae
or annuntio Evangelii? But everything converged into the one dynamic of the need to bring the
light of the Word of God, the light of God's love to the world and give a new joy to this
Thus, these days
gave birth to a good and beautiful decree, almost unanimously accepted by all the Fathers of the
Council and which, for me, was also a very good complement to Lumen Gentium, from which we
find a Trinitarian ecclesiology, that starts above all from the classical idea that bonum
diffusivum sivi sui, good has the inherent need to communicate, to give of itself, it
can not remain self contained, the good thing, goodness itself is essentially communicatio.
And that already appears in the inner Trinitarian Mystery of God and in the history of salvation and
our need to give others the good we have received”.
And Pope Benedict XVI concluded “So, with these memories I have
often thought of those days of Nemi that, as I said, are an essential part of the Council for me.
And I'm happy to see that your Society flourishes – the Father General spoke of six thousand members
in many countries, from many nations. Clearly the missionary dynamic is alive, and it lives only if
there is the joy of the Gospel, if we experience the good that comes from God and that must and
wants to communicate itself. Thank you for this dynamism. I wish you every blessing of the Lord for
this Chapter, and a lot of inspiration: that the same forces inspiring power of the Holy Spirit that
almost visibly accompanied us during those days may once again be present among you and help you
find your path both for your Society and for the mission Ad gentes of the Gospel for the
coming years. Thanks to you all, God bless you. Pray for me, as I pray for you. Thank
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