Pope criticises media representation of Vatican II


In an extraordinary, unscripted talk with priests of the Rome diocese yesterday morning, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of his role in inspiring the Second Vatican Council and the difference between what happened there and how it was presented by the media.

He began, “Given the conditions of my age I could not prepare a great, real address, as one might expect, but rather I thought of chatting about the Second Vatican Council, as I saw it.”

He told the story of how, “I think it was in 1961”, when he was a professor at the University of Bonn the then Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joseph Frings, had been invited to talk on “The Council and the World of Modern Thought”, in Genoa. The cardinal invited him to write a draft, which he liked, and presented it in Genoa.

The right track

Shortly afterwards Cardinal Frings was summoned to Rome by Pope John XIII. He thought he was to be reprimanded. But when the cardinal went in, “Pope John came towards him and hugged him, saying, ‘Thank you, Your Eminence, you said things I have wanted to say, but I had not found the words to say.’” Pope Benedict continued: “Thus, the cardinal knew he was on the right track, and I was invited to accompany him to the council.”

There followed a lengthy and theologically dense account of what took place at the council.

He continued, however, that there were two councils, “the council of the Fathers – the true council – but there was also the council of the media ... and the world perceived the council through them, through the media.”

The council “that got thorough to the people, was that of the media, not that of the Fathers,” he said. This “council of journalists” took place “outside of the faith, with . . . a hermeneutic of politics. The media saw the council as a . . . struggle for power between different currents within the church. It was obvious that the media would take the side of whatever faction best suited their world.

“There were those who sought a decentralisation of the church, power for the bishops and then, through the Word for the ‘people of God’, the power of the people, the laity . . . Naturally they saw this as the part to be approved, to promulgate, to help,” he said.

“So much misery”

This council of journalists “created many calamities, so many problems, so much misery, in reality: seminaries closed, convents closed, liturgy trivialised . . . the virtual council was stronger than the real council.”

But, it seemed to him, “that 50 years after the council, we see how this virtual council is breaking down, getting lost and the true council is emerging with all its spiritual strength. And it is our task ... to work so the true council with the power of the Holy Spirit is realised and church is really renewed.”

He said how he, “retired in prayer, will always be with you, and together we will move ahead with the Lord in certainty”.