Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, gives a talk Nov. 14 at The Catholic University of America in Washington on "The Council: A Prophecy that Continues with Pope Francis." After his address, he received an honorary doctorate of theology from the university. (CNS photo/Dana Rene Bowler, The Catholic University of America)
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, gives a talk Nov. 14 at The Catholic University of America in Washington on "The Council: A Prophecy that Continues with Pope Francis." After his address, he received an honorary doctorate of theology from the university. (CNS photo/Dana Rene Bowler, The Catholic University of America)
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In a Nov. 14 talk at the Catholic University of America, the Vatican’s top diplomat said the Second Vatican Council continues to have an enduring impact on the Catholic Church and on the papacy of Pope Francis.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, who spoke on the topic, “The Council: A Prophecy that Continues with Pope Francis,” said that although the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council occurred more than 50 years ago, “it certainly retains for the Church a prophetic character.”

That gathering of bishops from around the world, he said, presented a new paradigm of a “world Church – a Church with a global dimension.”

Cardinal Parolin said the main consequences of the council included the introduction of local languages in the liturgy, and a “new awareness of a Church that is historically realized in more diverse cultural contexts.”

Noting themes that have been stressed by Pope Francis, the cardinal said the Second Vatican Council sowed seeds of synodality and paved the way for “a Church that lives in a conciliar way” with collaborative and consultative efforts underway at every level of the Church – “No more parishes or dioceses without pastoral councils, no more countries without episcopal conferences,” he said.

That process, he added, has proven to be irreversible. “In the end, is this not the most beautiful inheritance that the council could have prepared for us?” he asked.

After his talk, Cardinal Parolin received an honorary Doctor of Theology degree from Catholic University.

Father Mark Morozowich, the dean of Catholic University’s School of Theology and Religious Studies who served as master of ceremonies at the event, said, “Today we honor a man who has distinguished himself as a diplomat and a global leader of the Church. The Catholic University of America is pleased to honor this man of principle and courage.”

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington who serves as Catholic University’s chancellor, offered an invocation and then an introduction for Cardinal Parolin before that prelate’s talk. Cardinal Wuerl noted that the Vatican official was known as an expert in Mideast affairs who was responsible for efforts bringing Israelis and Palestinians together for peace talks, and he said that in Asia, Cardinal Parolin was also instrumental in efforts to build up ties between the Vatican and Vietnam.

“In this whole process, Cardinal Parolin has always been able to put the face of the Church and the face of Christ’s love into diplomatic action,” Cardinal Wuerl said.

Cardinal Parolin, who had celebrated a Mass two days earlier in Baltimore on the eve of the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to mark the conference’s centennial, spoke to the Catholic University audience in Italian, while a translation in English appeared on video screens via closed captioning. Those in attendance included Catholic University administrators, faculty members and students, and the guests included Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States.

The Vatican Secretary of State underscored the importance of four key documents from the Second Vatican Council – which Pope Benedict XVI had once compared to four points of the compass that can direct the Church forward – Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (1963); Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (1964); Dei Verbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (1965); and Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (1965).

The cardinal noted that from the conclusion of the Council and then throughout his pontificate, Blessed Paul VI “dedicated himself to focusing on the inheritance of the Council, to illustrate the richness of the teachings,” using the “image of a river which flows nourishing itself from its source,” reaching generation to generation, in “new lands and new situations.”

Quoting Pope Francis’s 2013 interview with La Civilta Cattolica, the Jesuit Italian language magazine, the cardinal pointed out that the pope said “Vatican II was a re-reading of the Gospel in light of contemporary culture. Vatican II produced a renewal movement that simply comes from the same Gospel. Its fruits are enormous.”

Cardinal Parolin noted that in that interview, Pope Francis spoke of the Church as “the people of God that journeys in history, with joys and sorrows… as pastors and people together.” The pope, he added, stresses “all the people walking together” on that journey, guided by the Holy Spirit.

The image of the people of God in Lumen Gentium, the cardinal added, shaped the themes that Pope Francis emphasized in his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), where the pontiff pointed out how the faith unfolds in people’s daily lives around the world and is shared in their own languages and cultures as they carry out the work of the New Evangelization as missionary disciples in today’s world.

Pope Francis, the cardinal added, has also emphasized the dignity of the lay faithful and warned against clericalism, drawing attention to “the process of the transformation of a Church that passed from total concentration of every active function in the hands of the clergy, to a recognition of the right and duty of the lay faithful to participate in the life and mission of the Church.”

The cardinal noted that in a 2016 letter, Pope Francis warned that clericalism limits the laity’s “necessary boldness to enable the Good News to be brought to all areas of the social and above all, the political sphere.” The pope in that letter also pointed out that committed lay people are not only those “dedicated to the works of the Church and the matters of the parish or the diocese,” but the Church must also reflect on “how to accompany baptized people in their public and daily life; (and) on how in their daily activities, with the responsibilities they have, they are committed as Christians in public life.”

The Council fathers also emphasized the importance of the Church identifying with the poor, said Cardinal Parolin, who quoted a section of Pope Francis’s “The Joy of the Gospel” that emphasized the pope’s often-stated desire for a Church that is poor and for the poor: “We are called to find Christ in them (the poor), to lend our voices to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them.” (#198)

In the citation for Cardinal Parolin’s honorary degree, it was noted that he was born in Italy, the son of a hardware store manager and an elementary school teacher, and that in his nearly three decades of diplomatic service for the Holy See, he served in Nigeria, Mexico and then in Venezuela, where he was apostolic nuncio. After becoming the Vatican’s Secretary of State in 2013, Cardinal Parolin addressed the United Nations Security Council on the dangers of religious-based terrorism, and has stressed the importance of the global community addressing the challenge of climate change. The honorary degree citation noted that he has “encouraged the international community to address the religious persecution that forces millions to become refugees, forced migrants and internally displaced persons.”

After the conferral of the degree by John Garvey, the university’s president, Cardinal Parolin expressed gratitude for that honor “from such a faithful and prestigious university” and for being invited to speak at the university, which he said “is dedicated to the formation of hearts and minds.”

“The Catholic University of America is to be commended for its efforts in providing for the encounter between students and the living God who in Jesus reveals his transforming love and truth which the Church offers to humanity,” said Cardinal Parolin. “Through your efforts, you bring the Good News of Jesus to the Church, this nation and the world. This is beautiful."