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No. 42

The Council Fathers end the Vatican II Decree Ad Gentes Divinitus with this no. 42, which is divided into two paragraphs.  In the first paragraph they salute all preachers of the Gospel.  By addressing the salutation to all preachers of the Gospel, the Council Fathers expressed their faith that all preaching of the Gospel, wherever it is done, is a sharing in the missionary work of the Church.  They felt justified, therefore, in greeting all preachers of the Gospel at the end of this missionary document for two reasons.  The first is that all preachers of the Gospel are by that very fact sharers in the missionary task of the Church.  The second reason is the missionary character of their own office as bishops.  They express that missionary character of their office by stating their deep consciousness “of their duty to spread everywhere the kingdom of God.”  In union with the Pope they are leaders of a Church that is by nature missionary.  They themselves stated this missionary character of the Church already in the first number of Ad Gentes Divinitus.  Because the whole Church is missionary, missionary work falls upon the hierarchy as a universal duty.  They all felt themselves as missionary clergy.

As missionaries themselves, the Council Fathers “especially salute those [missionaries] who suffer persecution for the name of Christ.”  Already at the time of the Council (1962-1965) there was some persecution of the Church in Communist countries and elsewhere, but the salutation takes on a poignant character when we read it today, because so many Christians suffer violent persecution, especially in the Moslem world.

In the second paragraph of no. 42, the Council Fathers profess that they are one with God in “the same love that inflamed the heart of God towards men.”  In that love they want that all men know Jesus Christ, who is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6), and that the glory of God, shown in Jesus Christ, might shine on them.   But they know that this can only happen through the grace of God.  They, therefore, “pour out their prayers, together with the Christian faithful, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles, the nations might soon be led to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4) and that the glory of God, which shown in the face of Jesus Christ, might shed its light on all men through the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 4:6).”

We can be proud of the confession of the Council Fathers in this number that “they are inflamed with the same love that inflamed the heart of God towards men,” because it was part of their almost unanimous agreement in all matters of the Council.  In fact, there had never been such general agreement among the members of an Ecumenical Council since the first Council of Jerusalem (cf. Acts 15:1-22).  May Mary, Queen of Apostles, bring forth in the Church the genuine fruits of such fraternal agreement among the Pope and all the bishops of the Church.