BEING immersed in the lives of the poor, continuing dialogue despite adverse socio-political realities, and pursuing what Pope Francis calls a “culture of encounter”, these, among others, bring about the vision of the Second Vatican Council to the world today.
In an interesting interplay of concrete stories and profound theology, this was what Manila Archbishop, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, told an audience at The Catholic University of America in Washington DC on March 2, 2015 where he was a speaker at the annual Cardinal Dearden Lecture. He spoke on the 50th anniversary of Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, which is one of the four main constitutions of the Second Vatican Council.
Cardinal Tagle is the best person to talk about this, on two counts. First, he was the one who wrote the 4th chapter of Volume 4 of the History of Vatican II (published in 2002 by Obis Books), about “The ‘Black Week’ of Vatican II” (November 14-21, 1964) when Gaudium et Spes was on its final touches. In a very scholarly way, he discusses about some very complex procedural problems and maneuverings encountered by the Council fathers. But at the end he concludes: “Without the Black Week, Vatican II would not have been the council it ended up being. From it sprang wonderful lessons, beautiful documents, exciting horizons, and painful wounds as well. Ultimately, the forces of renewal unleashed by Vatican II were so powerful that the incidents of the Black Week could not hinder them. Indeed, the Black Week was one of the wellsprings that have made the Second Vatican Council a source of grace for the Church and for the world.”
Second, he knows immersion with the poor not by the book but by life. In this talk at The Catholic University of America, where he is an alumnus for his licentiate and doctorate in theology, Cardinal Tagle mentioned that Pope Francis during his recent visit to the Philippines demonstrated how Gaudium et Spes can be lived out through encounters with others when he blessed people, listened to the stories of the survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda, and visited street children such as at the Tulay ng Kabataan. “The poor have wisdom unique to them,” he said, adding that if one is humble he will listen and learn from the poor and the suffering. Sometimes the Church does not have an answer for suffering, but he quoted Pope Francis that sometimes tears are the only answer.
What he said during his farewell message at the end of the Mass of Pope Francis at the Luneta Park in Manila was actually a humble personal testimony of how Gaudium et Spes is lived in context: “Tomorrow you will go. Every Filipino wants to go with you—not to Rome—but to the peripheries, to the shanties, to prison cells, to hospitals, to the world of politics, finance, arts, sciences, culture, education, and social communications. We will go to these worlds to bring the light of Jesus—Jesus who is the center of your pastoral visit and the cornerstone of the Church.”