A Mexican Prelate Who Was There at Close of Vatican II

Interview With Retired Archbishop Szymanski Ramírez

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SAN LUIS POTOSI, Mexico, DEC. 6, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Retired Archbishop Arturo Szymanski Ramírez remembers a striking line of Pope Paul VI’s at the close of the Second Vatican Council.

«The religion of the God who became man,» he recalled the Holy Father as saying, «has encountered the religion of man who becomes god.»

This Thursday marks the 40th anniversary of the close of Vatican II. For the occasion the El Observador newspaper interviewed Archbishop Szymanski Ramírez, 83, the retired head of the San Luis Potosi Archdiocese, who attended the Council as a young prelate. Here are excerpts from the interview.

Q: What is your recollection of the closure of the Council?

Archbishop Szymanski Ramírez: I thought that what had been achieved was what the now Blessed Pope John XXIII proposed to do when calling it: «To open the windows of the Church to let in fresh air,» though with a certain fear, on the part of more than one, that other little airs would come in.

The Church also began to be news — something which before, at least in Mexico, it was not.

I think that the words continue to be valid of the great Pope Paul VI, on December 7, 1965, in the Council’s closing session: «The religion of the God who became man has encountered the religion of man who becomes god.»

Q: What do you think was the Council’s main contribution to the life of the Church?

Archbishop Szymanski Ramírez: Without a doubt it was the documents that emanated from it, which should be known at least by the whole Church and not only by the bishops, presbyters, and men and women religious.

How many members of the Church will fail when being examined on their knowledge of the conciliar documents — all so important for the world — and on their deeper study and application!

It is my still valid conviction that to have these Council documents, to deepen knowledge of them and to apply them, is a present need if we really want to have a Church that is truly «aggiornata» [up-to-date], and even more so now. In the Council, although there were opposing views on several matters, all was done in a vein that tended toward greater charity among Christians and especially within the Church. Was this achieved?

At the closing of the council, Pope Paul VI said: «This is the hope that encourages us at the conclusion of this Second Ecumenical Vatican Council and the beginning of the human and religious renewal that it proposes to study and foment … and so we hope it will be for the whole of humanity, whom we have learned to love and serve better.»

Q: What elements of the Council have yet to be carried out in the Church?

Archbishop Szymanski Ramírez: I believe this is a question that each one of us Christians must ask ourselves to see the pros and cons carried out since the Council.

I think it would be a very positive endeavor to promote this question among all the people and, with the Council’s documents in hand, see what remains to be done or has been poorly done of the [documents].

I am sure that in looking at them with a critical spirit to understand what has been done, well or poorly, and what remains to be done, Christians will have wonderful material for the strengthening and living of the faith.

When one asks oneself: Is it right to speak of a time before and after the Council, ignoring the life of the Church before it? — this question has a negative answer, as expressed by the eminent theologian, who had nothing conservative about him, Urs von Balthasar, appointed by John Paul II a cardinal, who said: «We must place ourselves in the center of the Church which does not change and will never change on the essential, because she is the living Tradition which is supported by fidelity to the faith and pastoral adaptation.»

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