St. Paul Outside the Walls Hosting Vatican II Exhibit

Archbishop Wojtyła’s Diplomatic Passport Among Original Documents on Display

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ROME, JAN. 24, 2012 ( An exhibition of the original documents of the Second Vatican Council opens Wednesday at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the site where Blessed John XXIII announced the convocation of this important ecclesial event of the 20th century.

Oct. 11, 2012, marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the council. Basilica officials planned this exhibition to begin on the liturgical feast of the conversion of St. Paul, Jan. 25.

It was, in fact, on Jan. 25, 1959, that Pope John XXIII, after a solemn celebration in the basilica and while visiting the adjacent Benedictine monastery, announced his desire to convoke a Church council.

Both the basilica and the abbey are planning different events to celebrate the two ecclesial moments: the announcement and the opening of Vatican II.

On Wednesday, Benedict XVI will preside over the second vespers of the Pauline feast in the papal basilica, closing at the same time the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The program of events, organized by Cardinal Francesco Monterisi, archpriest of the basilica, and by Benedictine Father Edmund Power, abbot of St. Paul’s, includes meetings and conferences until Nov. 24, 2013, the closing of the Year of Faith convoked by Benedict XVI.

The exhibition, titled Sanctus Paulus extra moenia et Concilium Oecumenicum Vaticanum II, covers an area of 300 square meters (360 square yards).

The exhibition will include such documents as the handwritten texts of John XXIII’s addresses to announce the council and also his opening speech on Oct. 11, 1962, in St. Peter’s.

Also on display will be the diplomatic passport, signed by Cardinal Angelo dell’Acqua, which enabled Archbishop Karol Wojtyła to attend the Council: a very important document given that at that time the Polish government refused to issue a passport to the cardinal primate, Stefan Wyszynski.

All Vatican institutions have contributed to the exhibition, which will include the front pages and photographs from the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, as well as coins, medals and stamps of the time, loaned by the Vatican Library and the Philatelic and Numismatic Office. The new postal stamp, issued for the 50th anniversary of the council, will also be on display.

Vatican Radio has contributed recordings to help make an almost 15-minute video. «It is quite something to hear again the voice of Pope Roncalli,» Cardinal Monterisi declared to Vatican Radio, «and to see again images of that time.»

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