Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., in a recent interview in America Magazine concerning Pope Francis, comments:
“I think his (Pope Francis’) great contribution to date has been the reconnecting of the church with the energy of the Second Vatican Council, the energy coming out of that council. John Paul II was the great refocusing moment in the life of the church to get us back on track and say no to the exaggerations and discontinuity. Pope Benedict put the nail in the coffin on the discontinuity. Now comes Pope Francis who’s saying, ‘Why don’t we pick up where we left off: collegiality, synodality.’ The synodality that Paul VI initiated has flowered under Francis.”
These are very interesting and important insights. Pope Francis is a man of the Council. He is the only pope who was ordained a priest after the Second Vatican Council concluded in 1965.
It was the courage and vision of St. John XXIII who, in January 1959, first called for Vatican II and it was his fatherly care that initiated and shepherded the Council to its beginning.
The Venerable Pope Pius XII prepared the way for the Council with works like Mystici Corporis (1943) on the Church and Mediator Dei (1947) on the Sacred Liturgy and Blessed Paul VI was the pope who led the Council to its conclusion and it is he who, through his faithful and orthodox teaching kept first and foremost the reality of the dignity of the human person present in his teachings.
Pope John Paul I, although only reigning for a brief time, was, as a young bishop in Vittorio Veneto in Italy, a participant in each of the sessions of the Council.
St. John Paul II was also present and participated at Vatican II and it was he who served as the living, smiling, loving face of the Church in the modern world as no other man in the 20th century had ever done.
And truly, our beloved Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI, with his embrace of aggiornamento within the living tradition of the Church, as well as being as peritus at the Council as a young theologian, is a walking testimony to the Council.
Francis follows in this strong tradition. He is in continuity with all the popes who have proceeded him, and, ultimately, their vision is all the same: to bring Christ in and through the Church to the modern world.