It’s 55 years today since the first session of the three-year Second Vatican Council began.

On this day, October 11 Pope John XXIII addressed those gathered in a speech which summarised the needs of the era. Today Pope Francis also uses the “change of era” language.

Here is the most often quoted section of Pope John’s address on that opening day. Link to the complete address below.

In the daily exercise of Our pastoral office, it sometimes happens that We hear certain opinions which disturb Us—opinions expressed by people who, though fired with a commendable zeal for religion, are lacking in sufficient prudence and judgment in their evaluation of events. They can see nothing but calamity and disaster in the present state of the world. They say over and over that this modern age of ours, in comparison with past ages, is definitely deteriorating. One would think from their attitude that history, that great teacher of life, had taught them nothing. They seem to imagine that in the days of the earlier councils everything was as it should be so far as doctrine and morality and the Church’s rightful liberty were concerned.

We feel that We must disagree with these prophets of doom, who are always forecasting worse disasters, as though the end of the world were at hand.

Present indications are that the human family is on the threshold of a new era. We must recognise here the hand of God, who, as the years roll by, is ever directing people’s efforts, whether they realise it or not, towards the fulfillment of the inscrutable designs of His providence, wisely arranging everything, even adverse human fortune, for the Church’s good.

Pope John XXIII complete Vatican II Opening Address.

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