Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, spoke about the ongoing legacy of the Second Vatican Council during an address Nov. 14 at The Catholic University of America. The cardinal delivered his address, “The Council: A Prophecy that Continues with Pope Francis,” in Italian, with simultaneous English translation before a crowd of clergy and members of the University community.
Though Vatican II took place more than 50 years ago, from 1962 to 1965, Cardinal Parolin said it remains “a prophetic character” in the Church, continuing to shape the life and behavior of the Church to this day.
“The Council has introduced in the life of the Church and its relationship with the world a new style and new seeds, drawn from the source of the Tradition, especially from biblical and patristic sources,” he said.
Many ideas emphasized by Vatican II remain relevant to the Church today, Cardinal Parolin continued. Among those ideas are the notion of the Church as People of God and the importance of empowering the lay faithful while avoiding clericalism, which, as Pope Francis has written, “gradually extinguishes the prophetic flame to which the entire Church is called to bear witness in the heart of her peoples.”
He carefully demonstrated the manner of unfolding of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council through the papacies of Pope Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.
The cardinal also stressed the importance of synodality in all levels of the Church, and a need for the Church to learn from and be evangelized by the life of the poor. Cardinal Parolin quoted Pope Francis’s Evangelii gaudium, saying, “They [the poor] have much to teach us … We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them.”
Cardinal Parolin was appointed as the Vatican’s Secretary of State four years ago, having previously served as an apostolic nuncio in Nigeria, Mexico, and Venezuela. In service to the Holy See, the cardinal has addressed the United Nations Security Council on the dangers of religion-based terrorism, urged global leaders to adopt a “transformative agreement” on the problem of climate change, and encouraged the international community to address the religious persecution that forces millions to become refugees, forced migrants, and internally displaced persons.
Following his remarks, the University bestowed on Cardinal Parolin an honorary doctorate, Doctor of Theology, honoris causa. Very Rev. Mark Morozowich, S.E.O.D., dean of theology and religious studies who bestowed the degree, thanked the cardinal for “helping us to challenge our sense of the Church, the people of God, and how Pope Francis continues to deepen this understanding today.”
Catholic University President John Garvey also gave remarks, noting what a privilege it was to welcome Cardinal Parolin into the University community.
Cardinal Parolin said he was honored to receive the degree and noted that the University “is to be commended for its efforts in providing an encounter between students and the living God” and for sharing the good news of Jesus with the nation and the world.