Passionist Participation at Vatican II 1962-1965

Home / Passionist Participation at Vatican II 1962-1965

by Father Rob Carbonneau, C.P.

Passionist bishops taking part in Second Vatican Council:
First row left to right: Bishops Legaristi, O’Gara, Peruzzo, Battistelli, Hagendorens, Fernández
Second Row left to right:Bishops Muruaga, Pesce, Deane, Pellanda, Olwell, Sillekens

Happy Fortieth Anniversary! How we remember or discuss the historical or theological meaning of Vatican II might very well show our age. During the 2003 luncheon at the American Catholic Historical Association in Chicago, Illinois I had a discussion with Assumptionist Father George H. Tavard about the role Passionist Father Barnabas Ahern at the Second Vatican Council. Thinking beyond the individual, however, Father Tavard pondered the need for Roman Catholic religious orders to examine their participation at Vatican II and their implementation of the documents into their respective ministries

The discussion prompted me to dig the above photo out of the Passionist Historical Archives. A look at those bishops and a quick reading of their short the biographies are an opportunity for the Passionist, historians and friends of Passionist history to ask some basic questions:

† How can we find out more biographical information on these men?
† Were these bishops excited about their participation in Second Vatican Council?
† Were they conservative or progressive?
† How did they vote on the documents?
† How did the bishops bring to life the documents in their dioceses when the Council ended?
† What was the contribution of the Passionist bishops and priests who served as Council experts?
† How would one combine the resources in international archives to write Passionist history?

Bishop Martin Fulgentius Elorza Legaristi, C.P.

Born in Elgueta, Spain on December 30, 1899. Ordained a Passionist priest on July 13, 1924. Appointed as Prelate of Moyobamba, Peru on January 15, 1949. Appointed Titular Bishop of Baliana on October 3, 1953 and ordained as Bishop of Baliana on February 24, 1954. Died as the Prelate of Moyobamba, Peru on December 30, 1966.

Bishop Cuthbert O’Gara, C.P.

Born in Ottawa, Canada on April 1, 1886. Ordained a Passionist priest on May 26, 1915. Appointed as missionary Bishop of Yuanling, Hunan, China on May 28, 1934. Ordained Bishop there on October 28, 1934. As the result of the realignment of the China Catholic hierarchy he was reappointed as Bishop of Yuanling on April 11, 1946. He died on May 13, 1968. During the Council Father Silvan Rouse, C.P. served as the theologian for Bishop O’Gara while Father Linus Lombard, C.P. was his secretary.

Bishop Giovanni Battista Peruzzo, C.P.

Born in Molare, Italy on July 14, 1878. Ordained a Passionist priest on January 13, 1901. After his ordination he did preaching in northern Italy. From 1901 until 1924 he conducted over three hundred apostolic missions. On January 18, 1924 appointed as an Auxiliary Bishop of Mantova, Italy and ordained on February 10, 1924 as an Auxiliary Bishop. Appointed on October 19, 1928 as Bishop of Oppido Mametina, Italy. January 15, 1932 appointed as Bishop of Agrigento, Italy. During his tenure information states that he created one hundred and thirty-seven new parishes and was pastorally active in service to his people. He was involved also with the reorganization of the catechism for children and adults. He paid attention to issues in the seminary and social issues as well. Of utmost concern was his care of refugees during World War II. He died on July 20, 1963 as Bishop of Agrigento, Italy and therefore did not live to attend the entire Council which ended in 1965. He was, however, from the start of the Council, known to be a strong orthodox voice in his capacity as a member of the Theological Commission. One source quotes him as a man who “stood up in the fight for orthodoxy.”

Bishop Stanislaus Amilcare Battistelli, C.P.

Born in Fano, Italy September 28, 1885. Ordained a Passionist priest on September 19, 1908. Appointed Bishop of Sovana-Pitigliano, Italy June 24, 1932. Ordained Bishop there on August 21, 1932. Appointed Bishop of Teremo e Atri, Italy on February 14, 1952. Retired as Bishop of that See on February 22, 1967. He died as Bishop Emeritus of Teramo e Atri on February 20, 1981

Bishop Joseph Augustin Hagendorens, C.P.

Born in Mariekerke, Netherlands April 15, 1894. Ordained a Passionist priest on January 2, 1921. Appointed as Vicar Apostolic of Tshumbe, Congo Democratic Republic on March 23, 1947 and ordained a Bishop Vicar Apostolic on May 1, 1947. Appointed Bishop of Tshumbe Congo Democratic Republic on November 10, 1959. Resigned as Bishop on April 9, 1968. He died a Bishop Emeritus of Tshumbe, Congo Democratic Republic on April 20, 1976.

Bishop Ubaldo Evaristo Cibrián Fernández, C.P.

Born in Villaneuva de Odra, Spain on December 22, 1906. Ordained a Passionist priest on September 21, 1929. Appointed as the Prelate of Corocoro, Bolivia on March 7, 1953. Ordained the Bishop of Corocoro, Bolivia on May 17, 1953. This diocese was 9,000 feet high. One source stated that it was the highest diocese in the world. A missionary spirit was essential. There were twenty priests in the diocese.

He died before the end of the Second Vatican Council, as the Prelate of Corocoro, Bolivia, on April 14, 1965. He appears to have been in general agreement with evolving change taking place at the Council. He desired that the Council arrive at conclusions which would make the faith of the people come alive.

Bishop Gregorio Elias Olazar Muruaga, C.P.

Born in Libano de Arrieta, Spain on December 24, 1912. Ordained a Passionist priest on September 15, 1935. Appointed as Coadjutor Vicar Apostolic of Yurimaguas, Peru on December 11, 1952. Ordained as Bishop on April 12, 1953. Succeeded as Bishop of Yurimaguas, Peru on August 31, 1957. Resigned March 25, 1972 as Bishop Vicar Apostolic of Yurimaguas, Peru.

Bishop Anthony Jeremiah Pesce, C.P.

Born in Rocche di Molare, Italy on August 2, 1908. Ordained a Passionist priest on September 24, 1932. Appointed Vicar Apostolic of Dodoma, Tanzania on May 10, 1951. At that time it was known as East Africa. Ordained as Vicar Apostolic on July 15, 1951. Appointed as Bishop of Dodoma, Tanzania on March 25, 1953. Died as Bishop of Dodoma, Tanzania on December 20, 1971.

Bishop Albert Deane, C.P.

Born in Arrecifes, Argentina on May 3, 1908. Ordained a Passionist priest on April 28, 1933. Appointed as Bishop of Villa Maria, Agentina on March 13, 1957. Ordained Bishop on June 29, 1957. Installed on July 4, 1957. Resigned as Bishop of Villa Maria, Argentina on April 15, 1977 and died as Bishop Emeritus on September 15, 1985.

Deane was of the opinion that Council change would be most obvious in the liturgical change. With approval, he agreed that it was necessary for the Church to make sure that it did not “live in isolation” from the rest of the world.

Bishop Geraldo Micheletto Pellanda, C.P.

Born in Umbara, Italy on September 1, 1916. Ordained a Passionist priest September 23, 1932. Appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Ponta Grossa, Parana, Brazil and Titular Bishop of Mades on November 9, 1960. Ordained Titular Bishop of Mades on February 11, 1961. Succeeded as Bishop of Ponta Grossa, Parana, Brazil on March 20, 1965. Installed as Bishop of Ponta Grossa, Parana, Brazil on April 24, 1965. Died as Bishop of Ponta Grossa, Parana, Brazil in 1991.

Bishop Quentin Olwell, C.P.

Born in Brooklyn, New York on November 4, 1898. Ordained a Passionist priest on February 4, 1923. Appointed as Bishop of the Prelature of Marbel, Philippines on January 19, 1961. Ordained Bishop on April 25, 1961. Resigned as Bishop of the Prelature of Marbel in 1969 and died as Prelate Emeritus on January 30, 1972.

Bishop Gabriel W. Sillekens, C.P.

Born in Roggel, Netherlands on July 6, 1911. Ordained a Passionist priest on May 10, 1936. Appointed Bishop of Ketapang, Indonesia on April 2, 1962. Ordained Bishop of Ketapang, Indonesia on July 17, 1962. Resigned as Bishop of Ketapang, Indonesia on March 15, 1979. Died as Bishop Emeritus of Katapang, Indonesia on May 9, 1981. Sillekens was aware that even with diversified opinions among the bishops attending the Council he had been “greatly impressed by the unity and universality of the Church.” Liturgical adaptation was also in the forefront for him since he believed it to be an essential feature in future mission endeavors. Indonesian was already in use and the bishop expected greater vernacular use wherever possible.

Malcolm Lavelle, C.P.

Information in the December 1962 issue of The Passionist, a publication of the Western Province, where the above picture was published, stated that Passionist Superior General Malcolm Lavelle, who also attended the Second Vatican Council, thought that discussion on the meaning of the apostolate was going to have the most impact on Passionist ministries. Lavelle also stated that he did not think that the Council deliberations were going to have a direct impact on Passionist related issues such as religious poverty and obedience. To augment the situation the Passionists set up commissions to deal with the topic of poverty, for example. This commission had been formed after the 1959 General Chapter and was to make recommendations to the 1963 General Chapter.

Tito Ceroni, C.P.

Other Passionists who played a part in the events at the Second Vatican Council included former Passionist Superior General Tito Ceroni. He was, due to his juridic expertise, appointed in July 1960 to be a member of Preparatory Commission to study the Bishops and the Governance of Dioceses.

Theodore Foley. C.P.

Passionist General Consultor Theodore Foley was, because of his experience in religious life in the English-speaking world and background on education, appointed on October 12, 1960 to the Preparatory Commission on Religious.

Sofronio Sofranov, C.P.

Bulgarian Passionist Father Sofronio Sofranov was appointed to the Preparatory Commission on Eastern Oriental Churches on August 24, 1960. He was able, with the help of the Bulgarian Embassy in Italy, to bring two Bulgarian bishops out of Bulgaria in order to attend the Council events.

Caspar Caulfield, C.P.

Father Caspar Caulfield was a Passionist from the United States. On November 13, 1960 he was appointed a member of the Preparatory Commission on Missions. This was no doubt due to his experience as a missionary in China during the 1940s. He also was the Secretary of Foreign Missions for the Passionists in Rome.

Pedro Richards, C.P.

Father Pedro Richards was a Passionist from Argentina. Because of his involvement with the Christian Family Movement he was, on February 24, 1961, elected consultor to the Preparatory Commission on Apostolate of the Laity. Of particular interest was the possibility of the diaconate.

The Internet of course continues to assist the study of Passionist history. At an essay “By Our Roots We Know Ourselves: An ICCFM History” by Vernie Dale allows us to see how Father Richards was involved with this ministry. Below are several selected paragraphs.

“The ‘fruits’ of the International Confederation of Christian Family Movements (ICCFM) are the thousands of families educated and empowered by it. The Confederation is perhaps the first and only example of the worldwide domestic church, working to embody the hands and heart of Christ on all continents of the planet Earth.”

“The Second World War dealt families a tremendous blow to the heart. The pain and chaos produced by the war convinced many of the necessity of returning both to God and to a supernatural vision of life in order to recover what had been lost. The ground had been burned clean, and everywhere it waited for the seed. Separate groups of men and women, then later of couples, met to search for something they could not easily define, not even realizing other groups like theirs were springing up all over the globe.”

“Among the oldest of these groups,” reported the Pontifical Council of the Laity “are the Teams of Our Lady in France and the Christian Family Movement in the United States. Both have made their influence felt beyond their frontiers and have been the inspiration for most of the other groups. In 1940 Abbe Caffarel started the Teams of Our Lady in Paris, and by the mid-forties Pat and Patty Crowley were coordinating action groups in Chicago.”

“Meanwhile, in Argentina, Fr. Peter Richards had gathered some couples together in the Buenos Aires home of Saturnino and Elena Llorente on November 25, 1948. Two years later, again on the initiative of Fr. Richards, similar groups arose in Montevideo, Uruguay, and by 1955 the Christian Family Movement (Movimiento Familiar Christiano or MFC in Spanish), was a fact in six countries of South America. In 1957 the first MFC South American assembly (or encuentro) was held in Montevideo with representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Chili, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Here was organized the Secretariat for Latin America (Secretariado para Latino America del MFC, or SPLA), with Federico and Hortensia Soneira as presidents.”

Barnabas Ahern, C.P.

Barnabas Ahern was a brilliant Scripture scholar from Holy Cross Province in the United States in 1962, Ahern was appointed peritus, or expert during the Council. He served as a consultor to the Theological Commission and did much in the service for the Secretariat of Christian Unity. During the council, he prepared interventions for Cardinal Albert Meyer of Chicago. “No individual, perhaps,” writes Vatican II journalist Fr. Vincent Yzermans, “did more to promote biblical scholarship among the American hierarchy at Vatican II than Father Barnabas Ahern.” His tactful handling of a 1962 confrontation over modern Scriptural tendencies with conservative U.S. Apostolic Delegate Egidio Vagnozzi assured the acceptance of modern Catholic biblical scholarship by many U.S. bishops. More information on Ahern see two articles by Robert E. Carbonneau, C.P. “Fr. Barnabas Ahern, C.P., (1915-1995) Impelled by the Word of God” Compassion (Summer 1999): 8-13. See and “The Genesis of The Bible Today” in The Bible Today 40 (September 2002): 272-277.

Back to the Passionist Heritage Newsletter Archives »