John F. Kennedy photo

Message to Pope John XXIII on the Occasion of the Opening of the Second Vatican Council.

October 05, 1962

[Released October 5, 1962. Dated September 27, 1962]

Your Holiness:

It is difficult to realize that three years have elapsed since Your Holiness announced that you planned to convene an Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church--the first in almost a hundred years. During these three fateful years, millions of my fellow citizens in the United States, including many who do not belong to the Catholic Church, have followed with lively and sympathetic interest the work of the various preparatory Commissions appointed by Your Holiness to draw up the agenda for this extraordinarily important Council. They have also read, with particular interest and with genuine admiration for your all-embracing concern for the welfare of humanity, the several inspiring statements issued by Your Holiness on the background and purposes of the Council.

In the face of staggering problems which, from the human point of view, seem at times to be almost insoluble, people all over the world have found reason for renewed confidence and courage in the welcome thought that the Fathers of the Council, as Your Holiness indicated in your Radio Message of September 11, will give special attention to the grave economic and social problems which daily press upon suffering humanity in almost all parts of the world but, more particularly, in the economically underdeveloped nations. It is very heartening to know that the Council, in the words of Your Holiness, will strive to deepen the fellowship and love which are "the natural needs of man" and "are imposed on the Christian as rules for his relationship between man and man, and between people and people."

We hope that the Council will be able to present in clear and persuasive language effective solutions to the many problems confronting all of us and, more specifically, that its decisions will significantly advance the cause of international peace and understanding.

In closing, may I respectfully extend to Your Holiness my warmest personal greetings and best wishes and those of Mrs. Kennedy, who will always cherish the memory of her audience with Your Holiness last March. On the eve of the Council, we earnestly hope and pray that God will continue to bless you with vigorous health and will give you the great joy and satisfaction of seeing the Council fulfill all of your fondest hopes and dreams for a worldwide renewal of fellowship and love and for the establishment of a just and lasting peace.

With sentiments of profound esteem I remain,

Respectfully yours,


[His Holiness Pope John XXIII, Vatican City]

John F. Kennedy, Message to Pope John XXIII on the Occasion of the Opening of the Second Vatican Council. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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