…by Anura Guruge
Ad Gentes (To the nations) is the opening two words, in Latin, of the Vatican II 4th Period [i.e., 1965] ‘Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church‘, which was approved by a vote of 2,394 to 5 and was promulgated on December 7, 1965 by Paul VI (#263). This decree deals with the issues involved in missionary work, in particular presenting Christian concepts in non-Christian [i.e., heathen] cultures.
The document that was to discussed and approved by the Council was prepared in the Spring of 1965 by the Vatican II Commission on Missions. This Commission met at a serene meeting facility (a retreat of sorts) run by the Society of the Divine Word (SVD or Verbites), close to the papal residence of Castelgandolfo, to prepare this document. This facility, then known as House of the Verbites is located in Nemi, a village in the Alban Hills.
In 1965, the pope, then Father Ratzinger, was 38 years of age, and was a Professor at the University of Münster — having moved there 2 years prior, after 4 years at the University of Bonn.
Cardinal Josef Richard Frings (1887 – 1978, created: 1946), the Archbishop of Cologne (1942 – 1969) recruited Ratzinger as a peritus (theological consultant) to assist him during Vatican II. In those days Ratzinger was a liberal and keen on reform — Frings even delivering a speech to the Council, widely believed to have been written by Ratzinger, that accused the Holy Office (Ratzinger’s future dicastery) of being too conservative and dictatorial!
In this capacity as a peritus, Ratzinger visited the House of the Verbites, from March 29 to April 3, 1965, to help with formulating the Decree.
The pope’s visit on Monday, July 9, 2012, to Nemi, is to commemorate and relive this Vatican II era visit of 47 years ago. Since January 2010 the House of the Verbites is known by its new name Ad Gentes Centre.
The pope will travel to Nemi, a 15 minute drive, by motorcade from Castelgandolfo — departing the papal residence at 11:30 am Rome time. It will be a brief visit. The pope is expected back at Castelgandolfo by 12:15 pm!
He is scheduled to meet with the leadership and members of the Verbites, with Fathers Heinz Kuluke, Antonio Pernia and Giancarlo Girardi acting as the hosts.