Fifty-eight years ago this week, on January 25, 1959, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, less than three months into his pontificate as Pope John XXIII, shocked the world by announcing his intention to convoke “an ecumenical council for the universal church.” The seventy-eight-year-old pontiff made sure that Christian unity would be central in the deliberations of the Council. He wanted the Council to be, he said, “an invitation to the separated communities to seek again that unity for which so many souls are longing in these days throughout the world.”
“Good Pope John” frequently referred to the Second Vatican Council as a new Pentecost, as in his prayer that the Lord would renew “his wonders in our time, as by a new Pentecost” (per novum veluti Pentecostem mirabilia tua). He was well aware that the fire of Pentecost did not descend on the disciples in the Upper Room out of the blue. It was born in a prayer meeting. Thus it was no coincidence that Pope John first announced the Council at the close of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This annual cycle of prayer had deep roots in Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant traditions alike.
Read more at First Things.
Further Reading: From Europe to India, Christians seek unity.