Remembering Blessed John’s “Moonlight Speech” 50 years later
October 11, 2012

“Discorso della Luna” 50 years ago - Thursday, October 11, 2012

Below is the text of Pope John's speech on the night of the opening of the Second Vatican Council:

Dear children,

I hear your voices. Mine is only a single voice. But what resounds here is the voice of the whole world; here all the world is represented. One might even say that the moon rushed here this evening – Look at her high up there – to behold this spectacle. This is how we close a great day of peace ... of peace! “Glory to God and peace to men of good will”.

We repeat often this greeting. And when we can say that the ray, the sweetness of the peace of the Lord truly unites us and carries us, we say: here is a taste of what should be the life of all the centuries and of the life that awaits us in eternity. How about a little more. If I asked – if I could ask – each of you, “You, where do you come from?” The children of Rome who are especially represented here would respond, “Ah, we are your nearest children and you are the Bishop of Rome”. But you , Roman children, do you feel like you really represent ROMA CAPUT MUNDI (“Rome the head of the world”), for this is what in God’s Providence you have been called to be, for the spread of truth and of Christian peace?

In these words is the response to your homage. My own person counts for nothing – it is a brother who speaks to you, who has become a father by the will of the Lord ... but everyone together, in paternity and fraternity, and the grace of God, everything, everything ... Let us continue, therefore, to love each other, to love each other so, by looking at each other in our encounters with one another: taking up what unites us and setting aside anything that might keep us in a bit of difficulty ... This morning there was a spectacle that not even the Basilica of Saint Peter’s – which has four centuries of history – could ever have contemplated. We belong, therefore, a time in which we are sensitive to the voices that come from above: and we want to be faithful and to stand according to the directions which our Blessed Christ has given us. I end by giving you the Blessing.

I love to invite to be near me the Madonna, holy and blessed, whose great mystery we remember today; I have heard that one of you has remembered [the 431 AD Council of] Ephesus and the lamps lit around the basilica, that I saw with my own eyes (not in those ancient times, mind you, but recently), and that recalls the proclamation of the dogma of the Divine Maternity of Mary.

This evening the spectacle offered to me is one that will remain in my memory as it will in yours. Let us honour the images of this evening! That our feelings might always be just as they are now as we express them before heaven and before the earth. Faith, Hope, Charity, the love of God, the love of our brothers and sisters; and then everyone together helped by the holy peace of the Lord, in doing good works. When you go back home, you will find your children: and give them a hug and say,“This is a hug from the Pope. You will find some tears that need to be dried: speak a good word:“The Pope is with us, especially in times of sadness and bitterness.” And then all together let us encourage one another: singing, breathing, weeping, but always full of faith in Christ who helps us and who listens to us, let us continue on our journey.

Translation Copyright 2012 Fr. Stefano Penna and Br. Scott Surrency OFM Cap.

Fifty years later, even if "the whole world" wasn't represented in Piazza San Pietro, tens of thousands of torch-bearing young people, and those who have been young for a while, streamed into St. Peter’s Square Thursday night, to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, and remember one of Rome’s most memorable evenings. The crowd came from Castel Sant'Angelo, marched up the Via Conciliazione and filled the streets around the Vatican with song. The event – entitled "The Council's Beautiful Church" (La Chiesa Bella del Concilio) – captured the heart of Rome, just as it did 50 years earlier. Sebastian Gomes, Cheridan Sanders, Charles Le Bourgeois, Sr. Gill Goulding, C.J., (one of Pope Benedict’s appointees to the Synod on the New Evangelization) and I were present in the Piazza for this beautiful spectacle!

Here is the English translation of Pope Benedict’s brief address to the crowd:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Good evening to you all and thank you for coming. Thanks also to Italian Catholic Action which organized this torchlight procession.

Fifty years ago on this day I too was in this square, gazing towards this window where the good Pope, Blessed Pope John looked out and spoke unforgettable words to us, words that were full of poetry and goodness, words that came from his heart.

We were happy I would say and full of enthusiasm. The great Ecumenical Council had begun; we were sure that a new spring of the Church was in sight, a new Pentecost with a new, strong presence of the freeing grace of the Gospel.

We are also happy today, we hold joy in our hearts but I would say it is perhaps a more measured joy, a humble joy. In these 50 years we have learned and experienced that original sin exists and that it can be evermore expressed as personal sins which can become structures of sin. We have seen that in the field of the Lord there are always tares. We have seen that even in Peter's net there were bad fish. We have seen that human frailty is present in the Church, that the barque of the Church is even sailing against the wind in storms that threaten the ship, and at times we have thought: the Lord is asleep and has forgotten us.

These are some of the experiences of the past 50 years but we have also had a new experience of the Lord's presence, of his goodness and of his strength. The fire of the Holy Spirit, the fire of Christ, is not a voracious, destructive fire; it is a silent fire, a small flame of goodness and of truth that transforms, that gives light and warmth. We have seen that the Lord does not forget us. Even today in his humble way the Lord is present and warms our hearts, he shows life, creates charisms of goodness and charity that illuminate the world and are a guarantee for us of God's goodness. Yes, Christ is alive, he is with us even today, and we can be happy today too because his goodness will not be extinguished; it is still strong today!

Finally I dare to make Pope John's unforgettable words my own: When you go home, give your children a kiss and tell them that it is from the Pope.  In this way I warmly impart my blessing: May the name of the Lord be blessed.


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