Tuesday, 11 October 2022, marked the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. The Council took place from 1962 to 1965 and ended up producing 16 documents after the oversight of three Popes. It was the 21 Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church and that meant all capable bishops from across the Catholic world had to attend.
Archbishop Owen McCann of the Archdiocese of Cape Town, who was later made cardinal, was one of those bishops who managed to attend the Council.
The Catholic Publication, The Southern Cross, was at hand to tell what happened when the Archbishop left for Rome. It reported on Wednesday, 3 October 1962, that:
Archbishop Owen McCann left Cape Town for Rome and the Second Vatican Council on September 27, 1962. After breaking his journey at Bloemfontein to address the Biennial Conference of the Catholic Women’s League. He arrived in Rome on Sunday.
About a hundred people, including most of the clergy of the archdiocese and leading lay Catholics were at the airport to see him off. The archbishop was guest of honour at a farewell luncheon given by the Catholic Lunch Club at the Grand Hotel the day before he left.
Distinguished guests at the luncheon included the Mayor of Cape Town (Councillor A. H. Hokinman); the Hon. Mr. Justice H. A. Fagan; the Provincial Secretary (Mr. W. J. B. Slater); the Dean of the Consular Corps, the Consul General for Belgium (Mr. A. Boelaerts), and the representative of the following countries: Argentina, Canada, France, Greece, Italy, Nether lands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the U.S.A.; the Bishop Suffragan of Cape Town (Rt. Rev. R. Cowdry); Bishop S. W. Lavis; the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (Rt. Rev. J Rodger); the Moderator of the Congreagational Church in the Cape Peninsula (Rt. Rev Basil Brown); the Chairman of the Methodist Church (Rt. Rev. Horace Stanton); the Principal of the University of Cape Town (Dr. J.P. Duminy); Professor W. H. Hutt; the editor of the Cape Argus (Mr. J. S. M. Simpson); the editor of the Cape Times (Mr. Victor Norton), and Mr. Dewar McCormack of the S.A.B.C.
The Chief Rabbi, Very Rev. Professor I. Abrahams, who was unable to attend, sent a telegram. The following commercial and industrial organisations were also represented: Die Kaapstadse Afrikaanse Sakekamer, the Cape Town Chamber of Commerce and the Cape Town Chamber of Industries.
The distinguished guests were introduced by Mr. Andrew Versino, who also gave a short address of farewell to Archbishop McCann on behalf of the Catholic Lunch Club. About 100 members of the club attended the luncheon.
The Mayor paid tribute to the archbishop and wished him bon voyage on this important occasion on behalf of the city of Cape Town. He asked the archbishop to convey the following message to His Holiness the Pope: “On behalf of the people of all the races and creeds of Cape Town, the cosmopolitan Mother City and Legislative Capital of the Republic of South Africa, I extend greetings to you and express the earnest hope that you may long be spared in health to continue the great spiritual work for mankind to which you have dedicated your life.
“Archbishop McCann, by his service to the City, his immense kindness and courage, has earned the esteem and affection of all sections of the community. May I express the hope that the deliberations of your Council will contribute towards a greater measure of goodwill, understanding, tolerance and love, not only between the denominations officially represented, but between all nations and all peoples in the interest of universal brotherhood and world peace”
Archbishop McCann, replying, said that he was “deeply touched” by this farewell to him. The Second Vatican Council, he said, was an outstanding event, something that happens only once a century. “I feel deeply the privilege of being present to help to legislate for the mode of Christian living of millions who belong to the Catholic Church.”
The Council, he said, was meeting in the shadow of a two-fold scandal; the divisions of Christendom and the defection of large numbers in the West from the pattern of Christian living. “I ask your prayers that we may see clearly, judge rightly, and courageously set forth the solutions to these grave problems”
The clergy of the archdiocese and representatives of the Association of Catholic Laymen said farewell to the archbishop at two sherry parties at Cathedral Place on September 25 and 26.