This is the first of an occasional series of articles about the Second Vatican Council that will appear this year in NCR leading up to 50th anniversary of the council's opening on Oct. 11, 2012. In October, NCR will publish a special edition devoted solely to the council's 50th anniversary. Read more about it here.
Wednesday, the Catholic church should have celebrated -- but didn't -- an important anniversary, the day 53 years ago when Pope John XXIII invited 18 Curia cardinals to accompany him to a ceremony at St. Paul Outside the Walls. It was the feast day of St. Paul, who is believed to have been executed in Rome about 67 A.D. and buried where the basilica named after him now stands.
It was also the final day of the Octave for Christian Unity, an objective close to the pope's heart. Presumably because of the attendance of so many Vatican higher-ups, the ceremony lasted longer than usual. The result was that the content of the carefully timed announcement the pope made to the cardinals had been released to the media before the cardinals were told.