With the approval of Pope John XXIII, Cardinal Tardini sent a letter dated 18 June 1959 to all Cardinals, archbishops, bishops (both residential and titular), and superiors general of clerical religious orders, asking them to submit their views on the Council by 1 September 1959.
The letter read:
“I am pleased to communicate to Your Excellency that the Supreme Pontiff, John XXIII, happily reigning, on May 17, 1959, the Feast of Pentecost, established an Antepreparatory Commission, which I have the honor of chairing, for the forthcoming Ecumenical Council.
The august Pontiff first wishes to know the opinions and views and to gather the advice and recommendations of the bishops and prelates who by right are called to take part in an Ecumenical Council (c. 223). His Holiness attaches the greatest importance to the views, advice and recommendations of the future Fathers of the Council, which will be most useful in preparing topics for the Council.
“Therefore, I strongly ask Your Excellency, in complete freedom and honesty, to send to this Pontifical Commission whatever views, advice and recommendations your pastoral care and zeal for souls may suggest to Your Excellency with regard to the material and topics which might be discussed at the next Council. Such topics may concern points of doctrine, the discipline of the clergy and the Christian people, the various activities which engage the Church today, the major problems which it must confront today, and whatever else Your Excellency may consider it opportune to present and develop.
“In this effort, Your Excellency may make discreet use of the advice of prudent and expert churchmen.
“This Pontifical Commission, for its part, will welcome with deep consideration and submission whatever You consider useful for the good of the Church and of souls.
“The responses, to be written in Latin, should be sent to the Pontifical Commission as soon as possible and not later than September 1st of this year.”
It was thus already becoming clearer that the concerns of the Council would go well beyond the need to clarify points of doctrine. And an open-ended process thus emerged as the best way forward.
Joseph Komonchak, The antepreparatory period (JA Komonchak)