OTTAWA - A conference here Sept. 27-29 marking the 50th anniversary the Second Vatican Council will examine how to "hand on the Gospel today" in light of Vatican II's teachings, said theology professor Catherine Clifford.
"One of our goals is to promote the pastoral renewal of the Church," said Clifford, an organizer of the Vatican II: For the Next Generation Conference.
The conference is co-sponsored by Saint Paul University's Vatican II and 21st Century Catholicism Research Centre and Novalis Publishing.
"The world we live in today is very different from the world 50 years ago," Clifford said. Many of the questions are not the same questions the bishops were reflecting on in 1962-65 in the council."
"We're called to read the signs of this time and to engage in that open dialogue in a spirit of humility with other Christians, other faiths and with contemporary society."
When Vatican II opened 50 years ago, it took place against the backdrop of the Cold War, less than 20 years after the end of World War II, said Clifford.
Since then there has been a marked shift to the global integration of societies and culture, she said. "The Internet is part of that."
"It's an era of an unprecedented migration of peoples," she said. "The population of the world has more than doubled; the population of the Catholic Church has more than doubled."
"The majority of Catholics lives not in Europe and North America but in the Southern Hemisphere," she said. "We are a very different Church than we were 50 years ago."
The world is marked by more global structures such as the United Nations, she said. There is still armed conflict and war but there is more of a consensus that violence is only a last resort for resolving conflicts.
Though poverty and social injustice remain challenges, "in some ways those issues are far more complex than they were 50 years ago," she said.
Another sign is the recognition of the dignity of the human person that is probably even stronger than it was 50 years ago, when the civil rights movement in the United States was gaining momentum, she said.
The conference will feature a keynote address by Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. He will speak on Vatican II: A Council of Justice and Peace.
Other conference attendees include dogmatic theology professor Christoph Theobold, from the Centre Sèvres in Paris, France and Richard Gaillardetz, a systematic theologian at Boston College.
The conference will feature a panel of bishops and advisors who took part in the council, including Bishops Remi De Roo and Gerard Deschamps; and advisors Gregory Baum and Leo Laberge.