Articles on Vatican II - Fifty years Later
On Nov. 18, 1963, Vatican II's proposed document on ecumenism reached the floor of the council. One of the main reasons Pope John XXIII had called the Second Vatican Council was to further the quest for Church unity and so this was an historic day.
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In the first two sessions of the Second Vatican Council, only two documents received final approval. One – the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy – had an enormous effect on the life of the Church. The other – the Decree on Social Communications (Inter Mirifica) – has been virtually ignored.
One of the more significant points of evolution in Church teaching that emerged from the Second Vatican Council was that on the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was an evolution, however, that came with considerable gnashing of teeth and a most emotional debate.
The authority of the college of bishops was not only one of the most important issues discussed at the Second Vatican Council, it was also among the most controversial.
In looking back on the Second Vatican Council, it appears so natural that the council met for about two months every fall from 1962 through 1965.
The first session of the Second Vatican Council in the fall of 1962 had opened a deep fissure between the Vatican's Italian-dominated Curia and the bishops and council fathers who had come from around the world.
In September 1962, shortly before the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXIII learned that he had inoperable cancer. Throughout the first session of the council, he knew that his life was drawing to a close.
At the end of the first session of the Second Vatican Council, the council fathers went home with a mixture of exhilaration and frustration. The bishops had come to understand their authority and responsibility for helping the Church to define itself and its mission to the modern world.
In last week's article, I referred to Pope Benedict's analysis that some people have presented the Second Vatican Council as a break with the Church's past. He maintains that the council was a council of reform in continuity with the tradition.
In his memoirs, Joseph Ratzinger, a young theologian advising Cardinal Josef Frings at the Second Vatican Council and who is today Pope Benedict XVI, recalled the atmosphere in Germany when he returned home after each of the four sessions of the council: