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Vatican Council II
Date 1962–1965
Previous council First Vatican Council
Convoked by Pope John XXIII
Presided by Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI
Attendance up to 2540
Topics of discussion The Church in itself, in relation to ecumenism and other religions, in relation to the modern world, renewal, liturgy, etc.
Documents and statements

4 Constitutions:

9 decrees:

3 declarations:

Chronological list of Ecumenical councils



The Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, or Vatican II, was the twenty-first Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church. It opened under Pope John XXIII on October 11, 1962 and closed under Pope Paul VI on December 8, 1965. At least four future pontiffs took part in the council's opening session: Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini, who on succeeding Pope John XXIII took the name of Paul VI; Bishop Albino Luciani, the future Pope John Paul I; Bishop Karol Wojtyła, who became Pope John Paul II; and Father Joseph Ratzinger, present as a theological consultant, who became Pope Benedict XVI.[1][2]

BackgroundEdit

Throughout the 1950s, theological and biblical studies of the Roman Catholic Church had begun to sway away from the neo-scholasticism and biblical literalism that the reaction to the Modernist heresy had enforced since the First Vatican Council. This shift could be seen in theologians such as Karl Rahner S.J., and John Courtney Murray S.J. who looked to integrate modern human experience with Christian dogma, as well as others such as Yves Congar, Joseph Ratzinger and Henri de Lubac who looked to what they saw as a more accurate understanding of scripture and the early Church Fathers as a source of renewal ("ressourcement").

At the same time the world's bishops faced tremendous challenges driven by political, social, economic, and technological change. Some of these bishops sought new ways of addressing those challenges. The First Vatican Council had been held nearly a century before but had been cut short when the Italian Army entered the city of Rome at the end of Italian unification. As a result, only deliberations on the role of the Papacy were completed, with examination of pastoral and dogmatic issues concerning the whole church left undone.[3][4]

Pope John XXIII, however, gave notice of his intention to convene the Council on 25 January 1959, less than three months after his election in October 1958.[5] This sudden announcement, which caught the Curia by surprise, caused little initial official comment from Church insiders. Reaction to the announcement was widespread and largely positive from both religious and secular leaders outside the Catholic Church,[6] and the council was formally summoned by the apostolic constitution Humanae Salutis on 25 December 1961.[7][8] In various discussions before the Council actually convened, Pope John often said that it was time to open the windows of the Church to let in some fresh air.[9] He invited other Christian Churches to send observers to the Council. Acceptances came from both Protestant and Orthodox Churches.[10]

Chronology Edit

Part of a series on the
Catholic Ecumenical Councils
Council Trent
Antiquity

Nicaea I • Constantinople I
Ephesus  • Chalcedon
Constantinople II
Constantinople III •Nicaea II
Constantinople IV

Middle Ages

Lateran I  • Lateran II
Lateran III  • Lateran IV
Lyon I  • Lyon II  • Vienne

Councilarism

Constance  • Basel • Lateran V

Modern

Trent • Vatican I •Vatican II

046CupolaSPietro Catholicism Portal

Preparation Edit

Preparations for the Council took more than two years, and included work from 10 specialized commissions, people for mass media and Christian Unity, and a Central Commission for overall coordination. These groups, composed mostly of members of the Roman Curia, produced 987 proposed constitutions and decrees (schemata) intended for consideration by the Council.

The general sessions of the Council were held in the autumns of four successive years (in four periods) 1962 through 1965. During the rest of the year special commissions met to review and collate the work of the bishops and to prepare for the next period. Sessions were held in Latin in St. Peter's Basilica, with secrecy kept as to discussions held and opinions expressed. Speeches (called interventions) were limited to ten minutes. Much of the work of the council, though, went on in a variety of other commission meetings (which could be held in other languages), as well as diverse informal meetings and social contacts outside of the council proper.

Entitled to seats at the council were 2,908 men, who are referred to as the Council Fathers. These included all bishops from around the world, as well as many superiors of male religious orders; 2,540 took part in the opening session, making it the largest gathering in any council in church history. (This compares to Vatican I, where 737 attended, mostly from Europe.)[11] Attendance varied in later sessions from 2,100 to over 2,300. In addition, a varying number of periti (Latin: "experts") were available for theological consultation — a group that turned out to have a major influence as the council went forward. Seventeen Orthodox Churches and Protestant denominations sent observers.[1] More than three dozen representatives of other Christian communities were present at the opening session, and the number grew to nearly 100 by the end of the 4th Council Period.

First Period (Autumn 1962)Edit

Opening Edit

Pope John opened the Council on October 11, 1962 in a public session and read the declaration Gaudet Mater Ecclesia before the Council Fathers.

October 13, 1962 marked the initial working session of the Council. That day's agenda included the election for members of the ten conciliar commissions. Each would have sixteen elected and eight appointed members, and were expected to do most of the work of the Council.[12] It had been expected that the members of the preparatory commissions, where the Curia was heavily represented, would be confirmed as the majorities on the conciliar commissions.[13][14] Senior French Cardinal Achille Liénart addressed the Council, saying that the bishops could not intelligently vote for strangers. He asked that the vote be postponed to give all the bishops a chance to draw up their own lists. German Cardinal Josef Frings seconded that proposal, and the vote was postponed.[14] The very first meeting of the Council adjourned after only fifteen minutes.[15]

Commissions Edit

The bishops met to discuss the membership of the commissions, along with other issues, both in national and regional groups, as well as in more informal gatherings. The schematas from the preparatory sessions were thrown out, and new ones were created.[1] When the council met on October 16, 1962, a new slate of commission members was presented and approved by the Council.[13] One important change was a significant increase in membership from Central and Northern Europe, instead of countries such as Spain or Italy. More than 100 bishops from Africa, Asia, and Latin America were Dutch or Belgian and tended to associate with the bishops from those countries. These groups were led by Cardinal Jan Alfrink of the Netherlands and Cardinal Leo Joseph Suenens of Belgium.[16]

IssuesEdit

Issues considered during the sessions included liturgy, mass communications, the Eastern Catholic churches, and the nature of revelation. Most notably, the schema on revelation was rejected by a majority of bishops, and Pope John intervened to require its rewriting.[17]

After adjournment on December 8, work began on preparations for the sessions scheduled for 1963. These preparations, however, were halted upon the death of Pope John XXIII on June 3, 1963. Pope Paul VI was elected on June 21, 1963 and immediately announced that the Council would continue.[18]

Second Period (Autumn 1963)Edit

Konzilseroeffnung 1

The opening of the Second Session of Vatican II

In the months prior to the second period, Pope Paul VI worked to correct some of the problems of organization and procedure that had been discovered during the first period. This included inviting additional lay Catholic and non-Catholic observers, reducing the number of proposed schemata to seventeen (which were made more general, in keeping with the pastoral nature of the council) and later eliminating the requirement of secrecy surrounding general sessions.[18]

Pope Paul's opening address on September 29, 1963 stressed the pastoral nature of the council, and set out four purposes for it:

  • to more fully define the nature of the church and the role of the bishop;
  • to renew the church;
  • to restore unity among all Christians, including seeking pardon for Catholic contributions to separation;
  • and to start a dialogue with the contemporary world.

During this period, the bishops approved the constitution on the liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium) and the decree on the media of social communication (Inter Mirifica). Work went forward with the schemata on the Church, bishops and dioceses, and ecumenism. On November 8, 1963, Joseph Cardinal Frings criticized the Holy Office, and drew an articulate and impassioned defense by its Secretary, Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani. This exchange is often considered the most dramatic of the council. (Cardinal Frings's theological advisor was the young Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, who would later, as Cardinal, head the same department of the Holy See.) The second period ended on December 4.

Third Period (Autumn 1964)Edit

In the time between the second and third periods, the proposed schemata were further revised based on comments from the council fathers. A number of topics were reduced to statements of fundamental propositions that could gain approval during the third period, with postconciliar commissions handling implementation of these measures. Eight religious and seven lay women observers were invited to the sessions of the third period, along with additional male lay observers.

During this period, which began on September 14, 1964, the Council Fathers worked through a large volume of proposals. Schemata on ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio), the Eastern Rite churches (Orientalium Ecclesiarum), and the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church (Lumen Gentium) were approved and promulgated by the Pope.

A votum or statement concerning the sacrament of marriage was submitted for the guidance of the commission revising the Code of Canon Law regarding a wide variety of juridicial, ceremonial, and pastoral issues. The bishops submitted this schema with a request for speedy approval, but the Pope did not act during the council. Pope Paul also instructed the bishops to defer the topic of contraception, which had arisen in part due to the advent of effective oral contraceptives, to a commission of clerical and lay experts that he had appointed.

Schemata on the life and ministry of priests and the missionary activity of the Church were rejected and sent back to commissions for complete rewriting. Work continued on the remaining schemata, in particular those on the Church in the modern world and religious freedom. There was controversy over revisions of the decree on religious freedom and the failure to vote on it during the third period, but Pope Paul promised that this schema would be the first to be reviewed in the next period.

Pope Paul closed the third period on November 21 by announcing a change in the Eucharistic fast and formally reaffirming Mary as "Mother of the Church".[19]

Fourth Period (Autumn 1965)Edit

Eleven schemata remained unfinished at the end of the third period, and commissions worked to give them their final form. Schema 13, on the Church in the modern world, was revised by a commission that worked with the assistance of laymen.

Pope Paul VI opened the last period of the Council on September 14, 1965 with the establishment of a Synod of Bishops. This more permanent structure was intended to preserve close cooperation of the bishops with the Pope after the council.

The first business of the fourth period was the consideration of the decree on religious freedom, Dignitatis Humanae, one of the more controversial of the conciliar documents. The vote was 1,997 for to 224 against, a margin that widened even farther by the time the bishop's final signing of the decree. The principal work of the rest of the period was work on three documents, all of which were approved by the council fathers. The lengthened and revised pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world, Gaudium et Spes, was followed by decrees on missionary activity, Ad Gentes and the ministry and life of priests, Presbyterorum Ordinis.

The council also gave final approval to other documents that had been considered in earlier sessions. This included decrees on the pastoral office of bishops (Christus Dominus), the life of persons in religious orders (expanded and modified from earlier sessions, finally titled Perfectæ Caritatis), education for the priesthood (Optatam Totius), Christian education (Gravissimum Educationis), and the role of the laity (Apostolicam Actuositatem).

One of the more controversial documents was Nostra Aetate, which stated that the Jews of the time of Christ, taken indiscriminately, and all Jews today are no more responsible for the death of Christ than Christians. Cf. Christian-Jewish reconciliation and Relations between Catholicism and Judaism. From Nostra Aetate:

True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ; still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures. All should see to it, then, that in catechetical work or in the preaching of the word of God they do not teach anything that does not conform to the truth of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ. Furthermore, in her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel's spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.[20]

A major event of the final days of the council was the act of Pope Paul and Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras of a joint expression of regret for many of the past actions that had led up to the Great Schism between the western and eastern churches.

"The old story of the Samaritan has been the model of the spirituality of the council" (Paul VI., address, Dec. 7): On December 8, the Council was formally closed, with the bishops professing their obedience to the Council's decrees. To help carry forward the work of the Council, Pope Paul:

  • had earlier formed a Papal Commission for the Media of Social Communication to assist bishops with the pastoral use of these media;
  • declared a jubilee from January 1 to May 26, 1966 to urge all Catholics to study and accept the decisions of the council and apply them in spiritual renewal;
  • changed in 1965 the title and procedures of the Holy Office, giving it the name of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as well as the titles and competences of other departments of the Roman curia;
  • made permanent the secretariates for the Promotion of Christian Unity, for Non-Christian Religions, and for Non-Believers.[21]

Issues Edit

EcclesiologyEdit

Perhaps the most famous and most influential product of the council is the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium.

In its first chapter, titled "The Mystery of the Church," is the famous statement that "the sole Church of Christ which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as 'the pillar and mainstay of the truth.' This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him" (Lumen Gentium, 8). The document immediately adds: "Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines."

Sacred LiturgyEdit

One of the first issues considered by the council, and the matter that had the most immediate effect on the lives of individual Catholics, was the revision of the liturgy. The central idea was that there ought to be greater lay participation in the liturgy.

Scripture and Divine RevelationEdit

The council sought to revive the central role of Scripture in the theological and devotional life of the Church, building upon the work of earlier popes in crafting a modern approach to Scriptural analysis and interpretation. A new approach to interpretation was approved by the bishops. The Church was to continue to provide versions of the Bible in the "mother tongues" of the faithful, and both clergy and laity were to continue to make Bible study a central part of their lives. This affirmed the importance of Sacred Scripture as attested by Providentissimus Deus by Pope Leo XIII and the writings of the Saints, Doctors, and Popes throughout Church history but also approved historically conditioned interpretation of Scripture as presented in Pius XII's 1943 encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu.

The BishopsEdit

The role of the bishops of the Church was brought into renewed prominence, especially when seen collectively, as a college that has succeeded to that of the Apostles in teaching and governing the Church. This college does not exist without its head, the successor of St. Peter.

Legacy Edit

The Council's legacy has been a topic of fierce debate since the 1970s.

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Faculty of Catholic University of America, ed (1967). "Vatican Council II". New Catholic Encyclopedia. XIV (1 ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 563. OCLC 34184550. 
  2. Alberigo, Giuseppe; Sherry, Matthew (2006). A Brief History of Vatican II. Maryknoll: Orbis Books. pp. 69. ISBN 1570756384. 
  3. Bokenkotter, Thomas (2005). A Concise History of the Catholic Church. New York: Image. pp. 337. ISBN 0385516134. 
  4. Hahnenberg, Edward (2007). A Concise Guide to the Documents of Vatican II. City: Saint Anthony Messenger Press. pp. 44. ISBN 0867165529. 
  5. Alberigo, Giuseppe; Sherry, Matthew (2006). A Brief History of Vatican II. Maryknoll: Orbis Books. pp. 1. ISBN 1570756384. 
  6. Alberigo, Giuseppe; Sherry, Matthew (2006). A Brief History of Vatican II. Maryknoll: Orbis Books. pp. 4-7. ISBN 1570756384. 
  7. "Vatican II: 40 years later". National Catholic Register. http://ncronline.org/NCR_Online/archives2/2002d/100402/100402d.htm. 
  8. "1961". http://asv.vatican.va/en/doc/1961.htm. 
  9. Sullivan, Maureen (2002). 101 Questions and Answers on Vatican II. New York: Paulist Press. pp. 17. ISBN 0809141337. 
  10. Sullivan, Maureen (2002). 101 Questions and Answers on Vatican II. New York: Paulist Press. pp. 21. ISBN 0809141337.  There has been speculation that the Vatican somehow assured the Russian Orthodox Church that Communism and the Soviet State were topics that would not be raised at the Council. However, in chapter IV, The External Climate (Albiergo, The History of Vatican II, Vol. 1, p. 404), J.O. Beozzo states that the real issue was the desire of the Russian Orthodox to be invited directly, instead of through the Ecumenical Patriarch in Turkey.
  11. Sullivan, Maureen (2002). 101 Questions and Answers on Vatican II. New York: Paulist Press. pp. 21. ISBN 0809141337. 
  12. Bokenkotter, Thomas (2005). A Concise History of the Catholic Church. New York: Image. pp. 413. ISBN 0385516134. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Alberigo, Giuseppe; Sherry, Matthew (2006). A Brief History of Vatican II. Maryknoll: Orbis Books. pp. 24. ISBN 1570756384. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 Sullivan, Maureen (2002). 101 Questions and Answers on Vatican II. New York: Paulist Press. pp. 27. ISBN 0809141337. 
  15. Hahnenberg, Edward (2007). A Concise Guide to the Documents of Vatican II. City: Saint Anthony Messenger Press. pp. 4. ISBN 0867165529. 
  16. Sullivan, Maureen (2002). 101 Questions and Answers on Vatican II. New York: Paulist Press. pp. 28. ISBN 0809141337. 
  17. Faculty of Catholic University of America, ed (1967). "Vatican Council II". New Catholic Encyclopedia. XIV. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 564-565. OCLC 34184550. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 Faculty of Catholic University of America, ed (1967). "Vatican Council II". New Catholic Encyclopedia. XIV. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 565-566. OCLC 34184550. 
  19. Faculty of Catholic University of America, ed (1967). "Vatican Council II". New Catholic Encyclopedia. XIV. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 566-567. OCLC 34184550. 
  20. Pope Paul VI (1965-10-28) (in English). Declaration on the relation of the church to non-christian religions - Nostra Aetate. Holy See. http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html. Retrieved 2009-01-01. 
  21. Faculty of Catholic University of America, ed (1967). "Vatican Council II". New Catholic Encyclopedia. XIV. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 567-568. OCLC 34184550. 

Further reading Edit

  • van Bühren, Ralf (2008) (in German). Kunst und Kirche im 20. Jahrhundert. Die Rezeption des Zweiten Vatikanischen Konzils. Paderborn: Schöningh. ISBN 9783506763884. 
  • Bredeck, Michael (2007) (in German). Das Zweite Vatikanum als Konzil des Aggiornamento : zur hermeneutischen Grundlegung einer theologischen Konzilsinterpretation. Paderborn: Schöningh. ISBN 9783506763174. 
  • Linden, Ian (2009). Global Catholicism: diversity and change since Vatican II. 41 Great Russell St, London: Hurst and Co. p. 337. ISBN 9781850659570. 

External linksEdit

Vatican textsEdit


CommentaryEdit

DocumentariesEdit

  • The II Vatican Council produced by the Vatican Television Center, distributed by HDH Communications, 2006.


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