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Open the doors and windows of the Church: 60 years since Vatican II

Julian Paparella

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Vatican II in session (By Catholic Press Photo on Wikimedia Commons).
October 11, 2022 marks 60 years since the start of the Second Vatican Council. So what was Vatican II and why does it matter today? Vatican II was the biggest Church event in the 20th century, bringing together all the bishops of the Catholic Church - 2,625 of them! - with the pope and many special guests and observers from 1962 to 1965. All these decades later, there’s still so much of it that hasn’t been put into practice. At the outset, Saint John XXIII convoked the Council to open the doors and windows of the Church, to usher in a new springtime of renewing the Church and presenting the faith in a way that resonated with the men and women of our time. Of course, Vatican II changed the language of the Mass from Latin to the languages we speak today, but there’s also so much more. 
Vatican II was a watershed moment of the Holy Spirit that led to 16 groundbreaking documents, the most important of which are the 4 constitutions: Sacrosanctum Concilium on the liturgy; Dei Verbum on divine revelation; Lumen Gentium on the Church; and Gaudium et Spes on the relationship between the Church and the modern world. Pope Francis is inviting us to rediscover and unpack these 4 major constitutions as we mark 60 years since the Council. Through these documents Vatican II called all Catholics to see the Church in a new light, as the People of God walking on a pilgrimage through history (LG 9-17), in solidarity with every man, woman, and child, and especially with those who are suffering (GS 1).
The Council calls us as Christians to discern the signs of the times (GS 4-10) - in other words, to be in touch with what people are experiencing here and now - in order to be a leaven for the coming of God’s kingdom in every chapter of history (GS 40). The Council taught that this not only applies to priests and nuns, but to all of us (cf. Apostolicam Actuositatem) since the call to holiness is universal (LG 39-42), and not just for some small elite. Each one of us is called to make our daily lives a way of transforming society in the light of Christ, for only in Jesus do we see the world and the human person clearly (GS 22). Vatican II called us to pursue our mission as Christians not in opposition to our brothers and sisters in other religions and cultures (cf. Nostra Aetate) but together, as one human family walking forward in the love of God, the Father of all. Saint Paul VI said that the spirit of the Council is that of the Good Samaritan, with an open heart and outstretched arms to share the love of God by how we love one another. At the close of the Council, Paul VI summed up the message of the Council as: “a pressing and friendly invitation to mankind of today to rediscover God in fraternal love [...] this is our hope for the whole of mankind which here we have learned to love more and to serve better” (Conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, 7 December 1965).
Our world needs the kind of Church that Vatican II envisioned sixty years ago. What can you and I do to be that kind of Church today?


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