What about the Second Vatican Council?

By Marta Alves - February 22, 2006 

The Second Vatican Council (VC II) was called by Pope John XXIII.  Its purpose was pastoral.

The first constitution was Sacrosanctum Concilium - The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. In its first paragraph, it defines what the purpose of  VC II is:


This sacred Council has several aims in view: it desires to impart an ever increasing vigor to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church. The Council therefore sees particularly cogent reasons for undertaking the reform and promotion of the liturgy.


In October 11, 1962, VC II opened.  The first meeting was attended by 2450 churchmen out of 2908 who were entitled to attend. Thirty-five observers from other Christian churches attended the first meeting and they increased in number in the following sessions. The council lasted four years concluding in 1965.

The first time that Catholics in the United States noticed things were changing was when they went to Sunday Mass and the altar was turned around and the priest was looking at the congregation. How was the world then? The world was in the middle of the Cold War. A major crisis developed from October 16 - October 28, 1962: Cuba and the United States were facing the Missile Crisis. The world came to understand how a foolish decision on the part of a human being could jeopardize humanity. As a civilization, we came to understand how we could be here today gone the next second.

The Second Vatican Council's main documents were four constitutions, nine decrees and three declarations.


The four constitutions set direction for the whole church:


Dogmatic Constitution On The Church
Lumen Gentium, 21 November 1964

Dogmatic Constitution On Divine Revelation

Dei Verbum, 18 November 1965

Constitution On The Sacred Liturgy
Sacrosanctum Concilium, 4 December 1963

Pastoral Constitution On The Church In The Modern World
Gaudium Et Spes, 7
December 1965


Nine decrees set a pace and direction for further discussion:


Decree On The Pastoral Office Of Bishops In The Church
Christus Dominus, 28 October 1965


Decree On The Ministry And Life Of Priests
Presbyterorum Ordinis, 7 December 1965


Decree On The Training Of Priests
Optatam Totius, 28 October 1965


Decree On The Up-To-Date Renewal Of Religious Life
Perfectae Caritatis, 28 October 1965


Decree On The Apostolate Of Lay People
Apostolicam Actuositatem, 18 November 1965


Decree On The Church's Missionary Activity
Ad Gentes Divinitus, 7 December 1965


Decree On Ecumenism
Unitatis Redintegratio, 21 November 1964


Decree On The Catholic Eastern Churches
Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 21 November 1965


Decree On The Mass Media
Inter Mirifica, 4 December 1963



The Three Declarations are statements of theological position which are importan because of their influence on future dialogue.

Declaration On Religious Liberty
Dignitatis Humanae, 7 December 1965


Declaration On The Relation Of The Church To Non-Christian Religions
Nostra Aetate, 28 October 1965.


Gravissimum Educationis, 28 October 1965




 Flannery, Austin, O.P.  General Editor. The Basic Sixteen Documents Vatican Council II 1996 Costello Publishing Company, Northport, New York. Dominican Publications, Dublin, Ireland.

 Huebsch, Bill. Vatican II in Plain English The Constitutions 1997. Thomas More from Ave Maria Press, Inc., Notre Dame, IN., USA


Article written by Marta Alves - LEAP OF FAITH - www.faithleap.org/vatican_council.htm


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