50 Years of Vatican II
About the Author
Steve Landregan, archivist and historian for the Diocese of Dallas and former editor of The Texas Catholic, is author of this news series in observance of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.
Landregan is the author of numerous books and articles on Catholic history and has served as adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, Our Lady of the Lake University and Southern Methodist University. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from SMU and a Master of Arts from the University of Dallas.
Landregan will give classes on Vatican II - please visit the Year of Faith Events Listing page for times and dates.
These stories were originally featured in the paper edition of the Texas Catholic, the official newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas.
There can be no doubt about the commitment of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council to ecumenism; the subject permeates the council documents and the Decree on Ecumenism states in its first sentence “The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council.” [More]
There had never been anything to compare to the great ingathering of bishops in Rome for the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council in October of 1962. More than 2600 bishops came from Asia, Africa, North, Central and South America, from Australia, New Zealand, the Far East and the islands of Oceania. The largest number came from Europe, but far fewer percentagewise compared to the First Vatican Council which was the first time any non-European bishops were invited. At Vatican One, European bishops were the overwhelming majority. [More]
Major documents of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council originated as grass roots movements that were brought to fruition by the Council. The Decree on Ecumenism was rooted in the Ecumenical Movement dating back to the early 20th century; the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy flowed from the Liturgical Movement with origins in the 19th century; the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation was influenced by the developed historical and literary biblical criticism in the 1800s. The Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity reflected the development of the lay apostolic movements of the early 20th century. [More]
Ask the average Catholic “How did the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council affect the Church?” and the responses will include: “Mass began to be said in English.”, “Lay people began to read at Mass and help at Communion.” “The altar was turned around and the priest faced the people.” and “What was the Second Vatican Council?” [More]
Unlike the other 15 documents produced by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council which stemmed from suggestions sent to the preparatory commission by bishops and scholars, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) originated in a pastoral letter to Belgian Catholics. [More]
For many, if not most, Catholics the Mass is the touchstone of their faith. It is the external sign of being a good Catholic. Participation in the liturgy is more than just going to church. It is physical communion with the Body of Christ. It is where we encounter Jesus in the Eucharist, in his word and in his people.”
With Pope John XXIII’s reminder that “the Christian life is not a collection of ancient customs,” many of the council fathers accepted the proposition that fundamental elements cannot be changed but that everything else is changeable and “ought to be changed with the passing of time to express more clearly the holy things which they signify.” [More]
Belgian Cardinal Leo Suenans, one of the presidents of the Second Vatican Council, spoke frequently about “surprises of the Spirit,” of which there were many surrounding the Council. The first and greatest surprise was Pope John XXIII’s decision to convoke an Ecumenical Council. Equally surprising with the decision to call the Council was the Pope’s decision to invite non-Catholic Christian denominations to be present at the Council as observers, but their willingness to accept. Some representatives of other Christian denominations were invited to the First Vatican Council but they all either declined or ignored the invitation. No so at Vatican II when over 100 observers from non-Roman communities served as observers.
Among those named was Dr. Albert Outler, a professor of patristics at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology ,who attributed his being chosen to represent the World Methodist Conference to the fact that there were not many Methodist theologians who understood Latin. [More]
When the Ecumenical Council convoked by Pope John XXIII opened in October 1962 with much liturgical pomp and ceremony, Bishop Thomas K. Gorman of Dallas was not among the 2500 Council Fathers who processed into St. Peter’s Basilica.
He was watching the solemn proceedings on television.
Father Richard Weaver, a retired priest of the Diocese of Dallas, was a seminarian in Rome at the time and relates how he and other seminarians were invited to watch the opening ceremonies on the large television in the apartment of Msgr. James I. Tucek, a Dallas priest who was head of the Rome Bureau of the National Catholic Welfare Conference News Service, now Catholic News Service.
Bishop Gorman, who stayed in Msgr. Tucek’s apartment during the first session, decided at the last minute not to join the procession but to join the seminarians in watching the event on television while enjoying a good cigar instead of subjecting himself to the tedium of waiting for the procession to begin, the long walk to St. Peter’s and an hour or so of speeches in Latin. [More]
Of the 16 documents generated by the Council, the foundational or seminal document is the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium, the Light of the World); it deals with the internal nature of the Church as opposed to the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World which deals with the external nature of the church.
In a sense it picked up where the First Vatican Ecumenical Council left off when it was suspended indefinitely in 1870 by Pope Pius IX, who had become a prisoner in the Vatican after the invasion of Rome by Italian troops. On Oct. 20, 1870 the pope suspended the council indefinitely. The council left unfinished consideration of the schema on the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, having only considered the role of the pope. [More]
On Jan. 25, 1959, less than three months after succeeding Pope Pius XII in the Chair of St. Peter, Pope John XXIII surprised the church and the world by calling an Ecumenical Council.
It was close to 100 years since the first Vatican Council adjourned in 1870. The doctrine of papal infallibility confirmed by the bishops at Vatican One had seemingly resolved all of the problems that had plagued the church in the previous century and whatever problems might come up in the future could be readily addressed by the Holy Father who spoke with the full authority of the church.
It is said that when the pope made the announcement to the Curia, the members reacted in stunned silence. [More]
A listing of the series of events, from Pope John XXIII's intention to convene a council, to the declaration of the conclusion of the Council [More]
As soon as Pope John XXIII announced the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, preparations began. Much of the preparatory work took place at the Vatican with commissions appointed to begin planning the myriad details involved in such an effort. All the advance preparation was not in Rome, as every bishop in the world was asked to submit possible subjects for the Council agenda. [More]