ROME (AP) — Pope Francis is commemorating the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, the historic meetings that brought the 2,000-year-old Catholic Church into the modern era, amid lingering disagreements over what that the council taught that divides the faithful today.
Francis celebrates a Mass on Tuesday in honor of Saint John XXIII, who called the council and presided over its opening session. Tuesday’s commemoration opens with a reading of John’s inaugural address and ends with a reenactment of the candlelit procession that lit up St. Peter’s Square on the night of October 11, 1962.
That night, the “good pope” came to the window of the Apostolic Palace and delivered his famous “moonlit speech” to the thousands who had gathered below. While pre-Vatican II popes usually spoke in formal terms, John surprised the crowd with an impromptu pastoral address urging the faithful to go home to their children, hug them and say is the Pope’s caress”.
The council would last another three years and outlive John, who died in 1963 of stomach cancer.
But when it was over, the council fathers had accepted major changes in the life of the church, such as allowing the celebration of the mass in the local languages rather than in Latin and strengthening the role of the laity in the daily life of the church. ‘church. The council also encouraged efforts to improve relations among Christians and revolutionized the Church’s relationship with Jews, including removing the phrase “treacherous Jews” from the liturgy.
Francis, 85, is the first pope to be ordained after the council, and his priorities draw much inspiration from that.
“Above all peace, above all the poor church,” Vatican II historian Alberto Melloni told The Associated Press of Francis.
Melloni also pointed to Francis’ insistence on a “synodal” or decentralized church, emphasizing lay Catholics rather than clerics. The Church’s lay-centered vision is clearly evident in Francis’ decision to allow lay people, including women, to lead Vatican offices and in the two-year “synod” process in which Ordinary Catholic faithful have joined a global consultation on the life and mission of the church.
But Vatican II still greatly divides the Church, with progressives seeing it as a break with the past and conservatives seeing it as fully in line with Church tradition and chafing at the progressive reading of “the spirit of Vatican II”. Francis exacerbated these divisions by reimposing restrictions on the celebration of the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass.
His synodal office, which is organizing next year’s culminating summit, stressed that the “spirit of the Second Vatican Council” inspiring his work, said much of what Vatican II taught has not yet been fully understood or implemented.
Conservatives have bristled at the Francis Synod process, with German Cardinal Gerhard Meuller saying it amounts to a “hostile takeover of the Catholic Church”. He told broadcaster EWTN that Vatican II reaffirmed that divine revelation could not change and that any other interpretation was not only wrong but dangerous.
“John XXIII did not summon Vatican II to reinvent Catholicism,” writes Church historian George Weigel in his new book “To Sanctify the World: The Vital Legacy of Vatican II.”
“As he said in his opening address, the council’s ‘greatest concern’ must be the more effective presentation of Catholic truth in its entirety” through new language and vocabulary that could be understood in the modern world, wrote Weigel.
Vatican II coincided with the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the United States and the Soviet Union moved closer than ever to nuclear war. Ahead of the anniversary of Vatican II on Tuesday, Francis noted this weekend that Russia was threatening to use its nuclear arsenal in its war in Ukraine.
“Why can’t we learn from history?” asked Francois. “Even then, there were serious conflicts and tensions, but they chose the path of peace.”
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.