The Pope celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council


ROME – 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 continuing disagreement over what 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 sessions. Tuesday’s commemoration begins 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” appeared at the window of the Apostolic Palace and delivered his famous “moonlit speech” to the thousands of people 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,” said Vatican II historian Alberto Melloni. In a phone interview, Melloni also pointed to Francis’ insistence on a “synodal” or decentralized church, emphasizing the laity. The latter is clearly evident in his decision to allow lay people, including women, to run Vatican offices and in the two-year “synod” process in which ordinary Catholic worshipers have contributed their thoughts on life. and the 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 in some ways exacerbated these divisions by reimposing restrictions on the celebration of the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass.

“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, Weigel wrote in excerpts recently published in the Wall Street Journal.

Vatican II coincided with the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the United States and Russia 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.”


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