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Vatican Council, Second


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(1962–5),

reckoned by RCs the 21st Oecumenical Council. The decision to hold a Council was apparently due entirely to John XXIII; it was intended to renew the life of the Church and to bring up to date its teaching, discipline, and organization, with the unity of all Christians as the ultimate goal. Observers from the main Churches not in communion with the RC Church were invited to the Council. After the First Session (Oct.–Dec. 1962), Pope John died. Paul VI on his election announced that he intended to continue the Council. The Second Session (Sept.–Dec. 1963) promulgated a Constitution on the Liturgy and a decree on the Instruments of Social Communication. The Third Session (Sept.–Nov. 1964) promulgated a Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (‘Lumen Gentium’) and decrees on Ecumenism and the Eastern Catholic Churches; and the Pope proclaimed the BVM to be the ‘Mother of the Church’. The Fourth Session (Sept.–Dec. 1965) promulgated decrees on a variety of subjects, including the Bishops' Pastoral Office, the Appropriate Renewal of the Religious life, and the Apostolate of the Laity, and declarations on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions and on Religious Freedom. The Pope formulated the norms of the new episcopal synod which was to help him govern the Church and announced the beginning of the reform of the Curia.

The consequences of the Council have been far-reaching. The most obvious has been the almost complete replacement of Latin by the vernacular in the liturgy; nearly all the liturgical texts have been revised, and Communion in both kinds gradually extended to the laity. Public worship in the RC Church is now closely akin to that in other W. Churches. Relationships with other Churches are now warm; there are regular dialogues with Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, and other Churches, and co-operation in various areas of work. The ‘Constitution on the Church in the Modern World’ (‘Gaudium et spes’) inaugurated a shift in the Church's concern towards social and political issues, especially in the Third World. The development of a permanent married diaconate has changed the shape of the Church's ministry, especially in North America. Inevitably, the changes have produced tensions within the RC Church. For legislation implementing decisions of the Council, see Paul VI.

Subjects: Christianity.


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