Back on the 27th March Newsletter I wrote about a new document Pope Francis had announced in relation to the reform of the Roman Curia (basically, the administration of the Holy See) and I finished that by referring to the Second Vatican Council and how Pope Francis continues the legacy of the Council that was inaugurated by Pope John XXIII, continued by Pope Paul VI and the results of the discussions have been a source of the teachings of the popes since the Council finished in 1965.
For a lot of people at the time of the Council and since then, the main results of the Council were the changes to the liturgy. The focus on those changes after Vatican II were visible whereas a lot of the other results were not quite as tangible to people yet played a big role in the life of the Church over the last fifty years.
The document on the liturgy, the ‘Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy’ (Sacrosanctum Concilium) was the first document to be passed by the bishops and approved by Pope Paul VI. It was declared approved on 4th December 1963. The ‘Decree on the Means of Social Communication’ (Inter mirifica) was the second document, passed and approved on the same day. Overall, there were sixteen documents passed and approved between that day in 1963 and the 7 December 1965 dealing with various topics.
The difference between Vatican II and the other Councils through the centuries was that it was not addressing any particular problem or heresy within the Church. It was proposed by Pope John XXIII that it would be a Council focused on the pastoral dimension of the Church and exploring how the Church could present her mission in the world of the time and into the future. The topics that were dealt with in the other fourteen documents were: the understanding of what the Church is; the relationship with the Eastern Christian Churches; Ecumenism (our relationship with other Christian denominations); the Pastoral Office of the Bishops in the Church; a renewal of Religious Life; the training of Priests; Christian Education; the Church’s relationship with non-Christian religions; Divine Revelation; the Apostolate of Lay People; Religious Liberty; the Church’s Missionary activity; the Ministry and Life of Priests; and the Church in the Modern World.