This year marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II. Why is the Church not doing anything to mark this significant occasion?
In fact, Pope Benedict has announced a “Year of Faith” to mark the 50th anniversary of the second Vatican Council. It will begin on 11 October, the day that the Council was formally opened by Blessed Pope John XXIII. The focus of the Year of Faith will be the new evangelisation: something very much in accord with the concerns of the Fathers of the Council.
In his message for the opening of the Council, Pope John said that the Council wanted “to transmit doctrine, pure and whole, without attenuations or misrepresentations,” but also in a way that corresponds to the needs of our time. On the 20th anniversary of the closing of the Council, the Synod of Bishops (one of the fruits of the Council) called for a new Catechism as a sure point of reference for local catechisms. This new Catechism was completed in 1992, the 30th anniversary of the opening of the Council.
Pope Benedict has explained that Vatican II should be understood in terms of reform and renewal in the continuity of the one subject Church which was founded by Christ, rather than as a rupture with the past. It is wrong to speak as though everything before the Council was bad and everything after it was good. The Catechism, the recent movement to reform the Sacred Liturgy, the laity’s pro-life witness to the world, the foundation of new movements for evangelisation, and many other initiatives of young Catholics, all put into practice this vital concern of the Holy Father and of the Council itself.
The Year of Faith will be an opportunity to rediscover the teaching of Vatican II, to read the documents again, to see how the vision of the Council Fathers is presented in the new Catechism, and to reflect on our own role in the new evangelisation. The Council is often presented in terms of quasi-political slogans. By studying its actual teaching, we can learn instead about how the Church encourages us to evangelise the world.
Catholic Dilemma 249 published in the Catholic Herald