Turning Point

A Theologian Remembers Vatican II

In the fall of 1965, I worked in the final session of the Second Vatican Council. A young priest and doctoral candidate, I was tasked with distributing documents and collecting votes and amendments from my assigned section of bishops. Almost half a century later, a bound set of those documents holds a prized place in my library—and the events and personalities of those days hold a prized place in my memory. I recall the buses filled with bishops leaving St. Peter’s piazza after each day’s session, the sun reflecting their colorful robes through the windows. Many were bishops from poorer parts of the world, returning to modest residences at various religious houses in Rome. Some American bishops also lived in such residences, but more were in hotels. The council was the first to bring together so large a gathering from all continents, and one sensed that it marked a new chapter in the life of the church: a truly global church, its unity expressed in a diversity of cultures and rites.

Though glad to be involved in the council, I had no idea I would witness proceedings that would bring enormous change to so many aspects of Catholic life and practice. I had come to Rome as a seminarian in 1959, and after being ordained as a priest...

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About the Author

Bernard P. Prusak teaches theology at Villanova University.