Vatican II as Ecumenical Council

Yves Congar's Vision Realized

Noticing that the words "Vatican II" evoked no response in her high school students, an Irish nun recently told me she asked them what Vatican II was. After some time and with much hesitation, one of them asked: "Would that be the pope’s summer residence?"

That we have just celebrated the fortieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council (1962–65) reminds us that there are now two generations of Catholics for whom that pivotal event was not a personal experience. One way to recreate the experience of the council is to read the journals of participants or observers; there the drama of that gathering of the world’s bishops may be caught, as it unfolds, scene after scene, before the last act is known. Just published in France is what must certainly rank as one of the most important of these contemporary testimonies, the council-journal kept by Yves Congar, OP. For the thirty years before the council was called, Congar was one of the key figures in the theological renewal of Catholicism in the twentieth century. Besides hundreds of scholarly articles, Congar wrote major works on ecumenism, on reform, and on the laity that did as much as anyone else’s works to help Catholics recover long-neglected traditions and to derive from them inspiration for a more creative engagement with their own world. After laboring for decades under Roman suspicion, Congar was to see much of his vision of the church vindicated by...

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About the Author

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.