The Second Vatican Council, which opened 60 years ago on Oct. 11, 1962, was the most important Catholic event in half a millennium. Its achievements were many and notable; it was also followed by ecclesiastical upheavals that continue to roil the Church today.
After Vatican II, Catholics worshiped in their own languages, rather than in Latin. By urging Catholics to become more biblically literate, the council inspired lay communities of spiritual renewal, some of them robustly charismatic. It also led to greater lay participation in all aspects of Church life: liturgical, educational, managerial, evangelical. The council fully inserted Catholicism into the ecumenical movement’s quest for Christian unity, even as it dramatically reconfigured the Church’s relationship to its religious parent, Judaism.
Vatican II was also the moment in which Catholicism fully realized its claim to be a global (“catholic”) institution, as churchmen from outside the Church’s historic European core began to take prominent roles in shaping the Catholic future. The extraordinary growth of the Catholic Church in sub-Saharan Africa—where Catholicism now counts hundreds of millions of adherents, many of them first- or second-generation Christians—was accelerated by the council’s promotion of native African clergy and religious orders, its disentanglement of Catholicism from colonialism and its insistence on the Church’s essentially missionary character.
Read more at The Wall Street Journal.