WASHINGTON (November 4, 2005) – Forty years ago the Second Vatican Council deeply transformed the Catholic Church, changing not only how its members practiced their faith but also altering the church's relationship with the world and with other religions.
To mark that historic event, Catholic News Service (CNS) has produced a series of articles looking at both the legacy of the council – known popularly as Vatican II – and its continuing impact on both the church and the world today.
"Our expertise on the Catholic Church and its people is second to none, and we felt we could make a unique contribution to help readers understand what Vatican II meant for the church," said Jim Lackey, CNS general news editor.
"Even non-Catholics would benefit from reading the CNS series for the insights it gives into how transformative the council was and how it continues to shape the world's largest Christian faith group," he said.
Catholic News Service, known to millions of Catholics simply as CNS, is the world's largest religious newswire and the primary source of national and world news that appears in the U.S. Catholic press. It is also a leading source of news for Catholic print and broadcast media throughout the world.
Because the council was such a historic event, CNS decided to make its series – "Vatican II at 40: Legacy and Hope" – available not only to its client publications but also to the general public through its Web site, www.catholicnews.com. The direct link to the series is http://www.catholicnews.com/data/vat2/vat2.htm.
There, readers can learn how Pope Benedict XVI was a young theologian at the council and today is its chief implementer. As the series points out, in many ways Pope Benedict embodies the full spectrum of the Vatican II experience in the church.
They can also read about the council's impact, such as the practical changes it brought to the church in liturgy, marriage, catechetics and parish life, and the unprecedented media coverage that it generated.
Another story includes interviews with three current U.S. bishops and a noted church historian who recall their roles as scholarly experts appointed to assist the council's deliberations. An article explaining what an "ecumenical council" is and another simply listing the council documents round out the 17 pieces available on the CNS site.
Council sessions actually took place over four years, 1962-65, but the anniversary is being marked this fall because the council officially concluded on Dec. 8, 1965, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. 1965 was also the year when 11 of the council's 16 documents were promulgated, including its landmark declaration on the church's relationship with non-Christian religions, which set Catholic-Jewish relations on a new course.
"We can't emphasize enough how Vatican II changed the practice of Catholicism," said Lackey. "For Catholics this will be a refresher course on how much their church has changed in 40 years, and non-Catholics will also be enlightened about what the Catholic Church truly stands for."