Fifty years ago, on this date, October 11, 1962, the most important religious event of the 20th Century began at the Vatican when 2,540 bishops from throughout the world gathered with Pope John XXIII for the beginning of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. Three years earlier Pope John had convoked the Council to bring about an aggiornamento (updating) of the Church.
After four sessions, the Council was concluded on December 8, 1965. During the intervening four years the Council Fathers updated the Church’s understanding of itself, its relations with other Christian communities and other faiths and its interaction with the world.
During the course of the Council a total of 2,860 bishops, 63 observers from other Christian churches and 52 lay men and women took part. Sixteen documents were published containing the results of countless debates. In the end, the documents were approved by an overwhelming number of the Council Fathers, most with less than a dozen no votes.
Pope John did not live to enjoy the effects of his aggiornamento but his work was completed by his successor Pope Paul VI, who translated the work of the Council into the reality of the Church and called for that work to continue not only in word but in spirit.
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