Second Vatican Council

The Second Vatican Council is the most recent council in Church History. The Second Vatican Council lasted for three years between 1962 and 1965.

The council sought to address relationships between the Catholic Church and the modern world. Four key documents were the result of the council.

  • Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy)
  • Lumen gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church)
  • Dei verbum (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation)
  • Gaudium et spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World)

Each of these documents changed how the Church interacted with the modern world, with other Christian and non-Christian denominations and with practices within the Church.

Sacrosanctum Concilium

One of the greatest aims of this document was the participation of the laity in the Mass.

For the first time, the Mass could be said in the vernacular, which is the local language of the country or place where Mass is celebrated. This meant that the laity could fully participate and understand what was happening.

The liturgy of the Mass was rewritten to involve the laity and the layout of churches was also changed. Previously the priest would celebrate the Mass with his back to the congregation so they were simply observers of the Mass. After Vatican II, the altar was moved and the priest now faced the congregation, so they were part of the Mass.

Lumen Gentium

This focused on the Catholic beliefs about the Church with five key areas:

  • universal call to holiness
  • the church as the people of God
  • the role of the bishops
  • the permanent diaconate - these are deacons who are ordained by the Bishop to serve the local church
  • the lay vocation - those in the church who have not been ordained or taken any vows

The role of the Bishop was given more weight, the laity were called to holiness and by describing the Church as the 'people of God', the teaching on salvation and the Church as a community was made clearer.

Dei Verbum

Dei Verbum focused on revelation, and clarified key Church teachings. It stated that the scriptures teach the truth about salvation, and it is that truth that God wanted humanity to know. Christ himself was the ultimate revelation of God and preached the Gospel to men. The message of Christ was written by the apostles and those with them to preserve the teachings of Christ, and these teachings have been preserved by the magisterium. Divine Revelation means the Word of God expressed through the words of man.

Gaudium et Spes

This document addressed the Church and the world outside of it. It focused on:

  • human rights
  • the dignity of human life
  • the role of the individual in the Church as well as in the wider world
  • the role of the family in the Church and the wider world

The document also tackled modern day issues, such as:

  • nuclear weapons
  • technology
  • advancement of science

The council aimed to set out Church teaching on such issues for the modern Church and laity.

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