The central theme of this document is this – the Church is to be engaged with the world, it is to be its Gaudium et Spes â€“ its Joy and its Hope. The Church is called to offer the world the Joy and the Hope that Jesus offered.
The Second Vatican Council ended on a supremely optimistic note â€“ the Church throughout the world was booming â€“ in vocations to the priesthood and Religious Life, the Church was steadily expanding in numbers and in influence. It was a political force of some significance in Europe and in the emerging nations of Africa and Latin America.
It was strong and ready to embrace the world and confidently present itself as its Light, especially as it recognised the good already in the world.
The Church had already begun to reach out to Communist governments, confident that it could help the people under Communist rule by lightening the weight of the Communist hammer and sickle.
Millions of Catholic faithful around the world felt a new age of optimism had arrived. The Church would emerge from its ghetto, be renewed within and ready to offer its good news to the world and to be hope and joy especially to the millions of needy, poor and rejected people.
Those were heady days of change, renewal, innovation and enthusiasm.
What happened? As the Church began to gear up for change, the world suddenly changed radically, unexpectedly, and caused the Church to hesitate a bit as it sought to understand what was going on.
– Australian Archbishop Barry Hickey of Perth