West Michigan Catholics weigh in on Vatican II, 50 years after historic summit began
Ralph Hauenstein witnessed historic deliberations at the Second Vatican Council, the three-year summit of Catholic Church leaders that began 50 years ago this month. But what Hauenstein remembers most vividly from his brief stay are the informal talks he had with clerics from around the world.
“I was quite impressed with the camaraderie,” says Hauenstein, an influential Catholic who at age 100 has accumulated more than the usual share of memories. “They were very friendly and very serious at the same time.”
The more than 2,500 bishops at Vatican II had a lot to be serious about. From 1962 to 1965, they promulgated 16 documents that reformed the ancient church and “reflected a new vision for the church in the modern world,” as scholar Edward Hahnenberg writes.
“By asking very basic questions – Who are we? What are we about? – the Council set the church on a path of inner renewal and outward engagement with the world,” Hahnenberg writes in “A Concise Guide to the Documents of Vatican II,” published by St. Anthony Messenger Press.
In 170 concise pages, Hahnenberg helpfully summarizes the council’s documents, which famously allowed modernization of the old Latin liturgy, invited greater participation by lay people and encouraged more say by bishops and priests.
How true the church has stayed to Vatican II’s course is a matter of some debate 50 years on. But most agree it was a historic turning point, some say the most important religious event of the 20th century. [More]