The Second Vatican Council, 1962-1965
Gerald Darring

The Second Vatican Council was held in Rome, convening in four sessions during the Fall each year from 1962 to 1965. It was convened by Pope John XXIII, who set the tone for the Council in an impressive opening address and guided it through its first session. Pope Paul VI guided the Council through its final three sessions. At the very end of the final session, the Council promulgated the two documents which have become associated with the tradition of Catholic social teaching: the Declaration on Religious Freedom (Dignitatis Humanae) and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes). It was this latter document which constituted the Council's major contribution to the tradition and which has become arguably the most influential of all the documents of Vatican II.


J. Bryan Hehir. "Catholic Social Teaching: Content, Character, and Challenges." R. F. Duska, ed., Rerum Novarum: A Symposium Celebrating 100 Years of Catholic Social Thought, Lewiston, ME: Edwin Mellen Press, 1991, pp. 12-13. "The principal impact of the Council on the social teaching was not in the area of moral theology or social ethics. Vatican II was an ecclesiological council and its basic contribution was to provide a secure ecclesiological foundation for the social teaching and social ministry of the Church. The significance of this act should be measured by the fact that the best of the social teaching before Gaudium et Spes (e.g., Pacem in Terris) lacked precisely this ecclesiological grounding. The effect of this deficiency was to leave the social teaching and social ministry in an ambiguous status theologically and pastorally."

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