The Catholic Church experienced a kind of revolution 50 years ago. The second Vatican Council (Vatican II) brought the Church into the modern world. The ecumenical council spanned two popes, John XXIII and Paul VI, and lasted from 1962-1965. Neither dogma nor doctrine changed; rather, they were renewed in the context of the dynamic global society.
The world has changed at an exponential pace in the 50 years since Vatican II. The University took this opportunity to reflect upon and discuss the face of the Catholic Church in relation to the council through a conference called “Word, Church and World — Vatican II 50 Years On” Friday and Saturday.
Following a welcome from President Rev. Kevin P. Quinn, S.J., and an opening prayer by the bishop of Scranton, the most Rev. Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, a professor emeritus of the Catholic University of America, Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, Ph.D., presented the keynote address, “Vatican II as Event.” A professor of theology and philosophy, Komonchak specializes in the historical and cultural context of Vatican II as well as its theological implications. He opened the conference by contextualizing the council in history and addressing why it had such a significant impact on the Church.
The second day of the conference began with speeches and discussions based on the documents that Vatican II produced. Two local professors presented on “Gaudiem et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.” Sr. Mary Ann Zimmer, N.D., Ph.D., the chair of religious studies at Marywood University, and Bernard Prusak, Ph.D., the director of the McGowan Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility and philosophy professor at King’s College, gave talks on the document’s significance and meaning today. Anna Moreland, Ph.D., from Villanova University, spoke with Rev. James Redington, S.J. Ph.D., a Jesuit fellow in The University’s Jesuit Center, about “Nostra Aetate, On Non-Christian Religions.” Redington specializes in interreligious dialogue, with particular emphasis on non-Judaic Eastern religions.
Finally, Rev. Brent Kruger, C.S.C., Ph.D., King’s College, and Mahri Leonard-Fleckman, Ph.D., who will begin teaching at The University in the theology department next year and specializes in Old Testament studies, discussed “Dei Verbum, on Divine Revelation.” This document calls Catholics to study scripture in search of understanding, rather than trusting authority blindly. Leonard-Fleckman shared her experiences conducting Bible studies in her parish, in which older parishioners maintained the belief that reading the Bible, instead of trusting authority, was sinful.
The conference offered people a venue to discuss and learn about the impact that Vatican II had on the Catholic landscape.
First year Jenevieve P. Ball said the conference helped her see her thology education in practice.
“I think its relevance was astonishing, honestly,” Ball said. “I think it made (my theology knowledge) more applicable because it was related to something real in our religion.”