Faith Matters

Vatican II renewal needs rediscovered

Pope Francis opens the great bronze doors of St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican earlier this month to launch the Holy Year of Mercy

THE Irish bishops have described the Second Vatican Council as a "great event of the Spirit that still guides the Church in the modern world".

In a statement to mark the 50th anniversary of its conclusion, they noted that a Council was "an event that begins and then journeys".

"We in Ireland can be grateful for what it opened up for us in the past 50 years: new ways of participation in liturgy; new attention to catechesis; new initiatives in ecumenism leading, for instance, to the Inter-Church Meeting; the establishment of new realities such as TrĂ³caire, the overseas development agency of the Irish Catholic Church; Mater Dei Institute of Education; the opening of the Catholic Communications Office; the broadcasting of Radharc, the social justice award-winning television series; the Liturgy Centre; new youth initiatives; new pastoral outreach; marriage and family agencies, new movements and communities," they said.

The 50th anniversary was an appropriate time to review how the Council had been received in Ireland, said the bishops.

"While grateful for many new initiatives, we are all aware of limits and challenges," they said.

"Some of those on fire with the excitement of the Council have passed away or grown elderly.

"Today the Church faces new problems unforeseen by Irish bishops in the 1960s.

"We need to review but without becoming prophets of doom.

"Rather our task now is to discern what the Spirit today is saying to the Churches."

The bishops said they realised "there is a need to go deeper in taking on board what the Council was about, in particular regarding the 'secular' dimension of the Church's Good News".

The anniversary was also a time to recommit to renewal, they said.

"We know there is something of an 'ex-culturation' going on in Ireland, a distancing from the Christian culture or, at least, from the institutional forms of the Church that generated and nourished our culture for centuries," they said.

"The Second Vatican Council prepared us for that challenge by offering new perspectives on how to be the Church in the modern world. It is the renewal we all need to rediscover."

The Church's official celebrations of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council on December 8 coincided with the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy called by Pope Francis.

"It is a time to take fresh hope that, in God's mercy, we will be able to do our part in bringing forward what the Spirit opened up for the Church 50 years ago in an event that still provides us with a compass to guide our journey," the bishops said.

"As we mark the 50th anniversary, let us lift up our hearts in gratitude, review and renewal, heeding the invitation of Pope Francis to 'let God surprise us'."

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