4/20/2014 9:45:59 AM

Vatican II at 50

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

By Chelsea Brumagen '13

Siena College launched a four year Academic Symposium titled “Vatican II at 50: The Legacy of the Council Lives On.” Each year of the symposium has a theme, beginning this year with the Council’s background and beginnings.  The symposium sponsored by the Franciscan Center for Catholic Studies focused on the reasons the Council was brought together for its initial deliberations in 1962.

Siena College President Fr. Kevin Mullen ’75, O.F.M, Ph. D., delivered the opening address that illustrated how the Council began reforms in the Catholic Church that are still being accepted and debated fifty years later. Before he began his address, Mullen provided a guideline for approaching the Vatican II. “I would like to suggest as we look, over the next few days and over the next few years, that the council be seen as an event and as an experience and not just as documents to blow the dust off of and to read,” said Mullen.

Mullen explained that one of the key changes brought by Vatican II was a new focus for the Church. Mullen said that in his opening speech to the Council, Pope John XXIII declared that Christ was the center of life. “What’s significant about that is that as a Roman Catholic, we never began with Jesus, with God or with anyone else, we began with the Church. He begins with Christ,” Mullen said.

According to Mullen, some other key changes brought by Vatican II were the use of scripture as a way to highlight Catholic principles, an emphasis on incorporating prayer into daily life and the duty of the Church to be a service to the world.

Mullen said Pope John XXIII also changed the way the Church addressed the world. This was the first time the Church addressed all people of the world instead of just the bishops. According to Mullen, that gave way to one of the most important developments of the Council. “I believe one of the great lessons of the council is that we should always listen with respect to one another and be able to enter into dialogue,” Mullen said during his speech.

With the ability to enter into dialogue comes some debate over the reforms of the Vatican II. As Mullen mentioned in his address, the changes proposed were so drastic that some members of the Church had strong opposition to the Council. He shared words from Cardinal Ottaviani who said, “I hope I die before this council ends so that I can die a Catholic.”

Although Vatican II was met with some opposition, Mullen believes that it pointed the Church in the right direction and that it will have a lasting impact on the world and on Siena College. “From my perspective, it contributes to the meaning of life and it’s one of the ways to reflect on how you live within one faith tradition which is the faith tradition that the College is founded on,” Mullen said. “I think by promoting that, by sharing that, you give people a greater awareness of their identity and appreciation of the mission of Siena College.”

This year's celebration of Vatican II also included a keynote address by Sister Kathleen Hughes, Ph.D., a Sister of the Sacred Heart and a prominent Catholic sacramental theologian, teacher, speaker and writer. Her speech was titled, “Sacraments and Chicken Soup: Making the Connections between Liturgy and Life.”

The Academic Symposium continues with themes including, “The Catholic Church's Self-Understanding and the Roles of Bishops, Priests, Religious and the Laity” in 2013, “The Catholic Church's Relations With Other Christian Churches and With Other Religions” in 2014 and “The Catholic Church's Engagement With the Modern World, Including Emphases on Religious Liberty, Justice and Peacemaking” in 2015.

 Photo Credit: Evan Peter '14 and Sierra Zorn '14

Contact: Ken Jubie
Contact E-mail: communications@siena.edu

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