Georgetown's Vatican II Conference Includes Experts on the Council
October 15, 2012 – Georgetown explored the impact of the Second Vatican Council during a two-day conference Oct. 11 and 12 on the 50th anniversary of the council.
“Vatican II was the most significant and impactful event in the 20th century for the Catholic Church,” President John J. DeGioia said. “It affected the lives of countless individuals and communities around the globe including those unaffiliated with the Catholic Church, Christians of other denominations, Jews, Muslims and others.”
Between Oct. 11, 1962 and Dec. 8, 1965, the Roman Catholic Church heard from Catholic bishops and other religious leaders from around the world as the result of Vatican II, which culminated in wide-ranging changes for the church.
A wide range of participants at the conference included Georgetown’s Rev. John. O’Malley, S.J., and Rev. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., as well as Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald and Rev. Thomas Stransky, C.S.P.
The Great Landmark
O’Malley, university professor in theology and a pre-eminent Vatican II scholar, gave Thursday’s keynote lecture on “Dialogue and the Identity of the Council.”
O’Malley said dialogue between the Catholic Church and other Christian churches evolved thanks to Pope Paul VI’s 1964 encyclical Ecclesiam Suam, which invited the separated Christian churches to unite.
“For dialogue, the encyclical was without doubt the great landmark,” O’Malley said. “It validated dialogue as a legitimate and needed category in church life.
Stranksy, the lone surviving member of the preparatory commission for Vatican II and an original staff member of the Secretariat for Christian Unity, talked about his experience as a Vatican II insider.
He said he and the three other members of the original Secretariat for Christian Unity – Rev. Jean-Francois Arrighi, Cardinal Augustin Bea, S.J., and Rev. Johannes Willebrands – were without much guidance or timeline for Vatican II’s preparation.
“Our little boat had no map, no compass, no clock,” Stransky recalled. “We had in hand only that vague papal mandate of the past Pentecost to ‘help those Christians separated from the apostolic see of Rome find more easily the path by which they may arrive’… In other words, the Pope [John XXIII] called the Secretariat to begin a new tradition.”
O’Brien, (C’88) noted at an Oct. 12 panel with other Georgetown faculty, alumni and administrators how Vatican II prompted interreligious dialogue at the university.
“[Interreligious Dialogue at Georgetown] has made me have to articulate my faith in a way that I had sort of taken for granted,” said O’Brien, vice president for mission and ministry. “In explaining salvation or redemption of incarnation to students, I’m a better Jesuit and priest because of my associations and dialogue with people of other faiths.”
Panelists agreed that interreligious dialogue is a core part of the university, which now has a Center for Muslim and Christian Understanding, a Program in Jewish Civilization, and a Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs and an Office of Campus Ministry that includes many different faiths.
Jerusha Lamptey (G’10, G’11) was one of the first students to receive her Ph.D. in theological and religious studies with a focus in religious pluralism from Georgetown.
Lamptey, now an assistant professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York, said Georgetown created a theology program designed “explicitly and intentionally” to focus on the implications of co-existing in a society with diverse religious belief systems.
“I can see the paths and roots of Vatican II in [Georgetown’s] decision,” she said.