...and for those who prefer the scurry black and white lines to the fanciful colours, I got you covered with my summary 🙂
On May 21-24 2015, Georgetown University witnessed a great gathering of scholars from all over the globe to discuss the impact of the II Vatican Council, an event that John Paul II considered, from the point of view of the history of salvation, as the cornerstone of 20th century. (Ecclesia in Africa, no. 2). And indeed so it must have been, for even such a Conference that commemorates it, the 9th Ecclesiological Investigations Network International Conference in Washington DC, was itself a very great gathering. The Conference was put together through the collaboration of the Georgetown University, Ecclesiological Investigations Group, the Marymount University and the Washington National Cathedral.
The Conference brought together eminent scholars from within and outside the Church, reflecting on the beauty that the II Vatican Council has come to mean in the life of every individual human person. For if the Church’s life has to do with the joys and preoccupations of every human person, as that most-quoted phrase “Gaudium et spes, luctus et angor hominum huius temporis” (Gaudium et Spes 1) argues, then the event of the II Vatican Council indeed has some consequence for every being.
Right from the very beginning of the conference with its opening address given by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran (President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and presently the Camerlengo of the Catholic Church- the official charged with heading the Vatican State in the event of the Pope’s death), it was evident that the aggiornamento event which we gathered to commemorate was a glorious moment and an impetus for the Church. It was such a privilege to have participated and given a paper at such an auspicious conference. Eminent scholars present include Cardinal Walter Kasper, Cardinal Luis Tagle, Roger Haight, John O’Malley, Massimo Faggioli, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, John Borelli, Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, Stan Chu Ilo, Caleb Oladipo, Charles Curan to name a few.
The keynote address, given by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle (the Archbishop of Manila) dwelt on the topic “Vatican II: a Global Vision for Today and Tomorrow.” Cardinal Tagle’s address made a remarkable highlight of the very germane points that would eventually become the key-points of deliberations of the over 200 participating scholars in their paper presentations.
These points, as highlighted by Cardinal Tagle, include the following:
- The II Vatican Council is an “opening to the world.” The Council itself is the very door of this opening. Though the Church’s life has always consisted in opening up to the world (since she is always a community of God’s people that is sent), Vatican II Council re-invigorates and refreshes this reality in the life of the Church.
- The Church is always a reference to Christ. To the extent to which she refers to herself, the Church loses herself. But in as much as she continues to make reference to Jesus, the Church gains herself and mission. It is for this reason that the Church is considered as a sacrament of salvation.
- No human being should be alien to the Church’s reach and care. The sole reason of Vatican II’s call for opening to the world is to make the Church fulfil her mission to each and every human person, irrespective of his value or creed. The above-quoted phrase from Gaudium et Spes, again, underscores this point.
- Pope Francis’ many overture to the world is nothing new but a reminder of the very focus of Vatican II: mission. The Church is sent and has always been about mission. From the illumining mysteries of the sending of the Son, to the sending of the Spirit, to the sending of the disciples, the life of the Church has always been within the context of being sent.
Apart from the several plenaries and sessions of papers that took place in the Georgetown University, participants also had the opportunity of visiting two other key institutions in Washington DC where the Conference continued. They visited the Washington National Cathedral where Cardinal Walter Kasper, himself a participant at the Conference, gave a Keynote Address titled “Toward Multifaceted Communion: Reflections for the Ecumenical Future.”
Among other points, Cardinal Kasper posited that ecumenism among Christians is a big mission in the Church and unity in Jesus the Christ is the focus of this endeavour. It is no wonder, the Cardinal says, that the Council Fathers took this theme as the central hermeneutic of the whole Council. Communion: that they may be one. (John 17:21)
The Cardinal noted that while the Church’s movement towards that full unity that Christ desired is still far away, yet the Church is on the right path. According to him, such a gradual movement reminds us of Karl Rahner’s remarks at the end of the Council that the will towards ecumenism itself” is the beginning of the beginning.”
There was a side attraction for participants in the form of a valuable guided-tour of the National Washington Cathedral, which is the United States’ National House of prayer. Participants also visited the Marymount University where four parallel plenary sessions and a single full plenary session of the Conference took place.
In all, the Washington D.C. Conference highlighted the glorious turn that the II Vatican Council helped the Church of God to make, reading the signs of the times. This glorious turn has further enabled her to continue her mission to the world as the salt of the earth and light of the world.