50 years ago, October 11th 1962, Pope John XXIII with about 2500 catholic cardinals and bishops opened the Second Vatican Council. (1962-1965)
The council is one of the most important events in Church history of the 20. Century. The dominant term of the council “Aggiornamento” (update) opened the church towards the world by opening a gateway for wide reforms of the catholic church. Those reforms were the liturgy and services held in the particular national languages plus different possibilities of participation for priests and lay people, the approval of the freedom of faith, a focus on the ecumenical movement and inner-christian corporation aswell as the beginning dialog with non non-christian religions.
Though Second Vatican Council the image of the church was transformed and radically changed. All this was also made possible by a new understanding of (catholic) theology, due to the opening towards modern science towards a dialog with other scientific disciplins like humanities and natural sciences. In the document “Gaudium et spes” the council gives the resume that the council changed the relation of the church towards the world.
In this sense the Second Vatican Council is an important historical document, on how Christians were able to transform their theology into a new century but looking in the future and valuing the past.
Past to the present – A Theology for the third millennium
This endeavor can be referred to the tasks, theology has to face, when entering in the third millennium, like David F. Ford states it in his book “Theology – A very short introduction.”
„Theology considers its questions while being immersed in the changes of modernity and at the same time drawing on the wisdom of one or more religious traditions.“ (p. 10)
By linking the current cultural situation the theology is exposed to, with the reflection and examination of tradition and history Ford gains a new perspective. He argues for an ‘ecology of responsibility’ where both Theology and Religious Studies (as an example for the interdisciplinary approach) meet in a balanced way due to their shared responsibilities towards the worldwide academic community and its disciplines, towards churches and religious communities and towards society as a whole.
“Theological conclusions are not just deductions from authoritative statements, but are worked out by worshippers responsibly engaged with God, each other, scripture, the surrounding culture, everyday life, and all the complexities, up and downs of history.” (p.37)
Following Hans Frei, David Ford quotes five types of Christian theology. Between two extremes, a theological system totally depending on the outside and modern frameworks and agenda and on the other hand a theology as a repetition of some past expression of Christian faith as a closed system, Ford constructs 3 others Types of Christian Theology. By deploying Bultmann, Tillich and Barth Ford substantiates this systematical range. But above that he values the ability of theologians to move with a intellectual flexibility and interaction in between the five types in complex ways.
In this context Ford mentions Karl Rahner, a german theologian, who, beside other theological achievements, had a big influence on Second Vatican Council. He states, shortly after the end of the Council in the residence in Munich:
“The council has placed a beginning for the “aggiornamento”, for the reformation and update. The beginning of a beginning. That is a lot. But also only a beginning of a beginning.”
Back then he might have known, that it needs several generations to reform the church, how got entrusted with the Second Vatican Council finally becomes the church if the Second Vatican Council. Rahner influenced the council especially towards a renewal of the definition of tradition: “The church bequeath everything she is and believes.” The idea of a statically view of tradition in theology was radically changed into an appreciation of a process system.
Almost like Ford, when he phrases his five questions about a new millennium theology with topics like the flourishing of dialogical and comparative theology and the question of participants in this theological process.
Karl Rahner passed away 27 years ago, but his legacy remains in a lot of ways.
And Second Vatican Council lost a lot of its former energy, but there are still Christians who gain a lot of gaudium and spes out of this movement. They are investing a lot to restrenghen the former idea:
The diocese of the Austrian City Linz stages a project called “Lebenszeichen” (vital signs) for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. 2012-2015 they are providing a variety of different vital sign events and projects that restore and remember the motto of the Council ‘Aggiornamento’, reformation or update.
Tonight (October 11th) they started with a big opening mass (photo here).
This was followed by a performance art event in front of St. Stephans Cathedral in Linz. They installed a big twitterwall in front of the old builing and asked people to tweet their personal “vital sign” with the hashtag “#lebenszeichen” (vital sign) to revitalize the meaning of the council for the church today. (photo here)
By this they updated and refreshed the “Aggiornamento.”
What would be your individual vital sign?
How would you phrase your personal contribution to the Aggiornamento?