50th Anniversary of the Convocation of the Second Vatican Council

50th Anniversary of the Convocation of the Second Vatican Council  

On 25 January 1959, during a visit to the Abbey of St. Paul Outside the Walls, Pope John XXIII announced his decision to convene an Ecumenical Council. The Second Vatican Council brought together the world’s bishops to examine a wide range of issues relating to the life of the Church. Three years later the Council opened on 11 October 1962, preceded by a pilgrimage of John XXIII to Loreto and Assisi. The journey marked the first time since 1870 that a Pope had left the Vatican to go on a pilgrimage. John XXIII did not live to see the outcome of the Council. He died on 3 June 1963 while the work at the Council concluded on 8 December 1965 during the pontificate of Paul VI. The Council brought numerous, important changes which would profoundly mark the life of the Church. The changes included the celebration of Mass with the altar facing the people, the introduction of modern languages in place of Latin in the liturgy, and openness to ecumenical dialogue and religious freedom. On the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council the Holy Father Benedict XVI’s words in his first homily as pope come to mind when he expressed his desire to «strongly confirm my determination to continue with the commitment to implement the Second Vatican Council». The postal stamp issued for the anniversary is a reproduction of a bronze panel of the Door of Good and Evil in St. Peter’s Basilica. Italian sculptor Luciano Minguzzi made the artwork between 1970 and 1977.