Second Vatican Council

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Preparations for the Council took more than two years, and included work from 10 specialised commissions, people for mass media and Christian Unity, and a Central Commission for overall coordination. These groups, composed mostly of members of the Roman Curia, produced 987 proposed constituting sessions, making it the largest gathering in any council in church history. (This compares to Vatican I, where 737 attended, mostly from Europe.)[11] Attendance varied in later sessions from 2,100 to over 2,300. In addition, a varying number of periti (Latin: "experts") were available for theological consultation — a group that turned out to have a major influence as the council went forward. Seventeen Orthodox Churches and Protestant denominations sent observers.[1] More than three dozen representatives of other Christian communities were present at the opening session, and the number grew to nearly 100 by the end of the 4th Council Period.

First Period (Autumn 1962)

Opening

Pope John opened the Council on 11 October 1962 in a public session and read the declaration Gaudet Mater Ecclesia before the Council Fathers.

13 October 1962 marked the initial working session of the Council. That day's agenda included the election for members of the ten conciliar commissions. Each would have sixteen elected and eight appointed members, and were expected to do most of the work of the Council.[12] It had been expected that the members of the preparatory commissions, where the Curia was heavily represented, would be confirmed as the majorities on the conciliar commissions.[13][14] Senior French Cardinal Achille Liénart addressed the Council, saying that the bishops could not intelligently vote for strangers. He asked that the vote be postponed to give all the bishops a chance to draw up their own lists. German Cardinal Josef Frings seconded that proposal, and the vote was postponed.[14] The very first meeting of the Council adjourned after only fifteen minutes.[15]

Commissions

The bishops met to discuss the membership of the commissions, along with other issues, both in national and regional groups, as well as in more informal gatherings. The schematas from the preparatory sessions were thrown out, and new ones were created.[1] When the council met on 16 October 1962, a new slate of commission members was presented and approved by the Council.[13] One important change was a significant increase in membership from Central and Northern Europe, instead of countries such as Spain or Italy. More than 100 bishops from Africa, Asia, and Latin America were Dutch or Belgian and tended to associate with the bishops from those countries. These groups were led by Cardinals Bernardus Johannes Alfrink of the Netherlands and Leo Suenens of Belgium.[16]

Issues

Issues considered during the sessions included liturgy, mass communications, the Eastern Catholic churches, and the nature of revelation. Most notably, the schema on revelation was rejected by a majority of bishops, and Pope John intervened to require its rewriting.[17]

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