Why Did the Second Vatican Council Stress the Apostolate of the Laity? How Has This Developed Since Vatican Ii? How Do You See It Developing in the Future?

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  • Topic: Second Vatican Council, Pope John Paul II, Pope Paul VI
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The Second Vatican Council began in 1962 and ended in 1965. For the first year Pope John XXIII opened the council, he unfortunately died in 1963. Pope Paul VI then took over and closed the council in 1965. “A combined total of 2,865 bishops and prelates attended the council, which issued sixteen formal documents” (John and Hardon, 2000). The second Vatican promulgated some of the most important documents present in the Catholic religion. They also changed the way the Laity were involved in the church.

A Lay apostle is someone who has committed to God (through baptism and confirmation) and strives to deliver the divine message of salvation to others throughout the world. “The need for the apostolate is shown by the manifest action of the Holy Spirit moving laymen today to a deeper and deeper awareness of their responsibility and urging them on everywhere to the service of Christ and the Church.” (Jackson, 2010). Therefore the statement suggests that the Holy Spirit is the one to give us a deeper understanding of what we as Catholics must do to become a good lay apostle, and that our responsibilities are within the church and our beliefs in Christ. Nazzaro (2010) states “A Lay apostle walks closely with Jesus throughout each day… We serve Jesus through service to others.” In order to become a good lay apostle we must be close to the Lord daily whether saying prayers or attending church, and in order to serve him we must spread the word of God to everyone that would be interested in following Christ.

The Second Vatican Council made the dogmatic constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium). This was a set of rules in which Catholic must abide by. The constitution of the church states that everyone is part of the church and therefore everyone has a responsibility for its growth and the spread of the kingdom of God throughout the world. Due to this responsibility the council recognised the need for the role of the laity to cease from being passive and instead become active. The role is stated by Paul VI (1964) “they may make Christ known to others” The Vatican II council was one of the most significant events to have happened in the Catholic Church. This was because the council made many changes, its purpose was to bring the church up to date by opening it to dialogue with the modern world in terms of other Christian traditions, other faiths, the cultural, the political and the technical milieu in which we all live. (Doyle, 2006. Bishop Butler, 1967). The church felt that they were ‘behind times’ therefore their goal was to modernise themselves so that they kept up with its people. This meant that the church allowed the freedom of speech to all catholic people. The council wanted a wider input from the community therefore they allowed the laity to have an active role in the church. Other changes included allowing women on the sanctuary, before the second Vatican only males could be alter servers. Churches were not encouraged to study the bible, but rather the catechism, however nowadays churches can study both. Catholics had little to do with Protestants and they weren’t allowed to enter protestant churches, this has also been changed. For most Catholics, the biggest changes the Council made was “the priest and altar turned toward the people and the Liturgy of the Word and the Canon of the Mass in the vernacular” (McInerny, 2001). This implies that the mass is now read in a language the people understood. Before the Vatican II, mass was read in Latin, which the Laity saw unsuitable as they did not follow or understand the ceremonies attended. The Laity played little part within the church before the second Vatican council was formed. The laity attended mass to listen to the word of God, which was delivered and preached by the clergy. However the insight of Vatican II now means that, “the laity have a full and active role to play both in the church and in the world.” (Kinast, 1979:384). This implies that the people of the...
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