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This website celebrates the Second Vatican Council and its promise for the future of the Catholic Church. It is dedicated to the spirit of Pope John XXIII who dared open the doors and windows of the church he loved to the contemporary world. By this courageous act he allowed sunlight and rain to feed the foliage and roots of the increasingly petrified tree of the Fortress Church.

But Vatican II was only a beginning! The tree must be carefully fed and watered. It must be protected against the saws and axes and poison of those who fear change and prefer brittle leaves in reliquaries and gilded dry branches to fragile new shoots. It must be keept safe from the torches of others who are motivated by misguided love for what they consider the one and only "True Church." It must be allowed to become what it is meant to be, a life-bearing, life-giving, growing tree that links earth and heaven and welcomes an endless variety of flocks of believers to build nests in its vast network of branches, a genuine Tree of Life that is first and foremost a Tree of Love.

The Second Vatican Council shows the power of courageous individuals in tune with the signs of the times and open to the Spirit to make history. Pope John XXIII convoked this universal synod -- the largest and first ever truly global ecumenical council -- and became its beacon.  It seems more than pure coincidence that the name chosen by Angelo Roncalli would link him clearly to Pope John XXII, who in the Bull Quia Quorundam (1324) had condemned the Franciscan teaching of papal infallibility as inspired by the pater mendacii (father of lies). But the Council might still have turned into little more than 2500 bishops agreeing on the agenda and routinely rubber-stamping documents sent down from above -- prepared in advance and circulated by various commissions -- if it had not been for Achille Cardinal Lienart's courageous wake-upcall at the very beginning of  the first working session. The French Cardinal, seconded by Joseph Cardinal Frings of Cologne, challenged the assembled fathers to take personal control of the proceedings and claim the Council authentically for themselves -- to elect representatives from national groups, to write their own documents, to forge coalitions and learn to dialogue -- in sum, to work ground-up from the episcopal grassroots and give the democratic process a chance.

Link to: Website of the American Catholic Council, in the Spirit of Vatican II

Link to: Solidarity with Memorandum 2011
More than 300 professors of Roman-Catholic theology have written the Memorandum "Church 2011: The Need for a New Beginning" because of the worldwide crisis of the Roman Catholic Church. PLEASE SIGN!


Personal Footnote

In November, 1996, 91 year old Franz Cardinal König and I were among lecturers in Vienna at a two day conference on the future of faith in the next millennium. He invited me to attend his evening mass at Saint Stephen's Catherdral. I was delighted to see that he was assisted by two girl servers. After a litany in the crypt, we talked for a while, and I asked him what he considered the most important accomplishment of Vatican II. He immediately responded, " The empowerment of the laity and the corresponding reduction in the relative power of the clergy and the magisterium." "Sie sind die Kirche,"he said emphatically, "You are the Church," touching my sternum lightly with his index finger. I will always think of that moment as a form of commission, a personal challenge to me to to help keep the flame of transformation and renewal alive. 

Ingrid Shafer
3 September 2000, the day of Pope John XXIII's beatification

Last updated 13 June 2011