Historians review periods of church reform, renewal at symposium
Published: September 28, 2012
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Second Vatican Council was "animated by a spirit of reform," but was afraid to use the word "reform," church historian Jesuit Father John O'Malley told a conference marking the 50th anniversary of the opening of the council. In its 16 documents, Vatican II used the Latin word for reform, "reformatio," only once -- in its Decree on Ecumenism when it said the church is in need of continual reform, said Father O'Malley, a professor in the theology department at Georgetown University. Other than that, it preferred "softer words," such as renewal, updating or even modernizing, he said. Father O'Malley was a keynote speaker Sept. 27 at the symposium "Reform and Renewal: Vatican II After Fifty Years" held at The Catholic University of America. The Jesuit noted that Father Yves Congar, a French Dominican theologian and expert on ecumenism, wrote his book "True and False Reform in the Church" in the 1950s that "a veritable curse" seemed to hang over the word "reform." And when Cardinal Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII, heard of Father Congar's book, he said, "Reform of the church; is such a thing possible?" The Vatican's Holy Office forbade the reprinting of Father Congar's book or its translation into other languages from the original French, he said. But during Vatican II, the priest was one of many theologians helping the bishops; Pope John Paul II made him a cardinal in 1994.
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