Fifty years since the revolution of Vatican II

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Pope John XXIII and Vatican II made me a Catholic. I was received in the Church of St Patrick in London’s Soho Square in 1965, the Second Vatican Council’s last year, at the age of 28, writes John Wilkins in The Tablet.

My parents were disconcerted. "But Catholics drink," my mother correctly observed. She herself, coming from the Congregationalist tradition, never touched a drop all her life. "I am sure if I had brought

John up properly," she continued, "it would never have happened." My father, though from the same tradition, reassured her: "Well, it seems to make him happy."

The Catholic Church at the time attracted me as a magnet pulls an iron filing. I had been baptised an Anglican and converted by the Church of England. But I knew that it could never achieve anything like this council. I sometimes wonder if I would have made the same move into the Catholic communion today, and I doubt it. But I have never thought I made a mistake.

Pope Benedict XVI has been concerned to stress that the council came out of the heart of the Church. As he has put it with a typically acute touch, the Church has always been the Church and the Gospel was always to be found in it. So he stresses the continuity of before and after. But I remember the council as revolutionary, because it went to the roots of the faith with radical results.

It adopted a more humble and pastoral style, based on dialogue, in keeping with Pope John’s lead. It presented the Church as a pilgrim with all humanity, specially concerned for the poor and afflicted. Anti-Semitism was repudiated. Religious freedom and the preeminence of the informed conscience were asserted, superseding the non-infallible teaching of a line of nineteenth-century popes.

FULL STORY What a year it will be (Tablet)

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