October 11 - 1962 - The Opening of the Second Vatican Council

The Second Vatican Council transformed the very nature of modern Roman Catholicism, replacing the Latin mass, reshaping the role of the clergy, and establishing new relationships with other churches. Yet when it was first opened by Pope John XXIII, the nature of the council was still taking shape. John XXIII had announced a council three years earlier, which was a bold move. The previous Vatican Council, in 1870, was interrupted by Italian Unification. Further, John XXIII's call for a new council would clearly have to deal with the state of the church and the world in a post-World War II era. Cardinal Giovanni Montini, John XXIII's future successor as Pope Paul VI, said he had "no idea what kind of a hornet's nest he had kicked up." This might have been unfair to John XXIII, who, as a Papal Nuncio in World War II, had helped save Jews from the Holocaust and worked to retire Bishops who had collaborated with the Nazis in France. John XXIII wanted to reorient the church towards Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, and Jews. It was only John XXIII who could have opened the Second Vatican Council by telling the world that "Gaudet Mater Ecclesia," or "the mother church rejoices."

William Floyd