From De Ecclesia to Lumen Gentium

Giovanni Sale, SJ

 Giovanni Sale, SJ / Church Life / 15 November 2017

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The schema of the preparatory doctrinal commission

On November 23, 1962, while the conciliar assembly began to discuss the text on the Mass Media, the much-awaited schema De Ecclesia was distributed. For a great number of the bishops, it represented the raison d’être of the Council. In fact, many thought that the Council’s task should be to complete – and balance – the doctrine of the Church presented in the Vatican I constitution Pastor aeternus, which was entirely based on the prerogative and powers of the pope, in particular the doctrines of papal primacy and infallibility.

That Council, convoked on December 8, 1869, decided to debate only one part of a more fully elaborated ecclesiological schema. This part was, at the time, considered both the most urgent and controversial, as it had been attacked both by the secular world and from some internal elements in the Church linked to nation-state legates. In any case, Vatican I, because of the Franco-Prussian war, was interrupted and adjourned sine die in the summer of 1870. So about a century later many fathers interpreted the convocation of a new Council as the continuation and completion of the previous one. However, this was not the intent of Pope John XXIII, who presented in his inaugural speech, Gaudet mater ecclesia, a completely different direction, envisaging a Council for pastoral aggiornamento (updating), open to the world, and above all free from the burdens of the past.

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