CCRS Resources: Vatican II Documents


The Second Vatican Council: Background

The Council of Trent had taken place in the 16th century, setting out the Catholic Church's beliefs and operating procedures in response to the alternative ideas of the Protestant Reformation. The First Vatican Council (1869-1870) only had time to ponder the nature of the Church and Papal infallibility before being disrupted by the Franco-Prussian War. In 1959, having been Pope for only a few months, John XXIII surprised the Catholic world by calling the Second Vatican Council - Vatican II. It was time, he said, to "throw open the windows of the Church so that we can see out and the people can see in".

The unexpected council met in four autumn sessions from 1962 to 1965, with all but the first session presided over by Pope Paul VI who succeeded John XXIII in June 1963. Since the time of Trent, the church had accumulated 400 years of scholarship on rediscovered documents and archaeological remains. The documents of Vatican II would re-present Catholicism to the modern world in the light of the new scholarship and change in culture. This would not be a council to react against any particular ideas, but a positive presentation of what the Catholic church believes, tailored to the needs of the time.

Vatican II Documents: Constitutions

Vatican II Documents: Decrees and Declarations

Vatican II Documents with antecedents

Vatican II Documents and what followed

Contemporary Church Teaching

To find out what the Church's current expression of its teaching is, you can start with one of the following documents and follow footnotes to trace the source of component statements and doctrines.

History of Vatican II

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