Scholars remain divided over the extent to which the Second Vatican Council reflected continuity with existing tradition and practice and how much it departed from it, yet any account of the visible aspects of changes effected by the council cannot fail to note that the Church did not act in the same fashion after 1965 as previously. Exceeded in length only by the ecumenical councils of Constance (1414–1418) and Trent, Vatican II involved far more preparatory planning than any earlier council and witnessed an attendance of 2,400 bishops at any one time, with participants from every continent and almost every nation.
For the Roman Catholic Church, Vatican II marked a final acknowledgment that the era of establishment (the privileged status accorded by the state to a particular church) was over. Its deliberations also reflected a growing desire to reconcile with what were termed the “separated churches” (the products of the Protestant Reformation) and to at least modify...
Bronze medal of Pope Paul VI (Yale University Art Gallery)View Full Size