Vatican II and Post-conciliar European Theology

On Pentecost Sunday (3 June) 1963, Pope John XXIII died in the papal palace in Vatican City. Few other popes in history had ever caused so much upheaval within the Catholic church in so few years as Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli. Indeed, it is of more than symbolic relevance that one of the most iconoclastic gadfly intellectuals of the twentieth century, Hannah Arendt, entitled her review of the 1965 English translation of John XXIII’s compendium of spiritual exercises and reflections ‘The Christian Pope’, an irreverent title whose multiple meanings were further enhanced by the New York Review of Books’ editorial decision to drop the question mark from the published version of Arendt’s views.1

Pope John XXIII died less than eight months after the commencement of the World Council of the Catholic Church, dubbed Vatican II. The council itself continued for another two-and-a-half years; yet already at the time of Roncalli’s death, it was clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that his pontificate would leave a mark on world history in more ways than one. Nothing like this had been expected from Angelo Roncalli when he was chosen to succeed Pius XII on 28 October 1958.

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