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The War Heroes Who Were Also Heroes of Vatican II and Today’s Church

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Philip Jenkins - published on 11/09/14

De Lubac repeatedly faced censure for his daring views, but his ideas guided the Second Vatican Council of 1963–65, which transformed the Church. The Council was called by the epochal Pope John XXIII, yet another Great War veteran, who had served as a military chaplain and stretcher-bearer through the horrific Italian campaigns. Yves Congar also lived long enough to serve as a key thinker in the conciliar era.

Arguably, that revolutionary Council deserves to be regarded as the most momentous single event in the history of Christianity during the mid-twentieth century. The Council resoundingly declared that the Church was not just the hierarchy or the clergy but rather the whole people of God. It also emphasized biblical authority in a way that departed far from the Catholic practice of several centuries, and urged all the faithful to turn to their Bibles.

In 1991, the once-controversial de Lubac died vindicated, as a revered cardinal of the Church. He did not live to see the accession of Pope Francis I in 2013, a Jesuit like himself, and a man who echoed his own thought so closely. In his powerful warnings about the church’s over-close alliance with the world, about “spiritual worldliness,” Pope Francis has explicitly and repeatedly quoted de Lubac. The Verdun generation still exercised its influence in a new century.

And here is an intriguing thought. If events can cast their shadow a century or more into the future, who are the thinkers alive today who are shaping the destinies of the church of 2114?

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