Ever since the opening of the Second Vatican Council on October 11, 1962, the Church has been in a constant state of discernment, considering how the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church in the modern world.
St. John Paul II was a strong promoter of Vatican II, but he did recognize how the Church has struggled in its authentic implementation of it.
In his apostolic letter, Tertio Milennio Adveniente, St. John Paul II listed several questions the Church needs to ask herself when considering how well Vatican II has been implemented.
An examination of conscience must also consider the reception given to the Council, this great gift of the Spirit to the Church at the end of the second millennium.
To what extent has the word of God become more fully the soul of theology and the inspiration of the whole of Christian living, as Dei Verbum sought?
Is the liturgy lived as the “origin and summit” of ecclesial life, in accordance with the teaching of Sacrosanctum Concilium?
In the universal Church and in the particular Churches, is the ecclesiology of communion described in Lumen Gentium being strengthened?
Does it leave room for charisms, ministries, and different forms of participation by the People of God, without adopting notions borrowed from democracy and sociology which do not reflect the Catholic vision of the Church and the authentic spirit of Vatican II?
Another serious question is raised by the nature of relations between the Church and the world. The Council’s guidelines—set forth in Gaudium et Spes and other documents—of open, respectful and cordial dialogue, yet accompanied by careful discernment and courageous witness to the truth, remain valid and call us to a greater commitment.
St. John Paul II explained in a speech given in 2000 how he “convoked an Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in 1985. Its goal was to celebrate, examine and further the Council’s teaching. In their analysis the Bishops spoke of the ‘lights and shadows‘ that had marked the post-conciliar period.”
Sixty years later, the Church continues to have “light and shadows” around the implementation of Vatican II, but St. John Paul II’s list of questions can be helpful to evaluation how well the authentic spirit of the Second Vatican Council has been received by the wider Church.