Administrators, Jesuits and Vatican II staff discussed the historic council that transformed the Catholic Church at a conference titled “Vatican II After Fifty Years: Dialogue and Catholic Identity” in Gaston Hall Thursday evening.

After University President John J. DeGioia welcomed the audience, keynote lecturer Fr. John O’Malley, S.J., spoke about the integral role that dialogue played in the Second Vatican Council According to O’Malley, conversation and inquiry have not always been a part of traditional Catholicism.

“‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,’ no discussion. ‘Love thy neighbor,’ no discussion. ‘Repent,’ no discussion,” he said.

O’Malley admitted that priests contribute to this paradigm.

“After homilies, do you think I smile at the congregation and ask, ‘Do you think I’m on the right track?’” he said.

For O’Malley, the 20th-century concepts of multiculturalism and religious pluralism opened the door for communication during Vatican II.

In the wake of the horrors of the Holocaust, the Catholic Church reflected on the importance of both tolerance and inter-religious discourse.

“The Church was ready, [and] the dialogue needed a voice,” O’Malley said.

Thomas Stransky, a Paulist priest who was one of Vatican II’s original staff members, brought an insider perspective to the event. In his lecture, Stranksy highlighted the uncertainty and disorder that took place during the council.

“It was an unpredictable journey with an unknown outcome,” he said.

Stransky noted the wide range of issues that the council dealt with, such as celibacy and Judaism.

In spite of its religious nature, however, the council was not immune to events going on in the secular world.

“Vatican II was not free from political influence or pressure,” he said.

Like O’Malley, Stransky zeroed in on the Church’s transition from monologue to dialogue. He said the council’s participants were looking for a new language that was affirmative instead of accusatory.

Students and audience members responded positively to the conference lectures.

“O’Malley gave an excellent vision of the council and of dialogue, and it’s something we live out in the university community,” Chris Duffner (COL ’13) said.

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