Keynote Abstracts


Cardinal Marc Ouellet PSS

Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Rome

Read notes here (PDF).


Professor Anthony Kelly CssR

Intention and Text – Spirit and Letter

To appreciate “the great grace” of Vatican II, two terms are unavoidable—“spirit” and “letter”.  Are they opposites? Can one be used against the other? Are they complementary? Do they express different perspectives on Vatican II as a still unfolding event in the life of the Church? 
The” letter” of the sixteen conciliar documents is there in black and white.  Fifty years later, these documents continue to make us ask how they might be best presented,  more precisely translated and best received. After all, the world in which they were written is a world that has rapidly and vastly changed—no internet then, and the Soviet Union was the bastion of atheistic communism.  And since then, we have had a Polish and now a German Pope—both of whom participated in the Council. 

It is most likely that the next Pope will not have been one of the “council fathers”. That will give a new complexion to our theme.  In the meantime, it is instructive to ponder on how the times have changed, and how that affects our reading of Vatican II. 
In other words the question of the “spirit” of the Council arises: obviously it has to be beholden to the “letter”; and yet it would be a distortion to be so fixated on the “letter” as to be without a sense of the larger event that was occurring, and of the way the Holy Spirit was, and is, acting.  When the “letter” is read in the wrong spirit, a war of words can easily result, with no one the wiser.

One useful way of combining the values of both “letter” and “spirit”, is to ask, What spirituality derives from the Council? Other questions are implied dealing with our way of praying, our sense of God, our understanding of Christ and the Holy Spirit, and the meaning of Christian responsibility in the Church and in the world.  More radically still, what continuing conversion of mind, heart and imagination is the Spirit inspiring?  No one answer will be adequate, but every effort to answer such questions can make for a deeper appreciation in 2013 of the “great grace” of Vatican II.


Archbishop Allen Vigneron

The mission ad gentes and the evangelical imperative of the Council

“A New Pentecost”:  that was how Blessed John XXIII spoke of the great grace he looked for from the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.  My presentation will consider the Second Vatican Council as aimed at leading the whole Church to re-appropriate her mission of proclaiming Christ anew, in order to bring our age into the New Creation of which he is the head.  Like the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council, Vatican II is a response to the challenges of Modernity.  In this latest Council the Fathers sought to dis­­­cern the lights and shadows of our Modern world, in order more effectively to evangelize our times. 

Using the fruits of the renewal of theology, the liturgical movement, and advances in Scripture study, the Council focused on the universal call to holiness and the ecclesiology of communion as the dimensions of the Church’s life within which to come to a new understanding of the working of grace within our culture’s focus on the dignity of the human person and human freedom.   In outlining how I, as a pastor, understand the pastoral strategy of Vatican II, I hope to help us all implement it more effectively.


Professor Anne Hunt

A Council for the Laity? The vision of Vatican II in empowering the lay faithful

Almost every Vatican document has something to say on the laity, beginning with Sacrosanctum Concilium, which called for the full, conscious and active participation by all the people in liturgical celebration. The rediscovery of the people of God as one reality, a mutuality of hierarchy and laity in which all are called to holiness, was one of the most profound insights of Vatican II. The recognition of the universal call to holiness and the fundamental equality and dignity of all the faithful gave impetus to the council’s vision for the vital role of the laity in the Church.

By virtue of their baptism, the laity are endowed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and share in the abiding charismatic and missionary character of the church. All the baptized are called to be active members of the people of God, sharing in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly offices of Christ. Theirs is an active participation that belongs to all, hierarchy and laity alike, whatever their distinct gifts, vocations, and responsibilities. This paper will explore questions concerning the place, role and rise of the laity in the life of the Church as envisaged by the Second Vatican Council. It will also explore the relationship between the laity and the clergy, and how that relationship might fruitfully be understood.


Tracey Rowland

Receiving the Council in the Church in Australia

The reception of the Second Vatican Council in Australia followed similar patterns to that of other countries of the Western world with an initial emphasis on the correlation of the Catholic faith to intellectual currents within the culture of modernity. This culture reached its zenith in the 1950s and began to implode from the late 1960s onwards. Sociologists now speak of 1968 as the moment of the turn to postmodernity. From the 1980s onwards the correlationist projects began to be overtaken by the Christocentric projects of the pontificate of John Paul II at the core of which was Blessed John Paul II’s Trinitarian Christocentric anthropology. The hallmark of this pontificate was that Christ should position culture, rather than the culture of the times positioning Christ. According to this interpretation it is Christ himself who is the ‘sign of the times’ in the period between His Incarnation and return in glory. The contrast however between correlationism and Christocentrism remains a central feature of ecclesial life in contemporary Australia representing different appropriations of the teaching of the Council.


Archbishop Arthur Roche

Actuosa Paticipatio

In his final address to the clergy of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI observed that the Second Vatican Council began with a consideration of the liturgy as a very positive sign, because “the primacy of God was self evident”, as was the desire of the Council Fathers to open to the entire people of God the possibility of worshiping in the common celebration of the liturgy. The fiftieth anniversary of Sacrosanctum con cilium invites us to return to its sources and to examine the development of the ideas which have shaped the evolution of our experience of the liturgy in these past fifty years.

“Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the nature of the liturgy itself…” [SC,14]. Many considered this to be an innovation and are surprised to discover that it is a key concept of the liturgical movement evident from the early twentieth century onwards. The treatment of this notion presents a subtle balance between internal engagement and more external experiences of participation, the recovery of which offers helpful insights which point towards the renewal of the liturgy in our own time. 


Archbishop Mark Coleridge

Communicating a Vatican II Faith in a Secular World

Given how slippery the language can be (secularity, secularisation, secularism etc), the address will begin by considering what it means to speak of “a secular world” which tends to be a predominantly Western description. It will then move to consider what it means to speak of “a Vatican II faith”, examining notions such as aggiornamento and reform and how they modulated the faith as it had been understood. The address will explore in more detail four interrelated points which will be regarded as fundamental to the agenda of the Council: 1) new evangelisation, 2) the emergence of a global Church, 3) the acceptance of historical consciousness, and 4) colloquium salutis (dialogue) as an understanding of the relationship between the Church and the world. It will conclude by suggesting the practical implications for this for the Church in a Western culture such as Australia.

Dr Austen Ivereigh & Jack Valero

A new apologetics: lessons from Catholic Voices

The ‘new evangelisation’ called for by John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now Francis, needs a ‘new apologetics’ of credibility, authenticity and above all courage (parrhesia) in the new context of western scepticism and individualism. A British-born project created for the 2010 papal visit to the UK which has been copied in more than seven countries worldwide – and is shortly to be launched in Australia – offers some insights into how this might be done. Catholic Voices, who in the first quarter of 2013 alone have given more than 200 interviews on UK radio and television, has transformed the presence of the Church in the British public square, offering the media a team of studio-ready, media-friendly spokespeople whose task is to put across the Catholic position on contentious issues in TV and radio interviews, whether on breaking news stories about the Church itself, or in the midst of national debates such as same-sex marriage.

In this presentation, the project’s co-founders – one is a Catholic journalist, author and former spokesman for the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster; the other is a director of Opus Dei in the UK and spokesman for the Cardinal Newman beatification – share some of the wider lessons they have learned in the three years of the project’s lifetime. They will describe the method and principles they developed for communicating the Church’s positions in ways that allow ordinary people to avoid the bear-traps laid by secularism and the contemporary ethic of autonomy. The new apologetics means learning to welcome the chance to communicate where Church and society meet – namely, in the heated discussions at dinner parties and around the office water-cooler. It means equipping lay Catholics to go out into what Pope Francis calls the “peripheries”: the places where the Church’s positions appear baffling and scandalous. It means being able to identify and affirm the positive, often residually Christian, values in popular critiques of the Catholic position, and rapidly to “reframe” the issues. The new apologetics, they will argue, is the necessary outcome of the Second Vatican Council’s vision of ordinary Catholics equipped for mission in the midst of modernity.