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 th