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Vatican II Studies Unit

Call for Proposals

Vatican II: Contested Authority, Competing Narratives
This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. The events of 1962, including world events, the work of preparatory commissions, the orientations laid out in the opening discourse (Gaudet Mater Ecclesia) and other interventions of Pope John XXIII, as well as interventions by other protagonists – bishops, theologians, ecumenical observers – would determine the path of the council as it embarked upon a substantial program of renewal and reform. We invite proposals that will contribute to a deeper appreciation of these momentous events in historical and theological perspective and reflect on their significance for the interpretation of the council’s teaching in our time. Topics might include the contested authority of the council, silence or competing narratives concerning its meaning, ongoing battles for liturgical reform, and their implications for the self-understanding of the church, ecumenical and interreligious relations, questions of faith and diverse cultures, or of mission in a post-colonial context.

Vatican II: The Ecclesial and Pastoral Ecosystem of Pope Francis
Pope Francis affirms that the teachings and orientations of Vatican II (1962-1965) are integral to his “ecclesial and pastoral ecosystem.” Still, from the outset of his pontificate, he has observed that humanity is at a “turning point in history”, undergoing an “epochal change” (EG 52), or more pointedly, a “change of epoch” requiring a substantial conversion of church in the twenty-first century. A vastly different global Catholic Church faces challenges – both internally and from without – that could not have been anticipated sixty years ago. These include the crisis of church governance – of power and sexual abuse, the failures of globalization, the ecological crisis, the growing consciousness of the need for decolonization and indigenization of local faith communities. We invite proposals that explore both parallels and contrasts between Francis’ vision of ecclesial renewal today and the reforming vision of the Second Vatican Council.

Statement of Purpose

This Unit gives scholarly attention to the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), one of the most significant events in the history of the Catholic Church — an event that had wide-ranging implications for other faiths, other Christian churches, and for the wider world alike. This Unit has a double focus: first, deepening the understanding of the history of Vatican II, its link with movements of renewal in Catholic theology and in the Church in the decades prior to Vatican II, and the history of the reception of the Council, and the redaction history of the different documents of the Council; second, a strong theological on both to the hermeneutical issues connected to methods of interpreting conciliar teaching and its ongoing reception in a changing context. By looking more closely at the past, our Unit hopes to promote greater conciliarity and synodality in the Christian churches in the present. In this second mandate of its presence within the American Academy of Religion (2018-2022) the Vatican II Studies Unit turns its attention to the reception of Vatican II within the various social and cultural contexts of the Americas and elsewhere, and to its continuing influence in the changing context of twenty-first century global Christianity.


Steering Committee Members



Review Process

Proposer names are visible to chairs and steering committee members at all times