Notre Dame Forum events to recognize 50th anniversary of Second Vatican Council Documents

Author: Michael O. Garvey

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of the University of Notre Dame, announced Monday (March 16) that the 2015-16 Notre Dame Forum, Faith, Freedom and the Modern World: 50 Years After Vatican II, will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of pivotal documents of the Second Vatican Council that have resonance today. The forum will highlight the Declaration on Non-Christian Religions (Nostra aetate), the Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis humanae) and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes).

“The defense of religious freedom, the fostering of inter-faith and ecumenical dialogue and the vigorous engagement of the Church with the modern world are salient issues for us today,” Father Jenkins said. “The golden jubilee of transformative documents of the Council makes this a particularly appropriate time to consider some of the Council’s most urgent teachings.”

The 2015 Notre Dame Forum will begin with a conference on March 22, Joy and Hope: The 50th Anniversary of Gaudium et Spes, sponsored by Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns. Other events are being planned for the 2015-16 academic year that will be centered on religious freedom and inter-faith dialogue and related issues. Future events will be announced at a later date.

The “Joy and Hope” conference will convene a group of leading international scholars to explore the central themes of Gaudium et Spes, which is widely regarded as the most authoritative summary of Catholic social teaching.

The conference opens with a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, OFM, archbishop of Durban, South Africa, on Sunday and continues through Tuesday (March 24). Speakers include Cardinal Napier; Miroslav Volf, Henry B. Wright Professor of Systematic Theology and founding director of the Center for Faith and Culture at Yale University; and Alexia Kelley, president and CEO of Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities in Washington, D.C.

“Every other year the Center for Social Concerns organizes this increasingly important conference on Catholic social tradition,” said Rev. Paul Kollman, C.S.C., Leo and Arlene Hawk Director of the Center for Social Concerns. “This year we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of Gaudium et Spes, which embraced human solidarity and invited the Church to think seriously about social problems.”

This year’s conference will explore some of the central issues of Gaudium et Spes including dignity, solidarity, justice, culture and war.

Written near the end of Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes marked a new effort on the part of the Church to reach out to the cultures and people where it finds itself. Its now famous opening line exclaims that, “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these too are the joys and hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the followers of Christ.” According to Cardinal Napier, Gaudium et Spes led to a “slow but profound and far-reaching paradigm shift in Church leadership, which led to the Church courageously presenting its ideal self as a Church striving to become and be ‘Community Serving Humanity.’”

The “Joy and Hope” conference is sponsored by Center for Social Concerns, Catholic Social Tradition minor, Center for Civil and Human Rights, Center for the Study of Religion and Society, College of Arts and Letters: Henkels Lecture Series/Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, Cushwa Center for American Catholicism, Department of Theology, Institute for Church Life, Institute for Latino Studies, Kellogg Institute for International Studies, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, Catholic Relief Services and the National Center for Laity.

Established by Father Jenkins in 2005, the Notre Dame Forum has featured major talks by leading authorities on complex issues related to immigration, sustainability, global health, the global marketplace, K-12 education and the role of faith in a pluralistic society.

Contact: JP Shortall, 574-631-3209

Originally published by Michael O. Garvey at on March 16, 2015.