Symposium - Fortieth Anniversary of Vatican II
By Arthur Wells
The opening of the Second Vatican Council by Pope John XXIII took place with great pomp in St Peter’s Rome on 11 October 1962.
The fortieth anniversary was marked in various ways in different parts of the world but, in England, a small group noted a special English significance as the anniversary coincided with the centenary in 2002 of the birth of Bishop Basil Christopher Butler OSB. As Abbot Butler of Downside, and president of the English Benedictine Congregation, he had attended all four council sessions in their entirety. But further, he had emerged at the end of the Council as arguably the leading English-speaking participant; evidence is strong that he might have been nominated in 1963 as Archbishop of Westminster.
The symposium took some two years to prepare and had the patronage of The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor and Butler’s successor, the current Abbot of Downside, Dom Richard Yeo OSB. Another crucial patron was the Principal of Heythrop College, London University, the leading theological foundation in UK. The Principal, Father John McDade SJ, donated the ideal venue of the college in Kensington and much other assistance. The symposium took place on Saturday 12 October 2002, with a capacity attendance of 200 people. The speakers were all distinguished in their own fields and, remarkably, included two Fathers of the Second Vatican Council: the late Archbishop Denis Hurley of South Africa and Bishop R.J. De Roo from Canada. In 1962, respectively, the youngest archbishop and one of the very youngest bishops in the Church. The first address, given by Cardinal Murphy O'Connor, is so appropriate to the whole website.
The proceedings were introduced by Father McDade who read a message to the Symposium from Bishop Butler’s two surviving siblings:
Message to the Symposium
Bishop Christopher Butler was our much loved brother. We are very pleased, therefore, and proud that this symposium is taking place as part of his centenary celebrations. We thank the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, the Abbot of Downside and the Principal of Heythrop College for their patronage of the occasion. We also thank the symposium steering group for their part in honouring our brother’s name, thus helping to refresh the Church’s memory of his seminal contribution to the Second Vatican Council. We hope your symposium will be a catalyst to impel this generation to further the Council’s policies towards the betterment of the Church and the fellowship of all Christian people, a purpose which would have won Bishop Butler’s heartfelt approval. We thank you all therefore, and pray that God may bless your high endeavours today.
In Christ we are
Mary A. Butler C. Hilary Butler
After introducing Cardinal Cormac for his opening address, Father McDade passed the chair for the morning session to Abbot Yeo, the afternoon session being chaired by Father McDade. The papers which follow were published in the Downside Review of January 2003. Thanks are due to the speakers and to the Downside Review for permissions to publish the proceedings. The papers are listed in the panel to the right.