This unit will examine the historical context of the Second Vatican Council (1962–65). It will examine the intellectual and historical formation of Angelo Roncalli (Pope John XXIII) and his particular study of the Council of Trent which shaped in a definitive way his language and framework in calling the Second Vatican Council. In studying the speeches and writings of Angelo Roncalli/John XXIII, the student will come to understand the historical context of Vatican II’s call for aggiornamento (updating) and Pope John XXIII’s perception of an epochal shift for the Church and the world in the course of the twentieth century. An assessment of the historical importance of Vatican II will also be made.

Unit code: CH3180C

Unit status: Approved (New unit)

Points: 18.0

Unit level: Undergraduate Level 3

Unit discipline: Church History

Proposing College: Catholic Theological College

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Learning outcomes


Contextualise Vatican II in relation to previous Church councils.


Identify the major themes in the ongoing historical interpretation of Vatican II, noting in particular the evolution of the recent scholarly debates regarding the relative continuity/discontinuity of the Council.


Articulate the cultural and intellectual formation of Angelo Roncalli (John XXIII), in particular, his study of the Council of Trent and the reforms of St Charles Borromeo that prompted him to call the Second Vatican Council


Situate the documents of Vatican II in the wider historical and theological context


Evaluate the distinctive nature of Vatican II as a hermeneutical key to assist in the ongoing interpretation of conciliar history.


Develop a coherent argument for the distinctive place of councils in the life of the Church.


Lectures and seminars

Indicative Bibliography

  • Alberigo, Giuseppe, Jean-Pierre Jossua, and Joseph A. Komonchak, eds. The Reception of Vatican II. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1987.
  • Alberigo, Giuseppe, and Joseph Komonchak, eds. History of Vatican II. 5 vols. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1995-2006.
  • Alberigo, Giuseppe. A Brief History of Vatican II. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2006.
  • Benigni, Mario, and Goffredo Zanchi. John XXIII: The Official Biography. Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media, 2001.
  • Bulman, Raymond, and Frederick Parrella, eds. From Trent to Vatican II: Historical and Theological Investigations. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • Coppa, Frank. The Papacy in the Modern World: A Political History. London: Reaktion Books, 2014.
  • Hebblethwaite, Peter. John XXIII: Pope of the Council. London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1984.
  • Latourelle, Rene, ed. Vatican II: Assessment and Perspectives: Twenty-five Years After (1962–1987). 3 vols. New York: Paulist Press, 1988–89.
  • O’Malley, John. Tradition and Transition. Historical Perspectives on Vatican II. Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, 1989.
  • O’Malley, John. What Happened at Vatican II. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008. (recommended for purchase)
  • Schultenover, David, ed. Vatican II. Did Anything Happen? New York: Continuum, 2007.
  • Stacpoole, Alberic. Vatican II: By those who were there. London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1986.


Type Description Word count Weight (%)

3,500 word essay

0 50.0
Seminar or Tutorial

500 word seminar paper

0 20.0
Written Examination

one hour documents examination

0 30.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by John Capper on 19 Oct, 2017

Unit record last updated: 2019-03-25 09:49:30 +1100