The Story of Dei Verbum Part One: Preparations for the Council

Adrian Graffy

This is the first of three articles telling the intriguing story of one of the most significant documents of Vatican II. Adrian Graffy taught Scripture for many years at Wonersh, and is now Director of Evangelisation and Formation in the Diocese of Brentwood, and parish priest of Gidea Park.

The Second Vatican Council was unique. While as a general rule ecumenical councils have had specific issues to deal with, this Council was called to consider how effectively the Church was bringing the Gospel to the contemporary world. It was to be a Council like no other, a Council of dialogue.

The First Vatican Council (1869-1870) had been unable to finish its work due to the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war. The decree on papal infallibility was completed, but other matters had to be postponed for a later date. There was no opportunity to consider the role of bishops. Some considered that, with the definition of papal infallibility, there would be no more need for councils. The Pope would be able to decide everything.

The International Eucharistic Congress in 1922 prompted Pope Pius XI to consider reconvening Vatican I. In October 1923 bishops were consulted by letter and there was a majority in favour. In fact, however, the resolution of the relationship between the Holy See and Italy was given precedence with the Lateran Pacts being signed in 1929. By this time the political situation in Europe was changing with the rise of Nazism and Fascism.

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