international, multi-facetted,


political, religious,


innovative, interdisciplinary,


practice-oriented, individual,

Vatican II – Legacy and Mandate

Intercontinental Commentary: Reception and Orientations for the Life of the Church

Aim of the project is to develop an intercontinental and intercultural theological commentary of the documents of the Second Vatican Council, their reception and their mandate for Church and theology today.

The Second Vatican Council is the master narrative of the Catholic Church of the 20th century. In the context of world history it is the most important ecumenical and social orientation mark. The Council has accompanied the process of globalization and the associated economic, technical, social, cultural and religious implications in its beginnings. 50 years later, the modern world of the Anthropocene - continuation and transformation of the process of globalization - is characterized by fundamental differences, including religious ones. This is manifest in different ways in the major cultural areas and continents and has also strongly conditioned the reception in the different continents and major cultural areas.

The research project aims at a first scientifically adequate recording and elaboration of a comprehensive orientation for the future of the church and the theologies of the 21st century. This happens in a situation in which the centre of the Church is shifting to the southern hemisphere and ecclesial plurality is taking on a new shape. This goal does not mean the development of theological fantasy products. Christians have the will of God to live today. But in this accomplishment the dimension of the future opens up. It results from the origin as a precious heritage and is indicated by the signs of the time. The perspective of the project is not simply the reconstruction of the past, of the Council and its reception. The emphasis is on the orientation of the path of Church and theology in the future: what are the basic options to be taken today, according to the letter and spirit of the Council? This objective cannot be achieved without a thorough new analysis of the Council and its reception at the global level and in the different continents. The changes which have taken place have in turn had repercussions on the other Christian Churches, as well as on the relations of the different religions with one another. At the same time, the results of the research will provide an insight into religious, cultural and social relations of the continents and cultural areas in a hitherto unknown way. With it the participating theologians hope to make a contribution to a "Church on the move" in the sense of "Evangelii Gaudium", the programme of Pope Francis.

Central part of the project are five working groups of internationally renowned researchers on Vatican II and its reception in the respective continents Latin America, Africa, Asia, USA with Australia and Europe. The working groups exchange intensively with the project steering committee (Prof. Dr. Joachim Schmiedl, Prof. Dr. Klaus Vellguth, Prof. Dr. Peter Hünermann and Prof. Dr. Margit Eckholt).

The international project is an innovative research on the Second Vatican Council: The different reception of the Council in the countries of the South/Southeast and in the North Atlantic area is brought together in a cooperation of scientists from all continents. In a first step, it is a matter of recording the reception histories motivated by the Council in the various continents and the major cultural areas. In a second step these results from the discourse of the universal church will be linked back to the Council documents and the new dimensions and theological contexts addressed in the results will be questioned with regard to their roots and perspectives in the Council texts.

Study groups

Continental study groups are crucial for the shift from a Eurocentric and North Atlantic perspective to a transnational and intercontinental/global reflection on the Council and its reception. In recent years, five continental study groups have constituted themselves, which meet for continental conferences and analyze Vatican II and its reception history with a view to the respective continent. The results are published in five volumes under the title "The Church in ... and the Second Vatican Council".

The continental groups are in different ways in the process of structuring their work and the resulting volume. Continental characteristics and regional focuses play a central role. In this respect, the individual volumes will each have their own individual face.


To bring the continental perspectives into a lively theological discourse, representatives of the continental study groups meet annually for a symposium. During this symposium the conception of the intercontinental project is worked out together, the state of work in the continental study groups is presented and hermeneutical as well as intercultural aspects for the realization of intercontinental theological discourses in the universal church are discussed.

The following symposia have taken place so far:

  • First symposium in Vallendar (2017)
  • Second symposium in Simmern (2018)
  • Third symposium in Simmern (2019)
  • Fourth symposium in Leuven (2020)

Steering Committee

  • Prof Dr Margit Eckholt, Osnabrück
  • Prof Dr Dr h.c. mult Peter Hünermann, Tübingen
  • Prof Dr Joachim Schmiedl, Vallendar (Chair)
  • Prof Dr mult Klaus Vellguth, Vallendar

Project Coordinator

  • PD Dr Gianmaria Zamagni



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