The Second Vatican Council, which met between October 11, 1962 and December 8, 1965, was the 21st general (ecumenical) council of the Roman Catholic Church. There were actually four separate sessions: October-December 1962, September-December, 1963, September-November, 1964, and September-December, 1965, all in St. Peter's Basilica. It was called by John XXIII, but he died after only the first session and his successor, Paul VI, was left to finish it.
This was the largest of the twenty-one ecumenical councils, with a total of 2,600 bishops from all over the world and a total of over 3,000 participants (including theologians and other experts). As a comparison, the First Vatican Council, held between 1878 and 1880 , had a total of 737 bishops who attended. It is also important to note that the participants really did come from all over the world - whereas Vatican I was dominated by European bishops, fewer than half of the bishops at Vatican II were from European countries.
Other notable facts: this council had more observers from other religions and non-Catholic Christian denominations than any other. It was the first council to have available electric lights, telephones, and other modern amenities. It was the first to receive extensive media coverage from all over the world. This council was also unusual in that it was not called to address some specific heresy or threat to the Church - instead, John XXIII specifically stated that he called it to promote peace and easy discord.
Among the more progressive results of the Second Vatican Council were declaration like that "the Church" includes all "People of God," not simply the hierarchy of the Church and that there is a hierarchy of truths - thus, not all official Church teachings are equally binding on all Catholics or essentially to the integrity of Catholic Faith. Although traditionalists managed to limit the changes which progressives wanted to make, this council nevertheless produced the most and widest changes in the Roman Catholic Church since the Council of Trent during the Reformation.
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