Pope Francis, in his address before the Synod on Synodality, emphasized the need to create a different church rather than creating a new one. He quoted Yves Congar, a renowned theologian, who expressed the same sentiment in his book “True and False Reform in the Church.” Congar’s influence on the church, especially during and after the Second Vatican Council, was significant. He was admired by every pope from John XXIII onward and was made a cardinal by John Paul II. Avery Dulles, another theologian, stated that Vatican II could almost be called Congar’s council due to his contributions.
Congar, born in France in 1904, joined the Dominicans and became ordained in 1930. He founded the influential “Unam Sanctam” book series and played a crucial role in the movement for ressourcement and the nouvelle théologie school of theologians. During World War II, Congar served as a chaplain in the French army and was captured, spending most of the war in German prisons.
After the war, Congar faced opposition from some in Rome who saw his ideas as dangerous innovations. He was expelled from his teaching positions and faced restrictions on publishing and translating his writings. Congar expressed his frustration with Rome’s focus on affirming its own authority.
However, everything changed with the coming of Vatican II. Pope John XXIII appointed Congar as a consultant for the council, and he played a central role in writing important conciliar documents. Congar’s work focused on ecumenism and the renewal of the Church’s fidelity to its calling.
Congar’s approach to theology was characterized by his commitment to tradition while recognizing the problems of the present. He emphasized that tradition grows and renews itself, but it is essential to understand it before attempting to address current issues.
After Vatican II, Congar continued teaching and publishing on various theological topics, with a particular focus on the theology of the Holy Spirit. He served on the International Theological Commission from 1969 to 1985.
When Congar passed away in 1995, he was recognized as a great scholar and churchman devoted to the renewal and unity of God’s people. His contributions to theology and interchurch relationships surpassed those of any other theologian of the century, according to Avery Dulles.
In conclusion, Yves Congar’s influence on the Catholic Church, especially during Vatican II, was profound. His commitment to tradition and renewal, as well as his emphasis on ecumenism, left a lasting impact on the Church’s theology and direction.