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Bishop discusses Vatican II

Jillian Barwick | Tuesday, October 23, 2012

In a lecture titled “Roots and Wings: How Vatican II Changed My Spirituality,” Bishop Remi J. DeRoo addressed members of the Saint Mary’s community Monday night as part of the Center for Spirituality’s annual endowed Fall Lecture series.

DeRoo, a retired bishop from the Diocese of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, spoke about his experience serving as a Council Father  – and the council’s youngest Canadian bishop – in all four Vatican II sessions from 1962 to 1965.

“I was 38 at the time,” he said. “I was a brand-new bishop, a new kid on the block, and the Pope looked over at me and smiled and motioned for me to come forward and I got to shake his hand.”

Raised traditionally and conservatively by Belgian parents who settled in Canada, DeRoo said he spent his entire life as a farmer until his ordination.

Coming from that humble background, DeRoo said his involvement in Vatican II significantly impacted his personal spirituality.

“Some people who are trying to use the Vatican to their own advantage sometimes forget how it is the ultimate authority which is found in texts and not people’s interpretation,” he said. “I went through the equivalent of a very profound conversion as a result of the Vatican II.”

Although the council discussed some broad reforms of Church practices, DeRoo said the microcosms of local parishes also play a role in those changes.

“One of the main teachings of Vatican II is precisely the reality and the recognition of the local believing community,” DeRoo said. “It is important that local churches celebrate Vatican II and is just as important for me to attend.”

In the past, DeRoo said the concept of the local Church and religion often seemed more like going through the motions of being religious.

“We are in a religion of presets,” he said. “What we knew of God was primarily about God. Religion was mostly a question of obeying the commandments. We went to church because it was a sin if you didn’t go on Sundays.”

But Vatican II offered DeRoo and other Catholics the opportunity to move past that superficial version of religion and understand God more fully, he said.

“My image of God moved from propositional God, a God where you learn things and a God who teaches things, to a sense that I appreciate that God is a relational God and wants to share love,” DeRoo said. “Know God in the biblical sense in which Adam and Eve related to each other; it’s a biblical sense of relationship.”

The Bible’s messages about God and relationships are enriched by reading several translations of the holy text, DeRoo said.

“I am saddened that we have just gone through a phase in the Church where some people think that Jesus spoke Latin,” DeRoo said. “We should not equate the message of revelation, the Bible, the scriptures with one language and interpretation.”

The Second Vatican Council prompted a shift toward personal conscience in theology and faith, DeRoo said.

“A massive shift took place in the field of moral theology. It’s very important to recognize a way of conscience,” he said. “Scriptures should be the very soul of theology. Role of conscience becomes an extremely important thing as a result of Vatican II.”

Though Vatican II’s ideas led to a new era of the Church, DeRoo said uncertainty and fear have prevented some of those ideas from being fully applied in practice in the past.

“We are called to be prophets … to share wisdom and put our finger on where God is present, thus helping the Church to move forward,” he said.

Contact Jillian Barwick at jbarwi01@saintmarys.edu