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Professor looks at Vatican II in Year of Faith lecture series 


Dr. Fran Leap

By Jerry Zufelt

GREENSBURG — The diocese will sponsor a Year of Faith lecture series on the Second Vatican Council delivered by a Seton Hill religious studies professor who says her academic work is a direct result of the council and "its encouragement of the apostolate of the laity."

Dr. Fran Leap, a professor at Seton Hill and a parishioner of Blessed Sacrament Cathedral Parish since 1991, will discuss the state of the Catholic Church and society at the time of the council (1962-65), how it came to be convened, the preparations made for its work and the documents of the council, including "Dignitatis Humanae," the Declaration on Religious Liberty.

The Year of Faith opened Oct. 11, 2012, the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II. Pope Benedict XVI called for the Year of Faith, which concludes Nov. 24, 2013, to encourage Catholics to become more knowledgeable about their faith in order to deepen that faith and share it with others as evangelizers.

The significance of the council 50 years later, Leap said, is that it "re-inspired not simply theology, but really every area of our lives as Catholics."

"One of the most beautiful insights to grow from the council is the affirmation of the church as the People of God," Leap said. "The very way in which I, as a laywoman, can earn my living as a professor of theology and religious studies at a Catholic university is a result of Vatican II and its encouragement of the apostolate of the laity.

"I believe the very act of 2,400 council fathers gathering from every corner of the world, seeing one another frequently over several years, in all their diversity, sharing and hearing one another’s stories, renewed for the entire church a sense of ourselves as truly Catholic, truly universal."

The 50th anniversary of the council is an opportunity for Catholics to become reacquainted with the documents, she said, noting that her first theology text at Loyola University of Chicago was the paperback translation of the 16 council documents.

"I think that many people would be amazed how clear and accessible many of the documents really are," Leap said. "My students are often surprised how readable and even beautiful some of the documents are."

The Declaration on Religious Liberty was one of the most significant documents to come out of the council, Leap said, because together with the Decree on Ecumenism and the Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, they "launched a new openness for Catholics in coming to know our global neighbors of other faith traditions and understanding our relationship with them as children of the One God."

"In an age of globalization, the Declaration on Religious Liberty is more foundational to our lives as Catholics than ever before," Leap said.

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