Pope John XXIII (1881-1963), who soon will be made saint along with John Paul II, recommended putting aside doctrinal issues and focusing on the modern world's trends when he opened the Second Vatican Council on Oct. 11, 1962.
"As Father John O'Malley S.J. noticed, John XIII's remarks gave a tenor and direction to Vatican II that was not expected at the time," Avella said. "It was free of anathemas, it had a more conciliatory and dialogical tone than previous councils and broke new ground in such topics as relations with the Jews, religious liberty and the role of the church in the modern world."
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But liberal and conservative are relative terms in the Catholic Church, after all.
According to Thomas F. X. Noble, professor of history at Notre Dame and an expert on the history of the papacy, the concept also applies to Pope Francis, whose directness and humble style continue to win the hearts of millions.
"On questions of economic justice, Francis is, in secular terms, radical," Noble told Discovery News. "He says we need a deeper theology for understanding women. But he says the door is closed to the ordination, so where this goes will be revealed in time."