Summary of Introduction and First Chapter Of Schema on Church in Modern World

This is the English-language summary of the introduction and first chapter of the ecumenical council’s schema on the Church in the modern world. The council press office in releasing it said that summaries of subsequent chapters would follow “as the discussion develops in the council hall.”

  1. a) The story of the schema

On July 3, 1964, the Holy Father gave instructions that the schema “The Church in the World Today” should be sent to the Council Fathers in its present form.

This schema, after being re-worked by the Mixed Commission composed of members of the Theological Commission and of the Commission for the Apostolate of the Laity, speaks of the relationships of the Church and the modern world.

In its first version, the schema was composed of six chapters treating of the following subjects: the grandeur of man’s vocation, man in society, marriage and the family, the necessity of proper progress in culture, the economical order and social justice, the community of peoples and peace. Of this first version, only the first chapter has been retained, with its presentation of the doctrinal aspects of these points, while the other five chapters have been added to the present schema in an appendix.

This second revision of the schema was turned over to the Mixed Commission and to a special subcommission set up for this specific purpose. The five chapters of the appendix have been worked over by the different subcommissions of the Mixed Commission.

In June of this year, the final text was submitted to the Mixed Commission for discussion and approval. Thus the schema reached its present version, which will be discussed in the council hall and which comprises a synthesis of the various chapters which first made up the appendix to the schema.

  1. b) The subject matter

The schema takes up the general problems confronting the relationships of the Church and the world today. Its intention is not to work out a new theology, but rather to study and to penetrate temporal realities in the light of theological principles, both speculative and practical, in a perspective valid for all ages, considering the world in its actual situations, with all its elements of good and evil, with its anxieties and its hopes. In a word, the schema wants to demonstrate that the Church makes temporal problems its own, because she is the Mother of men living in the world. At the same time, she reminds all that the earth is not man’s definitive dwelling place, but a place where he passes by for a time.

  1. c) The form and style o f the schema

The language used in the preparation of the schema is inspired by Sacred Scripture and remains always faithful to theology. It is a simple and modern language, and thus can be understood by men of today and particularly by men who have had no special theological training.

  1. d) The structure of the schema

The schema is made up of an introduction, four chapters and a conclusion. The appendix contains material distinct from the text.

The four chapters are as follows:

  1. The vocation of the whole man.
  2. The Church in the service of God and men.
  3. The Christian mode of life in a contemporary world.
  4. The principal task of the Christian today.


As members of one same human family, we have all been created by God and placed on this earth where we all share the same destiny, whether in prosperity or in adversity. We are all called to form one same family of the sons of God in Jesus Christ, who came into this world to save all men and to form a kingdom of love, unity, and peace.

Time is a sign and a voice for the Church and for men. It is a sign of the presence or the absence of God, a voice for the man who invokes his God and the voice of God speaking to man.

The schema is addressed first of all to the sons of the Church, then to their brethren in the separated Christian churches, to the adorers of one God and, lastly, to all men of good will.

In explaining the relations of the Church and the modern world, the Council wishes only to present Christ as the Light and the Savior of the world.


The first chapter treats of the fundamental position which the Church must adopt in the face of the problems of the contemporary world, problems which hinge on one central point: man and his vocation.

Many consider man only from the temporal viewpoint. For these, the final end of salvation is regarded as something of a brake in the construction of the earthly city. Others, even among Christians, condemn temporal activities. For the Church all created things are “very good,” as is stated in Genesis. All things have been created in the Word and through the Word. By means of the Incarnation the whole of human nature has been elevated.

Man was called by God to the dignity of being a citizen of the heavenly city, to participation as a son of God in divine life in this world by means of Faith and in the next world “face to face.” Hope for a future life gives real meaning to the life of man and makes man live in charity toward God and his neighbor. The activities whereby man exercises his domination over nature is a social bond, a source of progress for culture, a perfecting of human nature, and it forms part of the plan of God.

For this reason the council exhorts the faithful to be aware of their vocation and to manifest it consistently, as well in private as in social life. At the same time the faithful are urged not to follow those who give life only earthly dimensions.

Man needs the Redeemer even for the building of his earthly city, because human nature was wounded by sin. Only Christ, born without sin and who died for sinners, restored to man eternal life and assists him in building the earthly city on the solid foundations of justice and love.

The will of God is that man may recognize God’s domination over all things and that the Kingdom of Christ may spread over the entire earth. This will be realized in the degree in which man performs his duties toward God, his neighbor and the world, which belongs to God and to men.

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