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Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 529

Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope) is one of the most important documents emerging from the second Vatican Council (Vatican II). This was an ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church which discussed matters of doctrine and the nature of the Church and its doctrine. Vatican II opened in 1962 and was closed in 1965. As this is a philosophical and religious doctrine, it does not focus on individual characters but rather character roles and positions, such as bishops and the laity. Some of the most important figures one needs to understand to read this document are described below.

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Pope Saint John XXIII

Pope Saint John XXIII (25 November 1881 to 3 June 1963) convened Vatican II. He was especially involved with trying to save Jews from the Holocaust and later aiding Israel. One of his goals for Vatican II was affirming that Jews were not, as a group, responsible for the death of Christ and eliminating antisemitism from the Church. He was also concerned with human rights and social justice, concerns reflected in Gaudium et Spes.

Pope Pail VI

Pope Paul VI (26 September 1897 to 6 August 1978) was responsible for the completion of Vatican II and carrying out its work in the transformation of the Church. He was especially known for the honor in which he held the Virgin Mary, elaborating the doctrine of her Immaculate Conception proclaimed infallibly at Vatican I and emphasizing her role as the Mother of God, not just of Jesus as a human. His Marian theology led to an expanded vision of the importance of women in the Church and in the social justice doctrines of Gaudium et Spes.

The Roman Catholic Church

In Roman Catholic theology, the Church is frequently described metaphorically as the "Bride of Christ" and referred to by a female pronoun. Within Gaudium et Spes , the Church is seen as having a responsibility for social justice and acting as a force for good in the world. However, the theology of the document allows for some degree of ecumenism and the possibility of holiness or piety outside the...

(The entire section contains 529 words.)

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