Gaudium et spes (Ecclesiastical Latin: [ˈɡawdium et ˈspɛs], Joy and Hope), the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, was one of the four constitutions resulting from the Second Vatican Council.
Approved by a vote of 2,307 to 75 of the bishops assembled at the council, it was promulgated by Pope Paul VI on 7 December 1965, the day the council ended. As is customary with Catholic documents, the title is taken from its opening words in Latin "the joys and hopes". The English translation begins:
The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well.
The document was not drafted before the council met, but arose from the floor of the council and was one of the last to be promulgated.
The previous Vatican Council in 1869–70 had tried to defend the role of the church in an increasingly secular world. Those who interpret the purpose of the Second Council as one of embracing this world use Gaudium et spes as the primary hermeneutic for all its documents. One of the cardinals, Leo Joseph Suenens of Belgium, urged the council to take on social responsibility for Third World suffering, International peace and war, and the poor, sentiments echoed by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini of Milan and Cardinal Lercaro of Bologna.
Thomas Rosica points out that the Council Fathers "... were men who had experienced two world wars, the horror of the Holocaust, the onset of the nuclear weaponry, the hostility of communism, the awesome and only partially understood impact of science and technology." In the Introduction it states, "... the Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel." The mission of the Church needed to recognize the realities of secularization and pluralism.
Marie-Dominique Chenu, professor of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum was influential in the composition of Gaudium et spes, as was Louis-Joseph Lebret. "The problem of poverty and of overcoming it through a healthy economy, respectful of the primary value of the person, allows for a vast discussion on political ethics in Gaudium et Spes."
Gaudium et Spes was adopted after Lumen Gentium, the Constitution on the Church, and it reflects the ecclesiological approach of that text. It also recognized and encouraged the role of the laity in the life of the Church in the world. The decree was debated at length and approved by much the largest and most international council in the history of the Church.
"This council exhorts Christians, as citizens of two cities, to strive to discharge their earthly duties conscientiously and in response to the Gospel spirit.". This was further expanded in Apostolicam Actuositatem, Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, of 18 November 1965.
The chief focus of Gaudium et Spes was on social teaching. The numbers given correspond to section numbers within the text.
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