Few of us can remember what the Church was like before Vatican II, what a breeze of fresh air Pope John XXIII was, what it felt like to witness the drama of the four sessions, but especially the first, of the Second Vatican Council, of the hopes for reform and renewal in the Church.

To know what Vatican II did and said one can consult the 16 documents which it produced; but to give a sense of what an experience Vatican II was and what it means as an event, the documents are inadequate. One has to turn to the people who helped make Vatican II what it was. Only few people embody the quality of the Council as a turning point than Cardinal Yves Congar, OP, one of the finest theological brains of the 20th century.

This year is the 20th anniversary of the closing session of Vatican II and the tenth anniversary of Congar's death. On this occasion, Discern will be dedicating its Annual Discern Lecture to commemorate both Vatican II and Cardinal Congar, with a public lecture on the theme "Reforming the Catholic Church: the mission of Cardinal Yves Congar".

To lecture on such a topic, one could only with difficulty find a person more suited than Fr Fergus Kerr, OP, of Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford, and editor of the prestigious journal New Blackfriars.

Fr Kerr is a member of the Faculty of Divinity, University of Oxford and an honorary senior lecturer at University of Edinburgh, and teaches philosophy and theology. His interests include Thomas Aquinas and contemporary Thomism, Wittgenstein and Heidegger. The journal Reviews in Religion and Theology has called him "this country's (UK) outstanding philosopher-theologian".

Fr Kerr was Regent of Studies of the English Province of the Order of Preachers, and head of Blackfriars Hall. Last October, the Department of Theology and Philosophy of Barry University, Florida, honoured him with the 2005 Yves Congar Award for Theological Excellence. This award recognises the contributions of contemporary theologians working, writing, and teaching (as did Cardinal Congar), in the light of contemporary Catholic theological traditions and the challenges of our modern world.

The Discern Annual Lecture will be held on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Radisson SAS Bay Point Resort, St Julian's. Entrance is free, and the public is invited.

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