However, taken by itself
As Dulles explained, not any one of the five models, by itself, can represent the totality of Church history and praxis5. What may seem to be the dominant model or models of the Church may even prove to be inadequate in a time of sudden and earth-shaking changes, and need further elaboration as images of the Church. New models may even arise as the Church perseveres in using insights from the Gospel and its own praxis in adjusting to such changes and challenges.
More than 40 years have passed since the Gaudium et Spes (Church and the Modern World) laid the basis for the Church as Servant, a model that has shaped and still has a significant impact on both the Church itself and the total human community. Today we can glimpse at least part of the outcome of the Church's decision to update and renew
Vatican II was an unparalleled event and development in the two-millenium history of the Church. From 1962-1965, the Vatican II Council embodied and encouraged the spirit of renewal and openness to change, within the framework of basic truths revealed by Christ in the gospel. For the first time the Church bishops, including the Bishop of Rome, Pope John XXIII and upon his death, Pope Paul VI, focused their considerable collective energy and experience to examining the state of humanity.
The Vatican Council recognized and praised the many achievements of humanity in the field of economics, politics and culture. But it also pointed to the unfulfilled search of many individuals for their origin, life purpose and goal, encompassing not only the
Church as Servant 5
temporal but also the realm of spiritual life. The Council also lamented the fact that while human society has achieved so much, still millions remained poor.6 Following the
example of Christ, who devoted himself to ministering to both body and spirit, the Vatican Council laid the basis for the Servant Church that has continued to travel along this road up to the present.
The force behind Vatican II, Pope John XXIII, wrote the great encyclical Pacem in Terris.7 It was groundbreaking in 1963 and still valid almost 45 years later. The people's pope provided a definition of the rights and duties of human beings as well as human institutions such as governments. It contained an affirmation of women's equality and role in society, a "strong insistence on racial equality," and the inclusion of freedom along with truth, justice and charity as the bases of peace in the world. 8 Has the Servant Church upheld Pope John XXIII's statement on human rights, striking for its "generosity, breadth and contemporaneity" then and still so at present
Church as Servant