Almost precisely fifty years ago today, this was the scene in the streets of Rome, with Pope John XXIII delivering a “moonlight address” to the city upon the opening of the Second Vatican Council:

Translation for non-Italian speakers here .

Last night, evidently, the procession was recreated, with Benedict XVI also delivering a short message. Presumably very few in last night’s crowd would have been there a half-century ago (excepting, of course, the pope himself). To get a sense of the swirling theological debates, reformist hopes (some well- and some mis-placed), and personal clashes that shaped that midcentury meeting,  this might serve as helpful companion reading to the video.

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