Vatican I

The formal meeting of the First Vatican Council was called by Pope Pius IX on 29th June 1868, in the Vatican Basilica. The first session of the Vatican Council took place in St. Peter’s Basilica on 8th December 1869, in which the Pope attended and he was the president of the council. The council was formed to make several decisions about the Catholic Church and its governance but its best-known decision was its decision of papal infallibility. The Vatican Council I was formed so as to deal with the contemporary problems of arising influence of liberalism, rationalism and materialism. Besides, it also had the task of defining the Catholic doctrine about the Church of Christ. During the meeting, there was in-depth discussion and only two constitutions were approved: the Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith and the First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ which dealt with the primacy and infallibility of the Bishop of Rome.

During the meeting of the Vatican Council I, several discussions, agreements, disagreements and conclusions were made. Among them was the definition of papal infallibility. The bishops who were attending the Vatican Council I were divided into three groups, to see through this matter. The first group (active infallibilists) was led by Manning and Senestrey. The group argued that all papal teachings were infallible and that the papal infallibility was the foundation of the church’s infallibility.

The Vatican Council I unanimously adopted the dogmatic constitution on the Catholic Faith Dei Filius, on 24th April 1870. The constitution set forth the teaching of the ‘Holy Catholic Apostolic Roman Church’ on God, revelation and faith. The Vatican Council also experienced great opposition to the draft constitution on the nature of the Church. Some participants in the opposition of this draft boycotted the meeting wanting the document to be amended before approval. Chapter 3 of the dogmatic constitution states that the Pope has “full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole church”. The chapters 3 and 4 state the supreme powers of the Pope and that he is the final decision maker on very important matter of the church. A section of Catholics especially of German language protested this and formed the separate Old Catholic Church.

Thereafter, more discussion of the rest of the document on the nature of the Church was to be done after the bishops returned from a summer break. However, it was during this period that the Franco-Prussian War broke out. Emperor Napoleon III was captured and France was no longer in a position to protect the rule of Pope in Rome. On 20th September 1870, the Kingdom of Italy captured and occupied Rome. On 20th October 1870, the Vatican Council I was indefinitely suspended by Pope Pius IX. During the suspension, the Vatican Council I had completed only a small section of the work it had planned for. The council never resumed and it was closed formally in 1960 before the formation of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican Council II).