2.44 What was the First Vatican Council?
The First Vatican Council was held between 1869 and 1870. This was a meeting of the pope and the bishops. The period of Church suppression during and after the French Revolution had just ended, and anti-clerical sentiments were on the rise in several other countries.
The council sought to achieve a proper balance between intellect (reason) and faith, arguing that both are necessary to correctly understand the message of Jesus. The infallibility of certain statements of the pope was decreed. Jesus gave Peter the authority to lead the early Church and to have the last word in conflicts. The pope also has this authority because he is the successor of St. Peter and is led by the Holy Spirit.
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We know that the First Vatican Council was interrupted because of the Franco-Prussian War, and so it remained somewhat one-sided, incomplete, because the doctrine on the primacy – defined, thanks be to God, in that historical moment for the Church, and very necessary for the period that followed – was just a single element in a broader ecclesiology, already envisaged and prepared. So we were left with a fragment. And one might say: as long as it remains a fragment, we tend towards a one-sided vision where the Church would be just the primacy. So all along, the intention was to complete the ecclesiology of Vatican I. [Pope Benedict XVI, Meeting with the clergy of Rome, 14 Feb. 2013]