Dei Verbum 50th Anniversary

Just a few weeks before the 50th anniversary of the closing of Vatican Council II, the Church celebrated the 50th anniversary of one its most profound documents, Dei Verbum, the Constitution on Divine Revelation. Pope Paul VI promulgated this remarkable document on November 18, 1965. Many scholars consider it the greatest achievement of the Council because it addresses the foundational concept of divine revelation, and its preface (DV, 1) is considered virtually an introduction to all sixteen document issues by the Council.


Already in the seventeenth century, Sulpician founder Jean Jacques OLIER had a deep appreciation for Scripture as the Word of God, the expression of God’s self-revelation reaching out to touch humanity. Father Olier reverenced the Bible as the Word of God and encouraged his followers and the seminarians in his seminary to show great respect to the Word. He placed his own Bible (pictured) in an honored place and regularly read the Scriptures, citing them frequently by heart in his letters and spiritual writings. Moreover, Father Olier’s great teaching on the balance between Word and Sacrament foreshadowed the later teaching of Vatican II, which emphasized both the Eucharist as the “source and summit” of the faith, and the Word of God as the incarnate expression of the Father’s outreach to humanity.

The Superior General of the Sulpicians, Father Ronald D. WITHERUP, PSS, has written two books on Dei Verbum, which provide much more information on the history and meaning of Dei Verbum. One of them, Scripture: Dei Verbum (Paulist Press, 2006), covers all aspects of the document, from its inception to its promulgation and to the “fruits” it has produced in later teachings of the Catholic Church. The second, The Word of God at Vatican II: Exploring Dei Verbum (Liturgical Press, 2014), is a short, article-by-article commentary on this groundbreaking constitution.

On the anniversary of the promulgation of Dei Verbum the Society of Saint Sulpice rejoices in the great Sulpician tradition of love and respect for Word and Sacrament rooted in the tradition of Father Olier.