Dr. Catherine Clifford

Professor of Systematic and
Historical Theology
Saint Paul University

Leaning into the Distant Goal of Vatican II: Pope Francis and Christian Unity

Catholics would not be embarking on the path towards a more synodal church today were it not for sixty years of sustained ecumenical dialogue with other Christians who have helped us to rediscover how such practices are “constitutive” of the church. Learning to embrace the synodal way in the life and practice of the Catholic Church will have profound consequences for the realization of Vatican II’s distant goal of Christian unity and for the future shape of Christianity. Francis models a practice of leaning into reconciliation, walking together with fellow Christians in common witness as we grow together in unity.


Catherine E. Clifford is Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Saint Paul University, Ottawa.

She holds a Ph.D. in Theology from the University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, and an STL from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. Her teaching, research, and publications are in the areas of ecclesiology, ecumenism, and the history of the Second Vatican Council with a particular emphasis on understanding the conversion and renewal of the churches, the development of doctrine, and the unity and diversity of Christian communities. She is presently a member of the Methodist Roman Catholic International Commission. Her publications include The Oxford Handbook on Vatican II (2023), co-edited with Massimo Faggioli, Keys to the Council (2012), co-authored with Richard R. Gaillardetz, and Decoding Vatican II: Interpretation and Ongoing Reception (2014).