An Ecumenical Council is a conference of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts convened to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice in which those entitled to vote are convoked from the whole world and which secures the approbation of the whole Church. The word "ecumenical" derives from the Greek language, which literally means "the inhabited world", but which was also applied more narrowly to mean the Roman Empire.
- Council of Trent (1545-63)
- First Vatican Council of the Vatican (1870)
- Defined pope's primacy in church governance and his infallibility, repudiated rationalism, materialism and atheism, addressed revelation, interpretation of scripture and the relationship of faith and reason. (20th overall recognized council by Roman Catholic theologians.)
- Second Vatican Council (1962–1965)
- Addressed pastoral and disciplinary issues dealing with the Church and its relation to the modern world, including liturgy and ecumenism. (21st overall recognized council by Roman Catholic theologians.)
- Third Vatican Council (1985)
- Utterly fictional at the time of Bellairs's creation.
Myers points out that Vatican I was the first to be held at that location - "though with improvements in modern travel and communications, plus centralization of authority in the Vatican we can probably assume that for the foreseeable future it will be the location for any further councils, unless Las Vegas comes up with a better offer."