Giuseppe Dossetti left politics in 1953. Due to the presence of Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro he settled in Bologna where he founded with a group of like-minded people a library specialized in church history, which in a short time gained dimension, quality and prestige rare in Italy. A wide range of readings, a rigorous vision of research, the belief that through the study of history, theology, patristics, exegesis and philosophy one could strengthen a season of renewal of Christianity.

In 1956 the two dimensions, the more intellectual and the one which was more clearly monastic, were separated and the centre of documentation continued its activities and collaboration with Dossetti especially with the opening of Vatican II. Dossetti participated in the council as one of Lercaro’s advisors and the Institute of Religious Studies worked as a workshop offering the decisive materials for the debates, but also weaving wide relations, beside those with the historians, and receiving unequalled intellectual stimuli.

The conclusion of Lercaro’s episcopate in Bologna and the departure of Dossetti for the Middle East, provided reasons and motives for the renewal of the Institute, whose new director was Giuseppe Alberigo,
becoming at the beginning of the seventies a reference point for the formation of a generation of scholars in the disciplines of history and religion. The Institute then obtained a new legal framework by a unanimous parliamentary vote, and met with its last institutional metamorphosis in 1985, on the advice of Beniamino Andreatta. For him the juridical form of a foundation was necessary in order to perpetuate what had been established beyond the limits of the founders and protagonists. The Association for the Development of Religious Studies presided by Enzo Bianchi, prior of the Monastery of Bose, gave life to the John XXIII Foundation for Religious Studies, presided first by Andreatta from 1985 to 2007 and from then by Valerio Onida, former President of the Italian Constitutional Court.

Under the new administration and with a new recruitment of scholars, the Institute returned to concentrate itself on large projects such as the Edition of the Diaries of Pope John XXIII. The results of this research were also employed for the beatification of John XXIII in September 2000. Another major project was the five volumes of the History of the Second Vatican Council later translated into seven languages. In all these years the library continued to grow, establishing via San Vitale 114 as an international reference point for scholars worldwide today and as seat of the independent Alberigo School for Advanced Religious Studies.