As the Church prepares to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of Vatican Council II in December, Pope Benedict yesterday, reflected on the historic and continued value of the documents that the council produced, particularly, for the life of the Church today.
The Pope delivered his remarks shortly before praying his weekly Angelus prayer with a crowd of thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
The Church recently celebrated the anniversary of the seventh Vatican II council session on October 28th. That session was followed in 1965 by another three, before finally closing on December 8th of that year.
The Pope appeared at his study window yesterday and recalled how "most of the conciliar documents were approved during the final phase of that historic ecclesial event, which had begun three years earlier."
He noted that all the texts "maintain their value and their contemporary significance which, in some ways, has even increased.”
He specifically mentioned the "Decrees 'Christus Dominus' on the pastoral office of bishops in the Church, 'Perfectae caritatis' on the renewal of religious life, and 'Optatam totius' on priestly training; and the Declarations 'Gravissimum educationis' on Christian education, and 'Nostra aetate' on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions."
Continuing, he said that while “the themes of priestly formation, consecrated life and Episcopal ministry have been the subject of three Ordinary Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops, held respectively in 1990, 1995 and 2001. ... The document on education is less well-known.”
But the Church, he said, “has always been committed to the education of young people." Even today, "in the age of global communications, the ecclesial community is aware of the importance of an educational system that recognizes the primacy of men and women as persons.”
“The first and most important educators”, he said, “are parents, helped, in accordance with the principle of subsidiary, by civil society. A special educational responsibility is felt by the Church, to which Christ entrusted the task of announcing 'the way of salvation'."
The Pope went on to speak of the historic 'Nostra aetate,' document, highlighting its "great contemporary significance" because it concerns the attitude of the Christian community towards non-Christian religions.
Noting the Church's mission of "promoting unity and love among men," the Pope said that Vatican Council II "rejects 'nothing that is true and holy' in other religions and to everyone announces Christ, 'way truth and life,' in Whom all human beings 'find the fullness of religious life'."
Benedict said that "With the Declaration 'Nostra aetate,' the Council Fathers proposed certain fundamental truths: ... the special link binding Christians and Jews, ... esteem for Muslims and followers of other religions, ... and the spirit of universal brotherhood that prohibits any kind of discrimination or religious persecution."
A special ceremony celebrating ‘Nostra aetate’ was held last week at the Vatican. It brought together religious leaders, especially Jewish, from around the world to discuss the effects and future ramifications of the document.