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Pope reflects on Vatican II and Year of Faith

VATICAN (SE): “We have reached the eve of the day on which we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Vatican II and the beginning of the Year of Faith,” Pope Benedict XVI said at his catechesis during a morning audience on October 10 in St. Peter’s Square.

“And it is about the great ecclesial event of the council that I wish to speak,” he continued.

The pope described the documents of Vatican Council II as “a compass guiding the ship of the Church as she sails on the open seas, amidst tempests and peaceful waves, to reach her destination.”

Reminiscing on his own experience at the council as a young professor of theology from the University of Bonn, Pope Benedict called it a unique experience during which he was able to witness the living Church placing itself in the school of the Holy Spirit.

He called the Holy Spirit the true driving force behind the council, explaining that it was a rare opportunity in history to almost physically be able to touch the universality of the Church.

He called it at a moment of peak fulfillment in the mission of the Church in carrying the gospel into all ages and unto the ends of the earth.

He said that Vatican II is different from preceding councils, as they met to define fundamental elements of the faith and particularly to the correct errors.

However, he explained that at Vatican Council II, “There were no particular errors of the faith to correct or condemn, nor were there specific questions of doctrine and discipline to be clarified... The first question that arose during the preparation of this great event was how to begin.”

He said that he remembers Pope John XXIII giving some general guidelines in his opening address of October 11, which he noted was 50 years ago to the very day.

Pope John said that the faith had to speak with a renewed and more incisive voice, because the world was changing rapidly, but, at the same time, it had to keep its perennial message intact, without compromise.

“The pope,” Pope Benedict added, “wanted the Church to reflect upon her faith and upon the truths that guide her. But that serious and profound reflection... had to be the starting point of a new relationship between the Church and the modern world, between Christianity and certain essential elements of modern thought, not in order to seek conformity, but to show our world, which tends to distance itself from God, the requirements of the gospel in all its greatness and purity.”

Moving his attention to the present day, the pope continued, “The age in which we live continues to be marked by forgetfulness and deafness towards God. I believe, then, that we must learn the simplest and most fundamental lesson of the council; that the essence of Christianity consists in faith in God... and in the individual and community encounter with Christ who guides our lives.”

He went on to say, “The important thing today… is for us to see clearly and anew that God is present and that he concerns us and responds to us.”

He concluded, “Vatican II is a powerful appeal to us to make a daily rediscovery of the beauty of our faith, to understand it deeply through a more intense relationship with the Lord, and to live out our Christian vocation to the full.”

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