VATICAN CITY, OCT. 30, 2005 ( Benedict XVI appealed to Catholics to keep the real spirit of the Second Vatican Council alive, as the 40th anniversary of the closing of the ecclesial event approaches.

According to the Pope, the legacy of that historic assembly is decisive for helping establish "in the world that universal fraternity that responds to the will of God on man, created in the image of God."

Vatican II, which had been convoked by Pope John XXIII, formally closed Dec. 8, 1965.

Today, in his weekly Angelus address to crowds in St. Peter's Square, Benedict XVI highlighted two legacies left by Vatican II which changed the life of the Church and, in part, of humanity: the importance of education and the promotion of religious freedom.

He mentioned the Vatican II declaration "Gravissimum Educationis" and recalled that the Council attributed "utmost importance" to the task of education, both for the life of man as well as for social progress.

"Also today, in the era of global communication, the ecclesial community sees the importance of an educational system that recognizes the primacy of man as person, open to truth and good," Benedict XVI said.

In keeping with those magisterial teachings, he noted: "The first and principal educators are parents, helped, according to the principle of subsidiarity, by civil society."

At the same time, the Church feels she has a "special educational responsibility," as Jesus entrusted to her "the task of proclaiming 'the way of life,'" the Holy Father said.

The Church accomplishes this mission in different ways: "in the family, in the parish, through associations, movements and groups of formation and evangelical commitment and, in a specific way, in schools, institutes of higher studies and universities," Benedict XVI explained.

Nostra Aetate

The other great legacy that the Pope commented on is contained in the declaration "Nostra Aetate," which he said was dedicated to "the attitude of the ecclesial community vis-à-vis non-Christian religions."

"Based on the principle according to which 'all peoples form one community' and for which the Church has the mission 'to foster unity and charity' among peoples," the Holy Father said, "the Council 'rejects nothing of what is holy and true' in the other religions and announces to all Christ 'Way, Truth and Life' in whom men find the 'fullness of religious life.'"

In this way, Vatican II proposed some fundamental truths, such as "the special bond that unites Christians and Jews," and the "esteem for Muslims and for the followers of the other religions" and it confirmed "the spirit of fraternity that prohibits religious discrimination or persecution."

Benedict XVI encouraged Christians to re-read the conciliar documents and to pray to keep the spirit of Vatican II alive.