Anniversary of 5 Documents of Vatican II

«Reveal a Timeliness That Has Even Increased»

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 30, 2005 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today from the window of his study before praying the midday Angelus with the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Forty years ago, on Oct. 28, 1965, the seventh session of the Second Vatican Council was held. It was followed in rapid succession by three others, and the last, on Dec. 8, marked the closure of the Council. In the final phase of that historic ecclesial event, which began three years earlier, the greater part of the conciliar documents was approved. Some of them are better known and are often quoted. Others are less well known, but all merit to be remembered, as they keep their value and reveal a timeliness that, in a certain sense, has even increased.

Today I would like to recall the five documents that the Servant of God, Pope Paul VI, and the conciliar fathers signed on that Oct. 28 of 1965. They are the decree «Christus Dominus,» on the pastoral ministry of bishops; the decree «Perfectae Caritatis,» on the renewal of religious life; the decree «Optatam Totius,» on priestly formation; the declaration «Gravissimum Educationis,» on Christian education and, finally, the declaration «Nostra Aetate,» on the relations of the Church with non-Christian religions.

The topics of the formation of priests, of consecrated life and of episcopal ministry were the object of three ordinary assemblies of the Synod of Bishops, held respectively in 1990, in 1995 and in 2001. They took up again and greatly furthered the teachings of Vatican II, as attested by the postsynodal apostolic exhortations of my beloved predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, «Pastores Dabo Vobis,» «Vita Consecrata» and «Pastores Gregis.»

Less known, however, is the document on education. The Church has always been committed to the education of youth, to whom the Council attributed «utmost importance,» both for the life of man as well as for social progress (cf. declaration «Gravissimum Educationis,» preface). 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. The first and principal educators are parents, helped, according to the principle of subsidiarity, by civil society (see No. 3).

The Church, to whom Christ entrusted the task of proclaiming «the way of life» (see ibid.) feels that she has a special educational responsibility. She tries to accomplish 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 (see Nos. 5-12).

The declaration «Nostra Aetate» is also of great present importance, as it affects 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 (No. 1), 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» (No. 2). With the declaration «Nostra Aetate,» the Fathers of Vatican II proposed some fundamental truths: recalled with clarity the special bond that unites Christians with Jews (No. 4), confirmed their esteem for Muslims (No. 3) and for the followers of the other religions (No. 2); and confirmed the spirit of universal fraternity that prohibits religious discrimination or persecution (No. 5).

Dear Brothers and Sisters, while I invite you to take up these documents again in your hands, I exhort you to pray with me to the Virgin Mary so that she will help all believers in Christ to always keep alive the spirit of the Second Vatican Council to contribute to establish in the world that universal fraternity that responds to the will of God on man, created in the image of God.

[At the end of the Angelus, the Pope addressed this message:]

As we all know, last Oct. 8 a strong earthquake hit the region of Kashmir, especially the Pakistani area, causing the death of more than 50,000 people and enormous damages. Also in this case the forms of solidarity have been numerous, but the need seems greater than the aid offered so far. Therefore, I renew my appeal to the international community so that efforts will be multiplied in support of these peoples who have suffered so much.

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

I extend a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus prayer. My special greeting goes to the Lutheran deacons from Karlstad and the Choir of Mullingar Cathedral from the Diocese of Meath. Upon all of you I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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