10/30/2005, 00.00
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Pope urges return to Vatican Council II documents

Forty years after the Conciliar sitting, Benedict XVI recalls decrees which have actually become more relevant with time. There is also a special mention for victims of the Kashmir earthquake.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Forty years on from Vatican Council II, the pope has called on the Church to "keep always alive the spirit of Vatican Council II, to contribute to instilling in the world that universal fraternity which responds to God's will for mankind". In his message before today's Angelus, Benedict XVI recalled some Conciliar documents which not only remain still valid, but which have "actually increased" in relevance. Among documents cited by the pope were the Christus Dominus Decree, about the pastoral office of Bishops; the Perfectae Caritatis Decree, about the renewal of religious life; the Optatam Totius Decree, about priestly formation. Benedict XVI dwelt especially on the value of the Declaration Gravissimum Educationis, about Christian education. The pope said it is necessary to uphold an education system "which recognizes the primacy of man as a person, open to truth and good", to contribute to "social progress".

The pope also recalled the Nostra Aetate Declaration, which defined the "attitude of the Church Community towards non-Christian religions", reaffirming the special bond which Christians have with Jews, respect towards Muslims and followers of other faiths, confirming "the spirit of universal fraternity which forbids any kind of religious discrimination or persecution".

Here are the pope's words before the Marian prayer:

Dear brothers and sisters,

"Forty years ago, on 28 October 1965, the seventh session of the Ecumenical Council Vatican II was held. Another three would follow in rapid succession and the last, on 8 December, marked the closing of the Council. In the final phase of this historical church event, which had started two years before, most of the Conciliar documents were approved. Some are more familiar and often quoted; others are not so well-known but all deserve to be called to mind because all conserve their value and reveal a relevance which, in certain ways, has actually increased. Today, I want to recall five Documents which the Servant of God, Pope Paul VI and the Conciliar Fathers signed on 28 October 1965. These are: the Christus Dominus Decree, about the pastoral office of Bishops; the Perfectae Caritatis Decree, about the renewal of religious life; the Optatam Totius Decree, about priestly formation; the Gravissimum Educationis Declaration about Christian education and finally the Nostra Aetate Declaration on the links of the Church with non-Christian faiths.

"The themes of formation of priests, of consecrated life and the ministry of bishops were at the heart of three Ordinary Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops, which took place in 1990, 1995 and 2001 respectively. They all returned to and deepened the teachings of Vatican Council II in an expansive manner, as is clear in the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortations of my much-loved predecessor, 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 which the Council accorded "extreme importance" both for the life of man as well as for social progress (cfr Dec. Gravissimum educationis, Proemio). Even in today's era of global communication, the Church Community draws attention to the importance of an education system which recognizes the primacy of man as a person, open to the truth and to good. The first and foremost educators are parents, helped, according to the principle of subsidiarity, by civil society (cfr ivi, 3). The Church feels it bears a special educational responsibility as Christ has entrusted it with the duty of announcing 'the way of life' (cfr ibid.). The Church seeks to fulfill this mission in many ways: in the family and the parish, through associations, movements and formation groups as well as those with an evangelic commitment, and specifically, in schools, institutes of higher studies and in universities (cfr ivi, 5-12).

"The Nostra Aetate Declaration is also hugely relevant, because it is about the attitude of the Church Community towards non-Christian religions. Starting out from the principle that 'all mankind constitutes one community' and that the Church 'has the task of promoting unity and love among men' (n.1), the Council 'rejects nothing that is true and holy' in other religions and announces Christ 'way, truth and life' in whom all men find the 'fullness of religious life' (n.2). In the Nostra Aetate Declaration, the Vatican II Fathers put forward some fundamental truths: they clearly recalled the special bond which ties Christians and Jews (n.4), they reiterated respect for Muslims (n.3) and followers of other religions (n.2) and they upheld the spirit of universal fraternity which forbids any kind of religious discrimination or persecution (n. 5).

"Dear brothers and sisters, while I invite you to take up these documents, I exhort you to pray together with me to the Virgin Mary, so that all who believe in Christ may keep the spirit of Vatican Council II always alive, to contribute to instilling in the world that universal fraternity which responds to God's will for man, created in the image of God."

After the Angelus, the pope greeted some of the groups present, but not before making another appeal for the South Asia quake victims:

"As we all know, a mighty earthquake struck the region of Kashmir on 8 October, especially the Pakistani side, resulting in the death of more than 50,000 people and causing enormous damages. The forms of solidarity shown have been multiple but the need appears to be greater than the aid offered so far. I renew, therefore, my appeal to the international community so that efforts to support these sorely tried peoples will be multiplied."

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