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Pope, at audience, summarizes essential purpose of Vatican II

October 10, 2012

On October 10, the eve of celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of Vatican II, Pope Benedict XVI broke from his series of weekly talks on prayer to devote his Wednesday public audience to reflections on the Council.

"The documents of Vatican Council II are, even in our own time, a compass guiding the ship of the Church as she sails on the open seas, amidst tempests or peaceful waves, to reach her destination,” the Pope said.

In his remarks at weekly audience, he described the four constitutions approved by the Council as “the four cardinal points of our guiding compass.” He reminded listeners that they were: Sacrosanctum Concilium, on the sacred liturgy; Lumen Gentium, on the nature of the Church; Dei Verbum, on revelation; and Gaudium et Spes, on the role of the Church in the world.

Recalling his own experience as a young theologian attending the Council, Pope Benedict said that “I was able to witness the living Church.” He explained: “Rarely in history has it been possible, as it was then, to touch almost physically the universality of the Church at a moment of peak fulfillment of her mission to carry the Gospel into all ages and unto the ends of the earth.”

Vatican II differed from other major councils, the Pontiff continued, insofar as “there were no particular errors of the faith to correct and condemn, nor were there specific questions of doctrine and discipline to be clarified.” The reason for the Council, he said, was the belief of Blessed John XXIII that “the faith had to speak with a 'renewed' and more incisive voice, because the world was changing rapidly, but it had to maintain its perennial message intact, without giving way or compromising.”

Thus the purpose of the Council, the Pope said, was “to show our world, which tends to distance itself from God, the requirements of the Gospel in all its greatness and purity.” That need continues today, Pope Benedict said. “The age in which we live continues to be marked by forgetfulness and deafness towards God.”


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  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Oct. 10, 2012 5:01 PM ET USA

    It takes a very large and strong faith to believe that Vatican II left the Church better than she was before the council. The Holy Father seems possessed of that faith. I will have to lean on his.