Vatican City, 12 October 2012 (VIS) - This morning in the Clementine Hall, the Holy Father received a group of Council Fathers of Vatican II. They were accompanied by presidents of episcopal conferences from around the world who came to Rome for yesterday’s inauguration of the Year of Faith.
The Pope, who himself participated in Vatican Council II as an expert, noted that "many memories come to mind, memories inscribed in each of our hearts, of the period of the Council which was so lively, so rich and so fruitful. However I do not wish to dwell upon this for too long, ... I would merely like to recall how a word launched by Blessed John XXIII, almost as if to establish a programme, resurfaced continually during the course of the conciliar sessions: the word 'aggiornamento'.
"Fifty years on from the opening of that solemn gathering of the Church", Benedict XVI added, "some people may ask themselves whether that term was perhaps, from the very beginning, not entirely appropriate. Choice of words is something that can be discussed for hours without reconciling contrasting opinions, for my part I am convinced that the intuition which Blessed John XXIII summarised in that word was and remains correct. Christianity must not be considered as 'something that has passed', nor must we live with our gaze always turned back, because Jesus Christ is yesterday today and forever. Christianity is marked by the presence of the eternal God, Who entered into time and is present in all times, because all times are brought forth of His creative power, of His eternal 'today'.
"For this reason", the Holy Father went on, "Christianity is always new. We must never see it is a fully mature tree sprung from the mustard seed of the Gospel; a tree which has grown, given its fruits and one day grows old as the suns sets on its life energy. Christianity is, so to speak, a tree ... that is ever young. This constantly updated vitality, this 'aggiornamento', does not mean breaking with tradition; rather, it is an expression of that tradition's ongoing vitality. It does not mean reducing the faith, debasing it to the fashion of the times using the yardstick of what we like and what appeals to public opinion. Quite the contrary, just as the Council Fathers did, we must mould the 'today' in which we live to the measure of Christianity. We must bring the 'today' of our times into line with the 'today' of God.
"The Council was a time of grace in which the Holy Spirit taught us that the Church, on her journey through history, must always speak to contemporary man. But this can only come from the strength of people who have deep roots in God, ... who live their faith with purity. It cannot come from those who adapt themselves to the passing moment, from those who chose the easiest path. The Council understood this well when, in the Dogmatic Constitution 'Lumen Gentium' ... it noted that everyone in the Church is called to sanctity. Sanctity reveals the true face of the Church".
"The memory of the past is precious", the Pope concluded, "but it is never an end unto itself. The Year of Faith we began yesterday shows us the best way to remember and commemorate the Council: by concentrating on its core message which is, in fact, nothing other than the message of faith in Christ, the one Saviour of the world, proclaimed to mankind in our time. Today too, what is important and essential is to take the ray of God's love into the heart and life of each man and woman, and to bring the men and women of all places and times to God".At the end of his audience, the Pope had lunch with Synod Fathers who are currently participating in the synodal assembly on new evangelisation, the Council Fathers of Vatican II and presidents of the world's episcopal conferences. Also present at the meal were Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople and Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, primate of the Anglican Communion.