Pope Benedict XVI says there is no contradiction between a desire to uphold the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church and continuously working to update how those beliefs are understood and presented to the world.
“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,” the Pope said Oct. 12.
“Christianity,” he explained, “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.’”
Pope Benedict made his remarks at a lunch being hosted in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall for 14 of the 70 surviving participants of the Second Vatican Council.
The council was opened by Blessed Pope John XXIII on Oct. 10, 1962. In Italian, he described its chief task as one of “aggiornamento” or “bringing up to date” the role and understanding of the Catholic Church in the modern world.
Pope Benedict explained that for the past 50 years there has been criticism from several quarters that Pope John’s choice of word was “not entirely appropriate” because it could imply a possible break with the traditional teachings and practice of the Church.
Pope Benedict acknowledged that the “choice of words is something that can be discussed for hours without reconciling contrasting opinions,” but he said he remains convinced that “the intuition which Blessed John XXIII summarised in that word was and remains correct.”
“This constantly updated vitality, this ‘aggiornamento,’ does not mean breaking with tradition; rather, it is an expression of that tradition’s ongoing vitality,” the Pope said.
“Aggiornamento,” he asserted, does not mean “reducing the faith” or “debasing it to the fashion of the times” by “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.”
Also present at the lunch were those senior clerics who are currently participating in Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, which is being held at the Vatican October 7–28, as well as the presidents of the world’s episcopal conferences who are in Rome for the opening of the Year of Faith.
As a young priest and academic, Pope Benedict XVI was present at the Second Vatican Council in an advisory capacity to Cardinal Joseph Frings of Cologne.
The best way to remember and commemorate the council, he remarked, is to concentrate during the Year of Faith 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.”