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VATII-PILGRIMS Oct-11-2012 (860 words) xxxi

Pilgrims at Vatican II Mass highlight council's openness to world

A pilgrim waits for the start of Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter's Square Oct. 11 to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council with a Mass outdoors was a reminder of the fact that the council called the Catholic Church to live and work in the world, said Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz.

"One of the things that was beautiful today was that we were outdoors, outside the beautiful Basilica of St. Peter, which is what I think John XXIII really wanted: to open the doors, to have the church in the world and transforming the world," the bishop said Oct. 11.

The Second Vatican Council resulted in a new emphasis on the importance of every member of the church and a new openness to different peoples and cultures, said some of the bishops and pilgrims who attended Pope Benedict XVI's Mass to mark the anniversary of the council.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai told Catholic News Service that for Catholics in India the council's teaching on interreligious dialogue "was extremely important and gave us a whole new perspective on how to deal with everybody else," recognizing "that everybody is searching for the truth; we are brothers and sisters on the same journey."

"Of course, from the pastoral point of view," the cardinal said, "I thought the whole concept of the church being the whole people of God -- that was fantastic. That is exactly what cheers my heart; we are all the people of God."

Vatican II called on bishops and priests "to empower the laypeople, guide them and inspire them, being alongside them so all of us together can work on this great project of new evangelization," Cardinal Gracias said.

Divine Word Father Thomas Peringalloor, rector of Rome's Pontifical College of St. Peter the Apostle, agreed about the importance of the participation of the laity. "The church is not complete without the people; it's not just bishops," he said.

Participating in the anniversary Mass, which also marked the formal opening of the Year of Faith, Father Peringalloor said he hoped the year would help the church and its leaders become more aware of the continuing need for change.

In the past 15 to 20 years, "with the abuse crisis, the church has become more aware of its need to change and has begun changing. We are going through a purification. We need to become more humble in our words and actions."

Jane Clyne, a lawyer from New York studying canon law in Rome, described herself as "a child of Vatican II," who knows about church life before the council from her mother's stories.

"As an African American Catholic," she said that for her one of the most important changes brought by the council was that "the church took the initiative to be more inclusive; the church wanted to include all cultures. We African Americans have our own culture and we were welcomed to express that."

The liturgical reform also was very important to Clyne, she said. "I studied Latin, but growing up and going to Mass in a language I understood was a blessing."

As for the Year of Faith, she said, that "before we think about getting lapsed Catholics back we have to think of our own faith. Do we let the Holy Spirit into our lives, or do we focus on projects?"

A key question, she said, has to be "How can I be Jesus to the people I meet on the street? I may be the only Gospel they hear."

As Catholics reach out to others, "we have to be healers," Clyne said. "When I meet lapsed Catholics, there is always something that has hurt them," which contributed to their not practicing their faith. "We have to help them."

Capuchin Father William Henn, professor of theology and ecclesiology at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University, said Vatican II had brought "great energy" to the church and ushered in some needed changes, but the most important thing was it "welcomed more participation from people, encouraging them to make their faith more of a commitment."

The council "was supposed to help people find ways to live their faith. We are still trying to find ways to live the Gospel," and the new evangelization and the Year of Faith will help, he said.

Blessed John XXIII "wasn't a pessimist, and found good in people. He called the council to speak about the good of people. The church has to teach the Gospel, teach the goodness; there is no other task," Father Henn said.

The church's message, he said, "cannot be effective if there is only condemnation, which doesn't touch the longing in people's hearts. We must teach that communion with God brings peace, joy and meaning to life."

Larry Chapp, a theology professor at DeSales University in Center Valley, Pa., said that the importance of Vatican II was the "energizing of lay vocations, bringing faith to the world through our lives."

The council was not about "modernizing the church," he said, "it was about developing vocations in your life and work. It wasn't about bringing more laypeople into the sanctuary, but about how to bring Christ to the world through lay vocations."

- - -

Editors: Contributing to this story was Sarah Delaney at the Vatican.


Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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