pope benedict 88.
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Pope Benedict XVI urged the faithful on Sunday to reread key Vatican documents on Christian education and relations with Jews and Muslims, saying the teachings were of "great relevance" today.
The documents were signed 40 years ago this weekend, during the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 meetings which led to many liberalizing changes in the Mass, such as having priests face the congregation and celebrating the service in the local language instead of only Latin.
During his Sunday blessing in St. Peter's Square, Benedict highlighted some lesser-known documents that emerged from the council, including one on Christian education that said it was of "an extreme importance" for man and society at large.
He also highlighted the landmark document "Nostra Aetate" - Latin for "In our time" _ which dealt with the Catholic Church's relations with Jews and members of other religions.
The Vatican staged an official celebration this week to mark the 40th anniversary of the document, which revolutionized the Vatican's relations with Jews by deploring anti-Semitism and repudiating the "deicide" charge that blamed Jews as a people for Christ's death.
The document also said the church regards Muslims "with esteem" and called for all to forget past Christian-Muslim hostilities and to work for mutual understanding. It also mentioned Hinduism and Buddhism.
Benedict said the document was of "great relevance" today because it recognized that "all men constitute one community."
"With the 'Nostra Aetate' declaration, the fathers of Vatican II proposed some fundamental truths: They recalled with clarity the special link that connects Christians and Jews, they repeated the esteem toward Muslims and the followers of other religions, and they confirmed the spirit of universal fraternity that dispensed with all discrimination or religious persecution," Benedict said.
He urged all the Catholic faithful to reread the documents and pray "that all the believers in Christ will always keep the spirit of the Second Vatican Council alive."
During the blessing, the pope also urged stepped-up international aid for the victims of the Oct. 8 earthquake in South Asia, saying the needs far outweighed the help that has arrived so far in the area.