VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict has marked the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council — the church meetings he attended as a young priest that brought the Catholic Church into the modern world but whose true meaning is still hotly debated.
Benedict celebrated Mass in St. Peter's Square, attended by patriarchs, cardinals, bishops and a dozen elderly churchmen who participated in the council.
In his homily, Benedict urged Catholics to return to the "authentic spirit" of the council found in its documents, rather than rely on the distorted spirit promoted by those who saw in Vatican II a radical departure from the church's tradition.
Father John Wauck of Holy Cross University in Rome says for most Catholics, the biggest change was the replacement of the Latin Mass with Mass in the local language and the priest facing the congregation. Sadly, he says, Mass attendance declined in the years that followed.