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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 December 2005, 16:52 GMT
Vatican marks Council anniversary
By David Willey
BBC News, Rome

Pope blesses two girls
The anniversary coincided with the day of the Immaculate Conception
Pope Benedict XVI has led ceremonies marking 40 years since the end of the Second Vatican Council - which opened up new dialogue with other religions.

The Pope attended the 1965 Council as an up-and-coming young German theologian who supported the reforms decided upon by bishops of his Church.

Among them was the virtual abandonment of the Latin mass and the introduction of vernacular languages.

They also included bringing guitar and folk songs into church liturgy.

Forty years later, having risen to the summit of his church, Pope Benedict had time to question whether the interpretation of some of these reforms may have been too liberal.

Now Joseph Ratzinger is leader of his 1.1 billion-strong Church, he sees things from a different perspective.

Home visit

He has deplored what he calls "the relativism of modern culture", and he is fighting hard against a tide of secularism which he says is sweeping Europe at the beginning of the 21st Century.

In his homily to a packed congregation in St Peter's Basilica, Pope Benedict said it was a mistake to believe that leading a virtuous life is somehow boring.

Later, Pope Benedict went to the Spanish Steps in the centre of Rome to bless a statue of the Virgin Mary, to mark the Roman Catholic feast day of the Immaculate Conception.

And it was announced in Germany, that the Pope will pay his second return visit to his native country next autumn, visiting his birthplace in Bavaria, and also Munich, the city where he was once archbishop.


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