The Catholic Church last Thursday marked the 40th year since the end of the landmark Second Vatican Council that opened up new dialogues with Protestant Christianity and Judaism.
Pope Benedict XVI, who in 1965 attended the Council as a young German theologian, described the gathering as the greatest ecclesial event of the 20th century.
Vatican II opened doors to dialogue with its protestant brethren and also began a process of aggiornamento, or updating, the Roman Catholic Church.
It marked the first time separated brethren from other Christian churches were allowed to sit-in as observers, and led to the establishment of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, which today acts as the preliminary vehicle for dialogue with protestant church families.
Ecclesiastically, Vatican II changed the liturgy to adopt modern languages in place of Latin, and opened doors for a full lay involvement in the church.
Benedict XVI had been involved with the Council on many levels; first as an adviser to the German Cardinal Joseph Frings, and later as the Vaticans top doctrinal official for 24 years. Now, as the head of the 1.1 billion-member Catholic Church, Benedict reaffirmed the importance of the event.
Vatican II was held between Oct. 11, 1961, and Dec. 8, 1965.