VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Second Vatican Council was the universal Catholic Church’s response to God’s love and Jesus’ command to feed his sheep, Pope Francis said, marking the 60th anniversary of the opening of the council.

The council reminded the church of what is “essential”, the pope said: “a church madly in love with her Lord and all the men and women he loves”, a church “rich in Jesus and poor in goods”. a “free and liberating” church.

Pope Francis presided over the October 11 Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, where the council’s sessions were held in four sessions from 1962 to 1964. The date is also the feast of St. John XXIII, who called and opened the council; the glass urn containing his body was moved to the center of the basilica for the liturgy.

The reading of the Gospel at Mass relates that Jesus asked Saint Peter: “Do you love me?” and saying to him, “Feed my sheep”.

In his homily, the pope said the council was the Church’s answer to that question and marked a renewed effort to feed God’s sheep, not just those who are Catholic, but everyone.

The debates that followed the council and continue today are a distraction from the mission of the Church, Pope Francis has said.

“We are always tempted to start from ourselves rather than from God, to put our own agendas before the Gospel, to let ourselves be carried away by the winds of worldliness to run after the fashions of the moment or turn our backs on the time that providence has given us,” he said.

Catholics must be careful, he said, because “both the ‘progressiveism’ which lines up behind the world and the ‘traditionalism’ which aspires to a bygone world are not proofs of love, but of infidelity. “, forms of “selfishness that put our tastes and projects above the love that pleases God, the simple, humble and faithful love that Jesus asked of Peter.

“A church in love with Jesus has no time for quarrels, gossip and arguments,” the pope said. “May God free us from criticism and intolerance, from harshness and anger. It’s not a question of style but of love.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, “wants his flock to be united under the leadership of the pastors he has given them,” the pope said, but the devil likes to sow division; “let us not give in to its seductions nor to the temptation of polarization”.

“How many times, following the council, have Christians preferred to choose their side in the church, without realizing that they were breaking their mother’s heart”, the heart of their mother, the church, said Pope Francis.

How many times, he asked, did they “prefer to be on the ‘right’ or ‘left’ rather than with Jesus? To present themselves as “guardians of truth” or “pioneers of innovation” rather than seeing themselves as humble and grateful children of Holy Mother Church? »

The council, he said, taught the Church to see the world around her and to share God’s love with all, knowing that “if special concern should be shown, it should be for those whom God loves most: the poor and the banished.

In the presence of Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant representatives, as they were at the council, Pope Francis also prayed that “the desire for unity” would grow in each Christ, “the desire to commit ourselves to full communion among all those who believe in Christ”. ”

Thanking God for the gift of the council, the pope asked the Lord to “save us from the forms of polarization which are the work of the devil. And we, your church, with Peter and like Peter, say to you now, “Lord, you know everything; you know we love you.

Pope Francis, who was ordained a priest in 1969, is the first pope ordained after the Second Vatican Council. His immediate predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, now retired, attended all four sessions of the council as a theological adviser – a “peritus” – to the archbishop of Cologne, Germany. Saint John Paul II participated in all four sessions as a full member of the body, first as Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow, Poland, and then as Archbishop of the city.

Of the more than 400 priests concelebrating Mass, the Vatican liturgical office said there were five who were present at Vatican II.

According to the GCatholic.org and catholic-hierarchy.org websites, there are six bishops living in the world today who participated in at least one session of the Second Vatican Council. Among them is Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, an 89-year-old former Vatican official who was ordained a bishop in 1965 and attended the council’s last session; he was one of the concelebrants of the anniversary mass.

Before the mass, passages from the speech that Saint John XXIII gave at the opening of the council were read. Known by its first words in Latin, “Gaudet Mater Ecclesia”, the speech begins with: “Mother Church rejoices”.

Excerpts from the council’s four constitutions were also read. Pope Francis has asked Catholics to prepare for the Holy Year 2025 by re-reading and studying the documents: Constitution on the Holy Liturgy (“Sacrosanctum Concilium”); Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (“Lumen Gentium”); Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (“Dei Verbum”); and Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (“Gaudium et Spes”).