The Pope made that observation today at the end of the Mass celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica, which marked the culmination of Romanian Orthodox Patriarch Teoctist's visit to Rome.
Before reciting the midday Angelus, the Pontiff recalled the pleas for unity between Orthodox and Catholics which he heard in Romania during his 1999 visit.
"This thirst for full communion among Christians has received remarkable impetus" since Vatican II, he said. One of the council's most significant documents, the Pope said, was the decree on ecumenism, "Unitatis Redintegratio" (The Restoration of Unity).
The Romanian's visit coincided with the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the opening of the council, on Oct. 11, 1962, by Pope John XXIII.
John Paul II recalled that Pope John exhorted the council Fathers to "remain, on the one hand, faithful to the Catholic tradition and, on the other, to present it again in a manner adapted to our times."
"In a certain sense," John Paul II said, "the 11th of October forty years ago marked the solemn and universal beginning of what is called the new evangelization. The council was, so to speak, the 'holy door' of that new spring of the Church that was manifested in the Great Jubilee of the year 2000."
The Holy Father concluded by inviting Christians to take up again the council documents, "which do not lose their value or brilliance" and which "must be known and assimilated as important and normative texts of the magisterium, within the Church's Tradition."
In the documents, Christians will find "a compass to guide us in the path of the century that is beginning," the Pope concluded.