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Pope Benedict proclaims a 'Year of Faith'

October 17, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI has announced a special “Year of Faith,” dedicated to rousing a “new impetus to the mission of the whole Church to lead men out of the desert in which they often find themselves, to the place of life, of friendship with Christ.”

The Year of Faith will begin on October 11, 2012: a date that marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II. Pope Benedict notes that the date is also the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which he describes as “a precious and indispensable tool” for the task of evangelization. The special observance will end on November 24, 2013: the feast of Christ the King.

Pope Benedict announced the Year of Faith on Sunday, October 16, as he celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s basilica at the conclusion of a conference on the “new evangelization.” In his homily the Pontiff explained that the “new evangelization”--which is aimed at restoring the strength of the faith in traditionally Christian countries now dominated by secularism—is a natural complement to the mission ad gentes, the drive to bring the faith to societies that have not yet heard the Gospel message. On the same day, October 16, the Pope released a motu proprio entitled Porta Fidei (“The Door of Faith”), formally proclaiming and explaining the Year of Faith. The initiative, he said, is required “because of a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people.”

The Year of Faith will not be unprecedented, Pope Benedict observed. Pope Paul VI announced a similar observance in 1967, and concluded it by issuing the Credo of the People of God. In Porta Fidei the Pope underlined the value of such public proclamations of faith. “A Christian many never think of belief as a private act,” he wrote. He suggested that during the Year of Faith, “Religious communities as well as parish communities, and all ecclesial bodies old and new, are to find a way, during this Year, to make a public profession of the Credo.”

The Pope explained, too, that the Year of Faith could provide an opportunity to help the faithful properly understand the thrust of Vatican II. He repeated a common theme of his papal teaching: that Vatican II can be an enormous force in restoring the strength of the faith, “if we interpret and implement it guided by a right hermeneutic.”

The Year of Faith, the Pope wrote, should “arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope.” This vigorous voice of faith, he said, is particularly important in today’s world, when the secular mentality has made inroads into the traditional strongholds of Christianity:

To a greater extent than in the past, faith is now being subjected to a series of questions arising from a changed mentality which, especially today, limits the field of rational certainties to that of scientific and technological discoveries. Nevertheless, the Church has never been afraid of demonstrating that there cannot be any conflict between faith and genuine science, because both, albeit via different routes, tend towards the truth.

The Pope added that while some people in today’s world are openly skeptical about religious faith, many others are simply looking for meaning in life. While countering the power of secularization, he said:

On the other hand, we must not forget that in our cultural context, very many people, while not claiming to have the gift of faith, are nevertheless sincerely searching for the ultimate meaning and definitive truth of their lives and of the world. This search is an authentic 'preamble' to the faith, because it guides people onto the path that leads to the mystery of God. Human reason, in fact, bears within itself a demand for 'what is perennially valid and lasting.


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