Catholic World News

Pope launches Year of Faith, to combat 'spiritual desertification'

October 11, 2012

Formally opening the Year of Faith on October 11, with a Mass in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed that the goal of the special observance is “to revive in the whole Church that positive tension—that yearning to announce Christ again to contemporary man.”

Pope Benedict said in his homily that the purpose of the Year of Faith is the same as the purpose of Vatican II. “The Council did not formulate anything new in matters of faith, nor did it wish to replace what was ancient,” he explained. “Rather, it concerned itself with seeing that the same faith might continue to be lived in the present day, that it might remain a living faith in a world of change.”

The Year of Faith begins on the 50th anniversary of Vatican II, the Pope said, “not to honor an anniversary, but because there is more need of it—even more than there was 50 years ago.” In the most memorable passage of his homily he continued:

Recent decades have seen the advance of a spiritual “desertification.” In the Council’s time it was already possible from a few tragic pages of history to know what a life or a world without God looked like, but now we see it every day around us… But it is in starting from the experience of this desert ... that we can again discover the joy of believing, its vital importance for us.

Vatican II sought to present the unchanging truths of the Catholic faith in a new way to the modern world, the Pope said. “In the following, however, many embraced uncritically the dominant mentality, placing in doubt the very foundations of the deposit of faith, which they sadly no longer felt able to accept as truths.” The resulting confusion, he said, contributes to the spiritual “desertification” of today’s world.

Pope Benedict stressed that Year of Faith should be solidly grounded in the truths of Catholicism, and in an accurate understanding of Vatican II. “I have often insisted,” he said, “on the need to return, as it were, to the ‘letter’ of the Council—that is, to its texts—also to draw from them its authentic spirit.”

The real spirit of the Council, the Pope repeated, is the spirit of evangelization: the determination to fulfill Christ’s command to preach the Gospel to all nations.

“The Christian believes in God Whose face was revealed by Jesus Christ,” the Pope said. “He is the fulfillment of the Scriptures and their definitive interpreter.” The Pontiff continued:

This mission of Christ, this movement of His continues in space and time, over centuries and continents. …The Church is the first and necessary instrument of this work of Christ because it is united to Him as a body to its head.

As he presided at the Mass in St. Peter’s Square, with hundreds of Catholic prelates concelebrating and other Christian leaders (including the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I; and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams), the Pope observed that the liturgy had been deliberately planned to include several reminders of the 50th anniversary of Vatican II:

… the opening procession, intended to recall the memorable one of the Council Fathers when they entered this basilica; the enthronement of a copy of the Book of the Gospels used at the Council; the consignment of the seven final Messages of the Council, and of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I will do before the final blessing.

The Year of Faith is a continuation of the work of the Council, the Pope said. Following his sober assessment of the “spiritual desertification” of the modern world, he concluded his homily with an exhortation to the faithful to bring the joy of faith to a needy world.

"In the desert we rediscover the value of what is essential for living,” the Pope remarked. “And in the desert people of faith are needed who, with their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive.”

Further information:
Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 1 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Justin8110 - Oct. 12, 2012 6:15 PM ET USA

    In my own corner of the world I'm seeing a revival of the traditional Catholic faith and a real sense of comraderie between us despite coming from different sides of the track, comraderie based solely on our shared Faith. I think the deepening divide between the culture at large and the Church is bringing us Catolics together which can only be a good thing. Good things are happening in the Church.