VATICAN CITY (CNS): Pope Benedict XVI announced a special “Year of Faith” to help Catholics appreciate the gift of faith, deepen their relationship with God and strengthen their commitment to sharing faith with others.
Celebrating Mass on October 16 with participants in a Vatican conference on new evangelisation, the Pope said the Year of Faith would give “renewed energy to the mission of the whole Church to lead men and women out of the desert they often are in and toward the place of life: friendship with Christ who gives us fullness of life”.
The Pope said the observance would begin on October 11, 2012 – the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council – and conclude on November 24, 2013 – the feast of Christ the King.
“It will be a moment of grace and commitment to an ever fuller conversion to God, to reinforce our faith in him and to proclaim him with joy to the people of our time,” the Pope said in his homily.
Pope Benedict explained his intention more fully in Porta Fidei (“The Door of Faith”), an apostolic letter released on October 17 to formally announce the special year.
“Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy,” the Pope wrote.
He said the Catechism of the Catholic Church, first published in 1992, should serve as the handbook for helping Catholics rediscover the truths of faith and deepen their understanding of Church teaching.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he said, would publish a “note” to help people live the year “in the most effective and appropriate ways at the service of belief and evangelisation”.
The Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi told reporters the document would be published by the end of the year; its tone would be pastoral, rather than doctrinal, giving bishops and Catholic faithful ideas for implementing the Pope’s call to deeper faith and greater missionary commitment.
In his apostolic letter, the Pope said the year’s focus would be on Jesus Christ because “in him, all the anguish and all the longing of the human heart finds fulfilment”.
Pope Benedict said that in addition to studying the catechism and gaining a greater understanding of the creed, the Year of Faith also must be accompanied with more acts of charity.
Faith helped people recognise the face of Christ in those who were suffering, and “it is His love that impels us to assist Him whenever He becomes our neighbour along the journey of life”, the Pope wrote.
Pope Benedict said Catholics cannot “grow lazy in the faith”.
“What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the word of the Lord, and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life, life without end,” he wrote.
The papal Mass and announcement of the Year of Faith followed a day-long conference on October 15 sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation.
The morning session brought together representatives of 33 bishops’ conferences and 115 new movements, organisations, charismatic groups, parish renewal programs and study groups.