Today the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI was the chief celebrant at Mass in Saint Peter’s Square, Rome, to inaugurate the Year of Faith for the Catholic Church. I along with Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, and Bishop Kieran O’Reilly, Bishop of Killaloe, concelebrated the Mass together with bishops and priests from around the world. It was a joyous occasion.
Pope Benedict in his recent letter Porta Fidei reminded all of us that ‘The Door of Faith’, Porta Fidei, is always open for us. The ‘Door’ is never closed. Passing through that door means embarking on a journey that lasts a lifetime. It is a journey that begins with baptism and ends with the passage through death to eternal life. Pope Benedict has constantly recalled the need to discover again the all-important journey so as to experience the joy and enthusiasm of meeting Christ, Christ who leads people out of the desert into the fullness of life.
During this Year of Faith all of us face those two questions that Jesus asked His disciples, the first and more simple question to answer: “Who do people say that I am?” But more importantly they were asked – and we are asked – “Who do you say I am?” It is vital that we answer that question so as to establish or renew a relationship with the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
Porta Fidei declared that The Year of Faith would mark the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. Pope Benedict reminded us at Mass today that Pope John XXIII, Blessed John, in his opening address fifty years ago, presented the principal purpose of the Council in this way: “What above all concerns the Ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine be safeguarded and taught more effectively. … Therefore, the principal purpose of this Council is not the discussion of this or that doctrinal theme, a Council is not required for that, … [but] this certain and immutable doctrine, which is to be faithfully respected, needs to be explored and presented in a way which responds to the needs of our time.”
The Year of Faith presents us the unique opportunity to return to that Council and to study, read or re-read its sixteen documents in its Constitutions, Decrees and Declarations. Pope Benedict has remarked that these texts, using the words of his predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, ‘have lost nothing of their value or brilliance’. Indeed we may discover that much remains to be done.
It is also the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Catechism too offers us a unique opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with the power and beauty of our faith.
May we all, during this Year of Faith, take the opportunity to gain a new understanding and renewal of that faith. May it contribute to a renewed conversion to Jesus the Lord.
Notes to Editors
• Today the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in Saint Peter’s Square to mark the fifty years from the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and initiate the Year of Faith 2012 – 2013. Pope Benedict concelebrated the Mass with cardinals, patriarchs and major archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches, Synod Fathers who are currently participating in a synodal assembly on the new evangelisation, presidents of episcopal conferences from all over the world, and a number of Council Fathers from Vatican II. Also present at the celebration were Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and His Grace Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury and primate of the Anglican Communion.
• Extract from Pope Benedict XVI’s homily: “If today the Church proposes a new Year of Faith and a new evangelisation, it is not to honour an anniversary, but because there is more need of it, even more than there was fifty years ago! … Even the initiative to create a pontifical council for the promotion of the new evangelisation … is to be understood in this context. 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.
“In the desert we rediscover the value of what is essential for living; thus in today’s world there are innumerable signs, often expressed implicitly or negatively, of the thirst for God, for the ultimate meaning of life. 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. Living faith opens the heart to the grace of God which frees us from pessimism. Today, more than ever, evangelising means witnessing to the new life, transformed by God, and thus showing the path.”
Media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678