Benedict XVI Announces a “Year of Faith” Based on Vatican Council II

Source: FSSPX News

On Sunday, October 16, 2011, in the conclusion of his homily at the Mass for the new evangelization, the Pope declared:  “Precisely in order to give a fresh impetus to the mission of the whole Church to lead human beings out of the wilderness in which they often find themselves to the place of life, friendship with Christ that gives us life in fullness, I have decided to proclaim a 'Year of Faith', which I shall have the opportunity to illustrate with a special Apostolic Letter.” 

The next day, on October 17, Benedict XVI laid out the outline and objectives of the Year of Faith in his Apostolic Letter in the form of a Motu Proprio, Porta fidei.  This Year of Faith will begin on October 11, 2012, the day of the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican Council II and will end on November 24, 2013, on the solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, explained the Pope.  (Indeed, in the conciliar liturgical calendar, the feast of Christ the King is celebrated not on the last Sunday of October but at the end of the liturgical year. Ed.)  October 11, 2012, will also be the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “authentic fruit of Vatican Council II”.  And the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be held, announced Benedict XVI, in October 2012, on the theme: The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.

Benedict XVI wished the Year of Faith to begin on the day of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, for, according to him, this would provide a good opportunity to help people understand that the texts bequeathed by the Council Fathers “have lost nothing of their value or brilliance”. The Pope emphasized strongly that if we read the Council, and “interpret and implement it guided by a right hermeneutic, it can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church.”

“It often happens that Christians are more concerned for the social, cultural and political consequences of their commitment, continuing to think of the faith as a self-evident presupposition for life in society,” Benedict XVI lamented, and he added that this presupposition for life in society is sometimes denied altogether.  He grieved at the “profound crisis of faith that has affected many people.”

“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,” remarked Benedict XVI.  “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.”  “A Christian may never think of belief as a private act,” added the Pope.

This special year will be “a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the world.”  It is the love of Christ that fills our hearts and impels us to evangelize; a stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelization in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith is needed, insists the Pope in this apostolic letter.  “We make it our prayer that believers’ witness of life may grow in credibility,” he continues, inviting the whole Church to join in this special year.

The principal artisan of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 1992, the sovereign pontiff hopes that this work will “serve as a tool providing real support for the faith”.  He encourages a “study [of] the fundamental content of the faith,” the knowledge of which is essential for adhering fully with intellect and will to the fullness of the saving mystery revealed by God.  To this end, sometime before the end of the year 2011, a Note, written by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will give guidelines on how to live this Year of Faith in the most effective and appropriate ways.

Benedict XVI remarked that this is not the first time that the Church has celebrated a Year of Faith.  Paul VI, “announced one in 1967, to commemorate the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul.”  Two years after the Second Vatican Council, this year was promulgated in an eventful context, after a new catechism, whose objective, according to the Commission of Cardinals that the Vatican had appointed to examine it, was “to substitute one orthodoxy for another within the Church, a modern orthodoxy against the traditional orthodoxy,” had been published in the Netherlands in October 1966, with episcopal approval.

The year ended with the Credo of the People of God, delivered on June 30, 1968, in St. Peter's Square. This year follows the Year of St. Paul (June 28, 2008 to June 29, 2009) and the Year for Priests (June 19, 2009 to June 19, 2010).  Faith is one of the three theological virtues, along with hope and charity, both of which have been the subject of an encyclical of Benedict XVI: Deus Caritas Est in December 2005, and Spe Salvi in November 2007.