by Martin, sx
“I have decided to announce a Year of Faith. It will begin on 11 October 2012, the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and it will end on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, on 24 November 2013. The starting date of 11 October 2012 also marks the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, text promulgated by my Predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, with a view to illustrating for all the faithful the power and beauty of the faith. This document, an authentic fruit of the Second Vatican Council, was requested by the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in 1985 as an instrument at the service of catechesis and it was produced in collaboration with all the bishops of the Catholic Church. Moreover, the theme of the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that I have convoked for October 2012 is “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith”. This will be a good opportunity to usher the whole Church into a time of particular reflection and rediscovery of the faith.”
These are the words of Pope Benedict XVI as he announced the year of faith in his Mottu Proprio Porta Fidei on 11 October 2011 at Saint Peter’s.
Following are some practical guidelines given by the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith on how to celebrate this Year of faith at universal, diocesan and parochial levels.
I. On the level of the Universal Church
The main ecclesial event at the beginning of the Year of Faith will be the XIII General Assembly of the Ordinary Synod of Bishops, convoked by Pope Benedict XVI in October 2012, dedicated to The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith. During this Synod, on 11 October 2012, there will be a solemn celebration of the beginning of the Year of Faith, in remembrance of the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.
In the Year of Faith pilgrimages of the faithful to the See of Peter are to be encouraged, to profess faith in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in unity with him who today is called to confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith (cfr. Lk 22:32). It is also important to promote pilgrimages to the Holy Land, the place which first saw the presence of Jesus, the Savior, and Mary, his Mother.
During this Year, it will be helpful to invite the faithful to turn with particular devotion to Mary, model of the Church, who “shines forth to the whole community of the elect as the model of virtues.” Therefore, every initiative that helps the faithful to recognize the special role of Mary in the mystery of salvation, love her and follow her as a model of faith and virtue is to be encouraged. To this end it would be proper to organize pilgrimages, celebrations and gatherings at the major Marian shrines.
The next World Youth Day, in Rio de Janeiro in July 2013, will offer a special occasion for the young to experience the joy which comes from faith in the Lord Jesus and communion with the Holy Father, in the greater family of the Church.
It is hoped that many symposia, conferences and large gatherings will be held, even at the international level, to encourage encounters with authentic witness to the faith and to promote understanding of the contents of Catholic doctrine. Noting how, still today, the Word of God continues to grow and spread, it will be important to give witness that “all the anguish and all the longing of the human heart finds fulfilment” in Christ Jesus and that faith “becomes a new criterion of understanding and action that changes the whole of man’s life.” Some conferences should be particularly dedicated to the rediscovery of the teachings of Vatican Council II.
The Year of Faith will offer a special opportunity for all believers to deepen their knowledge of the primary documents of the Second Vatican Council and their study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is especially true for candidates for priesthood, particularly during the propeduetic year or in their first years of theological studies, for novices in Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, as well as for those in a period of discernment for joining an Ecclesial Association or Movement.
This Year will provide an auspicious time for a more attentive reception of the homilies, catechesis, addresses and other speeches and documents of the Holy Father. Pastors, consecrated persons and the lay faithful are invited to renew their efforts in effective and heart-felt adherence to the teaching of the Successor of Peter.
During the Year of Faith, in cooperation with the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, various ecumenical initiatives are to be planned, aimed at “the restoration of unity among all Christians” which “is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council.”In particular, there will be a solemn ecumenical celebration in which all of the baptized will reaffirm their faith in Christ.
A Secretariat to coordinate all of the different initiatives promoted by various Dicasteries of the Holy See, or other events relevant to the Universal Church, will be established within the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. This Secretariat should be informed timely of the main events and can also suggest appropriate initiatives. The Secretariat will open a dedicated website with the goal of making available useful information regarding living out the Year of Faithmore effectively.
At the conclusion of this Year, on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, there will be a Eucharist celebrated by the Holy Father, in which a solemn renewal of the profession of faith will take place.
II. At the Diocesan level
1. It is hoped that each particular Church would have a celebration of the opening of the Year of Faith and a solemn conclusion to it, in which to “profess our faith in the Risen Lord in our cathedrals and in the churches of the whole world.”
2. It would be desirable that each Diocese in the world organize a study day on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, particularly for its priests, consecrated persons and catechists. On this occasion, for example, the Eastern Catholic Eparchies could hold a meeting with their priests to give witness to their specific experience and liturgical tradition in the one faith in Christ. Also, in this way, young particular Churches in mission territories would be able to give renewed witness to that joy of faith which is so often particular to them.
3. Each Bishop could devote a pastoral letter of his own to the topic of faith, keeping in mind the specific pastoral circumstances of the portion of the faithful entrusted to him, reminding them of the importance of the Second Vatican Council and of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
4. It is hoped that in each Diocese, under the leadership of the Bishop, catechetical events will be organized, especially for the youth and those searching for a sense of life, helping them to discover the beauty of ecclesial faith, promoting encounters with meaningful witnesses to the faith.
5. It would be appropriate for each particular Church to review the reception of Vatican Council II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church in its own life and mission, particularly in the realm of catechesis. This would provide the opportunity for a renewal of commitment on the part of the catechetical offices of the Dioceses which – supported by the Commissions for Catechesis of the Episcopal Conferences – have the duty to care for the theological formation of catechists.
6. The continuing education of the clergy can be focused during this Year of Faith on the documents of Vatican Council II and on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, treating such themes as “the proclamation of the Risen Christ”, “the Church – sacrament of salvation”, “the mission of evangelization in the world today”, “faith and disbelief”, “faith, ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue”, “faith and eternal life”, “the hermeneutic of reform in continuity” and “theCatechism in ordinary pastoral care.”
7. Bishops are invited to organize penitential celebrations, particularly during Lent, in which all can ask for God’s forgiveness, especially for sins against faith. This Year also provides an appropriate occasion in which all can approach the Sacrament of Penance with greater faith and more frequently.
8. It is hoped that there will be a renewed creative dialogue between faith and reason in the academic and artistic communities, through symposia, meetings and days of study, especially at Catholic universities, in order to demonstrate that “there cannot be any conflict between faith and genuine science, because both, albeit via different routes, tend towards the truth.”
9. It is also important to promote encounters with those persons who, “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,” taking as an example the dialogues of the Courtyard of the Gentiles, sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture.
10. The Year of Faith can be an opportunity to pay greater attention to Catholic schools, which are a perfect place to offer to students a living witness to the Lord and to nurture their faith. This can be done by making use of good catechetical tools, like the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Youcat.
III. At the level of the parish/community/association/movement
1. In preparation for the Year of Faith, all of the faithful are invited to read closely and meditate upon Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei.
2. The Year of Faith “will also be a good opportunity to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist.” In the Eucharist, mystery of faith and source of the new evangelization, the faith of the Church is proclaimed, celebrated and strengthened. All of the faithful are invited to participate in the Eucharist actively, fruitfully and with awareness, in order to be authentic witnesses of the Lord.
3. Priests should devote greater attention to the study of the documents of Vatican Council II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, drawing from them resources for the pastoral care of their parishes – catechesis, preaching, Sacramental preparation. They should also offer cycles of homilies on the faith or on certain specific aspects such as, for example, “the encounter with Christ”, “the fundamental contents of the Creed”, and “faith and the Church.”
4. Catechists should hold more firmly to the doctrinal richness of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and, under the direction of their pastors, offer guidance in reading this precious document to groups of faithful, working toward a deeper common understanding thereof, with the goal of creating small communities of faith, and of giving witness to the Lord Jesus.
5. It is hoped that there will be a renewed commitment in parishes to the distribution of theCatechism of the Catholic Church, and of other resources appropriate for families, which are true domestic churches and the primary setting for the transmission of the faith. This might be done, for example, during the blessing of homes, the Baptism of adults, Confirmations and Marriages. This can contribute to the deepening of Catholic teaching “in our homes and among our families, so that everyone may feel a strong need to know better and to transmit to future generations the faith of all times.”
6. The promotion of missions and other popular programs in parishes and in the workplace can help the faithful to rediscover the gift of Baptismal faith and the task of giving witness, knowing that the Christian vocation “by its very nature is also a vocation to the apostolate.”
7. During this time, members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and of Societies of Apostolic Life are asked to work towards the new evangelization with a renewed union to the Lord Jesus, each according to their proper charism, in fidelity to the Holy Father and to sound doctrine.
8. Contemplative communities, during the Year of Faith, should pray specifically for the renewal of the faith among the People of God and for a new impulse for its transmission to the young.
9. Associations and Ecclesial Movements are invited to promote specific initiatives which, through the contribution of their proper charism and in collaboration with their local Pastors, will contribute to the wider experience of the Year of Faith. The new Communities and Ecclesial Movements, in a creative and generous way, will be able to find the most appropriate ways in which to offer their witness to the faith in service to the Church.
10. All of the faithful, called to renew the gift of faith, should try to communicate their own experience of faith and charity to their brothers and sisters of other religions, with those who do not believe, and with those who are just indifferent. In this way, it is hoped that the entire Christian people will begin a kind of mission toward those with whom they live and work, knowing that they “have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man.”