Pope Benedict XVI arrives for a Vatican conference to promote the new evangelisation on Oct 15. He announced the special year to participants the next day. CNS photo

The special year, lasting from Oct 11, 2012 to Nov 24, 2013, aims to renew missionary zeal in the Church

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI has 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 Oct 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 Oct 11, 2012 – the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council – and conclude on Nov 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.

He explained his intention more fully in Porta Fidei (The Door of Faith), an apostolic letter released on Oct 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 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, will publish a “note” to help people live the year “in the most effective and appropriate ways at the service of belief and evangelisation”.

Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, told reporters the document would be published by the end of the year; its tone will be pastoral, rather than doctrinal, giving bishops and laypeople ideas for implementing the pope’s call.

In his apostolic letter, the pope said the year’s focus will 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 by more acts of charity.

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 daylong conference on Oct 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 programmes and study groups.

Participants discussed how to better evangelise in the area of culture, among immigrants, in Catholics’ political involvement, through the use of media, in families, through the liturgy and in active parishes.

The day’s focus on new evangelisation continued in the evening in the Vatican audience hall where various speakers gave personal testimonies to a crowd of about 8,000 people, mainly from new Catholic movements.

The event also marked the official announcement of a new Internet project established by Jesus Colina, who recently resigned as head of Zenit news service.

The new platform, aleteia.org, is designed to be a multimedia “community” where people can ask questions about the Catholic faith and practices and receive answers they can be sure are in line with official Church teaching, Colina said. n CNS

The pope’s apostolic letter is at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/motu_proprio/documents/hf_ben-xvi_motu-proprio_20111011_porta-fidei_en.html

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