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Introduction to the Year of Faith

Catechesis by Papa Benedict XVI      
General Audience, Wednesday 17 October 2012, Saint Peter's Square - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today I would like to introduce a new cycle of catecheses, which will develop during the Year of Faith just begun and which will interrupt — for this period — the cycle dedicated to the school of prayer. With the Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei I called this special year, precisely so that the Church may renew the enthusiasm of believing in Jesus Christ, the only Saviour of the world, may revive the joy of walking on the way that he has shown us and may bear witness in a concrete way to the transforming force of faith.

The 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council is an important opportunity to return to God, to deepen our faith and live it more courageously, to strengthen our sense of belonging to the Church, “teacher of humanity”, which, through the proclamation of the Word, the celebration of the Sacraments and works of charity, guides us to encounter and know Christ, true God and true man. This is an encounter not with an idea or a project of life, but with a living Person who transforms us in our innermost selves, revealing to us our true identity as children of God. The encounter with Christ renews our human relationships, directing them, day by day, to greater solidarity and fraternity, in the logic of love. Having faith in the Lord is not something that affects only our intelligence, the area of intellectual knowledge, but is a change that involves our life, our whole self: our feelings, heart, intelligence, will, body, emotions, human relationships. With faith everything truly changes in us and for us, and our future destiny is clearly revealed, the truth of our vocation in history, the meaning of life, the taste of being pilgrims bound for the heavenly Homeland.

But — we ask ourselves — is faith truly the transforming force in our lives, in my life? Or is it just one of the elements which are part of existence, without being the determinant one that involves it totally? With the catecheses of this Year of Faith we would like to make a journey to strengthen or to rediscover the joy of faith, understanding that it is not something extraneous, disconnected from concrete life, but is its soul. Faith in a God who is love, and who drew near to man by incarnating himself and by giving himself on the cross so as to save us and to reopen to us the gates of Heaven, indicates in a luminous way that only in love consists the fullness of man. Today is is necessary to repeat this with clarity, when the cultural transformations taking place often show so many forms of barbarity, which are passed off as “conquests of civilization”: faith affirms that there is no true humanity except in the places, gestures, times and forms in which man is animated by the love that comes from God, is expressed as a gift, is manifested in relationships full of love, compassion, attention and disinterested service for the other. Where there is domination, possessiveness, exploitation, commodification of the other for one's own egoism, where there is arrogance of the 'I' shut in on itself, there man is impoverished, degraded, disfigured. Christian faith, active in charity and strong in hope, does not limit life but humanizes it, indeed renders life fully human.

Faith is to welcome this transforming message into our lives, it is to welcome the revelation of God, who lets us know who He is, how he acts, what his projects are for us. Of course, the mystery of God remains always beyond our concepts and our reason, our rites and our prayers. However, with revelation it is God himself who communicates himself, speaks of himself, makes himself accessible. And we are enabled to listen to his Word and to receive his truth. Here, then, is the wonder of faith: God, in his love, creates in us — through the work of the Holy Spirit — the appropriate conditions for us to recognize his Word. God himself, in his will to manifest himself, to enter into contact with us, to make himself present in our history, enables us to listen to and to receive him. St Paul expresses it with joy and gratitude thus: “We constantly thank God for you because, as soon as you heard the message that we brought you as God's message, you accepted it for what it really is, God's message and not some human thinking, and it is still a living power among you who believe it” ( 1 Thess 2:13).

God has revealed himself with words and works throughout the course of a long history of friendship with man, which culminated in the Incarnation of the Son of God and in the Mystery of his Death and Resurrection. God has not only revealed himself in the history of a people, he has not only spoken through the Prophets, but he has crossed the threshold of his Heaven to enter the land of men as a man, so that we could encounter him and listen to him. And from Jerusalem the proclamation of the Gospel of salvation spread to the ends of the earth. The Church, born from the side of Christ, has become the bearer of a new, solid hope: Jesus of Nazareth, crucified and risen, Saviour of the world, who is seated at the right hand of the Father and is the judge of the living and the dead. This is the kerygma, the central and disruptive proclamation of the faith. But from the beginning there arose the problem of the “rule of faith”, namely of the fidelity of believers to the truth of the Gospel, in which they were to remain firm, to the salvific truth about God and man, which was to be preserved and handed on. St Paul wrote: “The Gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you - believing anything else will not lead to anything” (1 Cor 15:2).

But where do we find the essential formula of the faith? Where do we find the truths that have been faithfully passed down to us and that constitute the light for our daily lives? The answer is simple: in the Creed, in the Profession of Faith or the Symbol of Faith, we are reconnected with the original event of the Person and history of Jesus of Nazareth; it makes concrete what the Apostle to the Gentiles said to the Christians of Corinth: “I taught you what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried; and that he was raised to life on the third day” (1 Cor 15:3-5).

Today too we need the Creed to be better known, understood and prayed. Above all it is important that the Creed be, so to speak, “recognized”. To know, in fact, can be just an intellectual operation, whereas “to recognise” means the need to discover the profound connection between the truths we profess in the Creed and our daily existence, so that these truths may truly and concretely be — as they have always been — light for the steps of our life, water that irrigates the parched stretches of our path, life that overcomes certain deserts of contemporary life. The moral life of the Christian is grafted onto the Creed, finding therein its foundation and justification.

It is no coincidence that Blessed John Paul II wanted the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a sure norm for teaching the faith and a reliable source for a renewed catechesis, to be based upon the Creed. It was a question of confirming and preserving this central core of the truths of the faith, while putting it into a language more intelligible to the people of our time, to us. It is a duty of the Church to transmit the faith, to communicate the Gospel, so that Christian truths may be a light in the new cultural transformations, and Christians may be able to account for the hope that is in them (cf 1 Pet 3:15). Today we are living in a society profoundly changed, even in comparison to the recent past, and which is in constant motion. The processes of secularization and of a widespread nihilistic mentality, in which everything is relative, have deeply marked the common mindset. Thus, life is often lived lightly, without clear ideals and solid hopes, within fluid and provisional social and family ties. Above all the new generations are not educated in the search for truth nor about the profound meaning of existence which surmounts the contingent situation, about the stability of affections, about trust. On the contrary, relativism leads to not having fixed points, suspicion and inconstancy cause ruptures in human relationships, while life is lived in experiments that do not last long, without the assumption of responsibility. If individualism and relativism seem to dominate the minds of many of our contemporaries, it cannot be said that believers are totally immune to these dangers, with which we are confronted in the transmission of the faith. The survey promoted on all the continents for the celebration of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, has highlighted some of them: a faith lived in a passive and private way, the rejection of education in the faith, the fracture between life and faith.

Christians often do not even know the central core of their own Catholic faith, of the Creed, so leaving room for a certain syncretism and religious relativism, without clarity on the truths to be believed and on the salvific uniqueness of Christianity. Today the risk of building, so to speak, a “do-it-yourself” religion is not so far off. We must, instead, return to God, to the God of Jesus Christ, we must rediscover the message of the Gospel, bring it more profoundly into our consciences and our daily life.

In the catecheses of this Year of Faith I would like to offer help to take this path, to take up and deepen the central truths of faith about God, about man, about the Church, about the whole social and cosmic reality, by meditating and reflecting on the affirmations of the Creed. And I would like it to become clear that these contents or truths of faith (fides quae) are directly connected to our lives; they ask for a conversion of existence, which gives life to a new way of believing in God (fides qua). To know God, to encounter him, to explore the features of his face, is what brings our lives into play, because He enters into the profound dynamics of the human being.

May the path that we shall take this year make us all grow in faith and love of Christ, so that we may learn to live, in our choices and daily actions, the good and beautiful life of the Gospel. Thank you."


"Je vous accueille avec joie chers pèlerins francophones ! J’adresse un salut particulier aux prêtres de Troyes, venus avec leur Évêque Mgr Stenger, aux diocésains de Soissons, avec l’Évêque Mgr Giraud, ainsi qu’aux jeunes de Suisse. Que l’Année de la foi qui commence soit pour vous l’occasion de mieux connaître le message de l’Évangile pour le faire entrer au plus profond de votre conscience et de votre vie. Bon pèlerinage à tous !

I offer a warm welcome to the Muslim and Catholic study group from the Diocese of Broken Bay in Australia. I also greet the representatives of the Jewish Federation of North America and the participants in the European Conference of the American Bankruptcy Institute. I thank the Cathedral Choir from Oslo and the Hawaiian dancers for their performances. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present, including those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Jersey, Norway, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Canada and the United States, I invoke God’s abundant blessings.

Ganz herzlich grüße ich die deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher, besonders die Missionsbenediktinerinnen von Tutzing anläßlich ihres Generalkapitels und die Wallfahrtsgruppe aus Borken-Steinfurt mit Weihbischof Hegge sowie die Schulgemeinschaft der Domschule Osnabrück. Die heilige Jungfrau Maria, die wir im Oktober besonders als Königin des Rosenkranzes verehren, möge uns beistehen, daß wir in diesem Jahr im Glauben und in der Liebe zu Christus wachsen und so mehr wir selber werden können. Danke.

Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular a los grupos provenientes de España, México, Panamá, Perú, Argentina y otros países latinoamericanos. Invito a todos a meditar el Credo para que, al vivir con entusiasmo sus exigencias, proclaméis que la fe transforma el corazón. Muchas gracias.

Dou às boas-vindas aos grupos de visitantes do Brasil e demais peregrinos de língua portuguesa. Agradeço a vossa presença e desejo que este Ano possa ajudar-vos a crescer na fé e no amor a Cristo, para que aprendais a viver a vida boa e bela do Evangelho. De coração, a todos abençôo. Obrigado!

Pozdrawiam pielgrzymów polskich. Wczoraj w rocznicę wyboru Jana Pawła II na Stolicę Piotrową, wspominaliśmy go, jako wielkiego przewodnika w wierze, który wprowadził Kościół w trzecie tysiąclecie. Pamiętając jego nauczanie, życzę, by Rok Wiary, który przeżywamy, pomógł nam wzrastać w wierze i w miłości Chrystusa, byśmy w naszych codziennych wyborach i działaniach kierowali się coraz pełniej duchem Ewangelii. Z serca wam błogosławię.

البَابَا يُصْلِي مِنْ أَجَلِ جَمِيعِ النَّاطِقينَ بِاللُّغَةِ العَرَبِيَّةِ. لِيُبَارِك الرَّبّ جَمِيعَكُمْ.

Radosno pozdravljam sve hrvatske hodočasnike, a osobito vjernike iz Hrvatskih katoličkih misija u Švicarskoj. Dok molite na grobovima svetih apostola, sjetite se njihove vjere u Isusa iz Nazareta, jedinog Spasitelja, te svojim životom posvjedočite tu istinu. Hvaljen Isus i Marija!

Srdečne pozdravujem slovenských pútnikov, osobitne z Farnosti Ždiar.
Bratia a sestry, posvätný ruženec je pre nás veľkou školou modlitby. Nech vaša púť v mesiaci októbri vám pomôže odkryť krásu tejto modlitby, takej jednoduchej, hlbokej a účinnej. S týmto želaním žehnám vás i vašich drahých.
Pochválený buď Ježiš Kristus!

Вітаю вас, дорогі українські паломники, і бажаю, щоб ваші відвідини центру християнства допомогли вам дедалі більше усвідомлювати приналежність до Христової Церкви, що несе надію сучасному світові. Охоче вас благословлю. Слава Ісусу Христу!

* * *

Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto a tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana. In particolare, saluto le Figlie di San Camillo e le incoraggio a proseguire con generosità il loro apostolato. Saluto i rappresentanti del Collegamento Nazionale Santuari Italiani, esortandoli ad operare sempre a servizio delle anime e in sintonia con la pastorale delle Chiese particolari. Saluto il centro CEIS S. Crispino di Viterbo, con il Vescovo Mons. Lino Fumagalli, ed esprimo apprezzamento per l’azione di recupero e reinserimento sociale di quanti si trovano in situazione di disagio. Saluto gli esponenti del Movimento Agire Tutti per la Dignità del Quarto Mondo, qui convenuti in occasione dell’odierna Giornata Mondiale del Rifiuto della miseria, indetta dalle Nazioni Unite e li incoraggio nel loro impegno per preservare la dignità e i diritti di quanti sono condannati a subire il flagello della miseria, contro il quale l’Umanità deve lottare senza sosta.

Uno speciale pensiero rivolgo infine ai malati, agli sposi novelli ed ai giovani, tra i quali saluto in particolare i cresimati della Diocesi di Faenza-Modigliana, accompagnati dal Vescovo Mons. Claudio Stagni. Grazie. Grazie a voi per l'entusiasmo! La liturgia ci fa celebrare oggi la memoria di sant’Ignazio di Antiochia, pastore ardente di amore per Cristo. Tale ricorrenza aiuti tutti a riscoprire la gioia di essere cristiani. Prego affinché la bontà e la misericordia del Signore confortino la speranza di voi giovani, consolino la sofferenza di voi malati, confermino l’amore reciproco di voi novelli sposi. Grazie a voi tutti."


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