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The Year of Faith

BXVI: 'In this Year of Faith, may every Christian rediscover the beauty of being born in the love of God and living as his true children.'

Annus Fidei: 11 October 2012 - 24 November 2013

Pope Benedict XVI opened the Year of Faith with Mass in St Peter's Square on 11th October 2012, the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican Council II which in 1962 was the Feast of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God (now celebrated on 1 January). Papa Benedetto originally spoke of this Year of Faith in his Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei and, with the beginning of the Year of Faith, switched from giving catecheses on prayer to dedicating his weekly General Audiences to the subject of faith. Pope Francis took up these catecheses from where BXVI left off (& finished them after the end of the Year of Faith).

Catecheses by Papa Benedict XVI:
 1)   Introduction      
 2)   What is faith?      
 3)   The Faith of the Church      
 4)   The Desire for God      
 5)   Ways which lead to the Knowledge of God      
 6)   The Reasonableness of Faith in God      
 7)   How to Speak of God?
 8)   God Reveals His Benevolent Plan
 9)   The Stages of Revelation
10)   The Virgin Mary: Icon of obedient faith      
11)   He was conceived by the work of the Holy Spirit      
12)   He was made man
13)   Jesus Christ "Mediator and Fullness of All Revelation"
14)   I believe in God
15)   I believe in God: the Father Almighty
16)   I believe in God: Creator of heaven and earth, Creator of the human being
17)   The Temptations of Jesus and Conversion for the Kingdom of Heaven      

Catecheses by Papa Francisco:
18)   The Third Day He Rose Again according to the Scriptures
19)   The Resurrection of Jesus: its Salvific Scope
20)   He Ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father
21)   He will come in glory to judge the living and the dead
22)   The Holy Spirit - inexhaustible source of God's life in us
23)   The Holy Spirit guides us into all the truth
24)   One, holy, catholic and apostolic Church
25)   The Church as the family of God
26)   The Church as the People of God
27)   The Church as the Body of Christ
28)   The Church as the Temple
29)   The Church, Mother of Christians
30)   The Church as Mother
31)   I believe in the Church - One
32)   I believe in the Church - Holy
33)   I believe in the Church - Catholic
34)   I believe in the Church - Apostolic
35)   Mary - Image and Model of the Church      
36)   The Communion of Saints      
37)   Communion in spiritual goods
38)   I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
39)   The power of the keys
40)   The Resurrection of the body - Dying in Christ
41)   The Resurrection of the body - the Resurrection of Christ
42)   I believe in eternal life   

These catecheses are being read in English on Totus2us' podcast Catechesis with Pope Benedict XVI & Catechesis with Pope Francis (with Ooberfuse's track, Credo). The Vatican Radio podcast The Voice of the Pope includes all Pope Francis' recorded General Audiences (in Italian).

3 2us on Faith & the Year of Faith by Father Francis Selman       
"As faith does not yet see clearly the things that are believed, in one way it is an imperfect virtue. Its virtue does not, like natural science or mathematics, lie in the clarity of its understanding but in the firmness with which it adheres to the truth, indeed to the First Truth. Faith also depends on trust because Christ is the Truth in person. But faith is not just trusting in a person it is adherence to the truth, a truth which though not clearly seen is higher than anything natural science can tell us about in this world. This truth is about God, who is the Trinity, the divinity of his Son, & the mediation of his grace through the Church."

Papa Benedict XVI's Homily at the Opening of the Year of Faith
- in English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Venerable Brothers, Dear brothers and sisters!
With great joy today, 50 years from the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, we begin the Year of faith. I am delighted to greet all of you, particularly His Holiness Bartholomew I, Patriarch of Constantinople, and His Grace Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. A special greeting goes to the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches, and to the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences. T commemorate the Council, which some of us here - whom I greet with particular affection - had the grace to live in person, this celebration has been enriched with some specific signs: the opening procession, intended to recall the memorable one of the Council Fathers when they solemnly entered this Basilica; the enthronement of the Gospels with the same book that was used at the Council; the consignment of the seven final Messages of the Council, and of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I will do at the end, before the final Blessing. These signs not only makes us remember, but they also offer us the prospect of going beyond commemorating. They invite us to enter more deeply into the spiritual movement which characterized Vatican II, to make it our own and to take it forward in its true meaning. And its true meaning was and remains faith in Christ, the apostolic faith, animated by the inner urge to communicate Christ to every man and to all men in the Church’s pilgrimage along the pathways of history.

The Year of Faith which we inaugurate today is linked consistently with the Church’s whole path over the last 50 years: from the Council, through the Magisterium of the Servant of God Paul VI, who proclaimed a Year of Faith in 1967, up to the Great Jubilee of the year 2000, with which Blessed John Paul II re-proposed to all humanity Jesus Christ as the only Saviour, yesterday, today and forever. Between these two Popes, Paul VI and John Paul II, there was a deep and full convergence, precisely upon Christ as the centre of the cosmos and of history, and upon the apostolic eagerness to announce him to the world. Jesus is the centre of Christian faith. The Christian believes in God through Jesus Christ, who has revealed his face. He is the fulfilment of the Scriptures and their definitive interpreter. Jesus Christ is not only the object of the faith but, as the Letter to the Hebrews says, he is “the one who leads us in our faith and brings it to fulfillment” (12:2).

Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus Christ, consecrated by the Father in the Holy Spirit, is the true and everlasting subject of evangelization. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor” (Lk 4:18). This mission of Christ, this movement of his continues in space and time, across centuries and continents. It is a movement which starts from the Father and, with the force of the Spirit, goes forth to bring the good news to the poor of all times - the poor in the material and spiritual sense. The Church is the first and necessary instrument of this work of Christ, because it is united to Him as the body to its head. “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (Jn 20:21). So said the Risen One to his disciples, and breathing upon them he added, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (v.22). God is the principal subject of evangelization in the world, through Jesus Christ; but Christ himself wished to transmit to the Church his own mission, and he did so and continues to do so until the end of time by infusing his Holy Spirit on the disciples, the same Spirit who came upon Him and remained in Him during all his earthly life, giving him the force “to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” and “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Lk 4:18-19).

The Second Vatican Council did not wish to deal with the theme of faith in one specific document. And yet, it was entirely animated by the awareness and desire of being, as it were, immersed anew in the Christian mystery, so as to be able to re-propose it efficaciously to contemporary man. In this regard, the Servant of God Paul VI, two years after the conclusion of the Council session, expressed it in this way: “Even if the Council does not deal expressly with the faith, it talks about it on every page, it recognizes its vital and supernatural character, it assumes it to be whole and strong, and it builds upon its doctrines. We need only recall some of the conciliar statements .. to realize the essential importance that the Council, consistent with the doctrinal tradition of the Church, attributes to the faith, to the true faith, which has Christ for its source and the Church’s Magisterium for its channel” (General Audience, 8 March 1967). Thus spoke Paul VI in '67.

But we must now turn to the one who convoked the Second Vatican Council and inaugurated it: Blessed John XXIII. In his opening speech, he presented the principal purpose of the Council in these words: “This is the greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine be safeguarded and taught more efficaciously […] The principal purpose of this Council is not, therefore, the discussion of this or that doctrinal theme… a Council is not required for this… What is necessary is that this certain and immutable doctrine, which must be faithfully respected, needs to be explored and presented in a way which responds to the needs of our time” (AAS 54 [1962], 790,791-792). So said Pope John at the inauguration of the Council.

In the light of these words, we understand what I myself got to experience at the time: during the Council there was a tension moving towards the common task of illuminating the truth and beauty of the faith in our time, without sacrificing it to the demands of the present or keeping it tied to the past: the eternal presence of God resounds in the faith, which transcends time and yet can be accepted by us only in our own unrepeatable today. So I think that the most important thing, especially on such a significant occasion as this, is to revive in the whole Church this positive tension, this yearning to proclaim again Christ to contemporary man. But for this interior drive towards the new evangelization neither to remain only an ideal nor to be lost in confusion, it needs to be built on a concrete and precise basis, and this basis is the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the place where it found expression. This is why I have often insisted on the need to return, as it were, to the “letter” of the Council – that is to its texts – to find its authentic spirit, and have repeated that the true legacy of Vatican II is to be found in them. Reference to the documents protects from extremes of anachronistic nostalgia and of running too far ahead, and allows one to gather novelty in continuity. The Council did not formulate anything new in matters of faith, nor did it wish to replace what was ancient. Rather, it was concerned to ensure that the same faith continue to be lived in the present day, continue to be a living faith in a changing world.

If we place ourselves in harmony with the authentic setting, which Blessed John XXIII wished to give to Vatican II, we will be able to actualise it during this Year of Faith, within the unique path of the Church who wishes to deepen the deposit of faith entrusted to her by Christ. The Council Fathers wished to represent the faith in an efficacious way; and if they opened themselves with confidence to dialogue with the modern world it is because they were certain of their faith, of the solid rock on which they stood. Yet, in the following years, many accepted without discerment the dominant mentality, questioning the very foundations of the deposit of faith, which unfortunately they no longer felt as their own in their truth.

If today the Church proposes a new Year of faith and the new evangelization, it is not to honour an anniversary, but because it is needed, even more than 50 years ago! And the answer to be given to this need is the same one desired by the Popes and by the Fathers of the Council and contained in its documents. Even the initiative to create a Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, which I thank for its special commitment for the Year of Faith, is to be understood in this context. In these last few decades there has been an advance of a spiritual “desertification”. What a life, a world without God would signify, it was already possible to know at the time of the Council from several tragic pages of history, but now unfortunately we see it every day around us.  And the void has spread. But it is precisely by starting from the experience of this desert, from this void, that we can discover anew the joy of believing, its vital importance for us men and women. In the desert the value of what is essential for living is rediscovered; thus in today’s world there are innumerable signs, often expressed in implicit or negative ways, of the thirst for God, for the ultimate meaning of life. And in the desert there is need above all of people of faith who, with their own lives, point the way to the promised Land and thus keep hope alive. Living faith opens our hearts to the Grace of God which frees us from pessimism. Today, more than ever, to evangelise means to witness to a new life, transformed by God, and thus to show the way. The first reading spoke to us of the wisdom of the traveler (cf. Sir 34:9-13): the journey is a metaphor for life, and the wise traveler is one who has learned the art of living, and can share it with his brothers – as happens to pilgrims along the Cammino of Santiago, or on other routes which not by chance are back in vogue in recent years. Why do so many people today feel the need to take these paths? Is it not perhaps because there they find, or at least intuit, the meaning of our being in the world? This, then, is how we can represent this Year of faith: a pilgrimage in the deserts of today’s world, on which to take only that which is essential: neither staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money, nor two tunics – as the Lord said to the Apostles he was sending out on mission (cf. Lk 9:3) - but the Gospel and the faith of the Church, of which the documents of Vatican II are a luminous expression, as is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published 20 years ago.

Venerable and dear Brothers, 11 October 1962 was the Feast of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God. To her we entrust the Year of faith, as I did a week ago by going on pilgrimage to Loreto. May the Virgin Mary always shine out like a star on the path of the new evangelization. May she help us to put into practice the Apostle Paul’s exhortation, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you in all its wealth. With all wisdom teach and admonish one another … And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Col 3:16-17). Amen."

BXVI - Saint Peter's Square, Thursday, 11 October 2012