Mark your calendars for the pontiff’s new ‘Year of Faith’

Mark your calendars. Pope Benedict XVI has announced a “Year of Faith” beginning Oct. 11, 2012, the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. 

“It will be a time of grace and commitment to an ever fuller conversion to God, to reinforce our faith in him and to announce him with joy to those of our time,” he said this month, during a special Mass for “new evangelization,” or renewed proclamation of the Gospel in traditionally Christian territories. 

The month the year launches will see the world’s bishops gathering in Rome for a synod on the new evangelization. 

The year (it is actually more than 13 months) ends on Nov. 24, 2013, the feast of Christ the King. 

The pope laid out in greater detail his motivation for announcing the year and some of its goals in an apostolic letter Porta Fidei (“The Door of Faith”), which was released Oct. 17. 

During the Mass, he said: “I believe that, half a century after the opening of the council, tied to the happy memory of Blessed Pope John XXIII, it is opportune to recall the beauty and the centrality of the faith, the need of strengthening and deepening it on a personal and community level, with a view not so much celebratory but rather missionary, precisely in the mission ad gentes [to all people] and of the new evangelization.” 

He said the goal was “precisely to give renewed impulse to the mission of the entire Church to lead people out of the desert in which they often find themselves along the path of life, and to friendship with Christ which gives us life in fullness.” 

This is the third theme-specific year the pope has called since his election in 2005. The first, in 2008, was dedicated to St. Paul, one of the Church’s great missionaries, and the second, just afterward, was dedicated to priests (but was marred somewhat, or maybe just made more poignant, by a new wave of clerical sex abuse allegations, this time in Europe). 

There’s been one other Catholic commemoration of a “Year for Faith.” It was called by Pope Paul VI in 1967, Pope Benedict noted, “on the occasion of the 19th centenary of the martyrdom of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and in a period of great cultural upheaval.” That is, the 1960s. 

The energy that Pope Benedict is pouring into this topic — he created a new Vatican office for new evangelization, as well — is striking, especially as the signs of his age become more apparent, too. The day he announced the new commemorative year, he also started using a “mobile platform” in liturgical procession in St. Peter’s Basilica (which, at 611 feet from front to back, is quite a hike), just like Pope John Paul II did when Parkinson’s disease affected his mobility. (In fact, the late pontiff’s coat of arms is still on the side of it.) 

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