Sunday, October 16, 2011

For Vatican II's 50th, A "Year of Faith"

While this morning's return of the PopeMover will likely garner its share of media note (for "Papal Death Watch" purposes, of course), in reality, the prime development to come from a weekend Vatican conference on the New Evangelization was B16's announcement of a "Year of Faith" to mark next fall's 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.

The global observance will begin on 11 October 2012 -- the half-century of Vatican II's first day -- and wrap up on 24 November 2013, the feast of Christ the King.

At its start, the Year will include the next global Synod of Bishops, slated for next October with a focus on the New Evangelization.

In calling the third themed commemoration since his 2005 election, the pontiff said the focus was intended "to give renewed impulse to the mission of the whole church to lead people out of the desert... toward the path of life [and] the friendship with Christ that gives us life to the full."

The 13-month celebration "will be a moment of grace and challenge for our ever fuller conversion to God," Benedict added, "to strengthen our faith in him and announce him with joy to the people of our time."

The purpose of the Year will be explained more fully in an Apostolic Letter which, the Pope indicated, would be published in short order.

In 2008, B16 declared his first thematic year to mark the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of St Paul, quickly following it with the 2009-10 Year for Priests. The latter would become irrevocably marred, however, by an unprecedented Europe-wide eruption of sex-abuse revelations, including a case from the early 1980s in which Benedict himself was accused in the press of returning a priest to ministry during his days as archbishop of Munich and Freising despite prior allegations against the cleric.
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As appearances go, meanwhile, today's Mass to close the New Evangelization conference was indeed conspicuous for the re-introduction of the "mobile platform" that pushes the pontiff in his processions along the aisle of St Peter's Basilica, the world's largest church.

Originally designed for Blessed John Paul II in 2000 prior to the Polish Pope's adoption of a wheeled throne at the twilight of his 27-year reign, the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi said that the PopeMover's return was warranted by the effects of Benedict's natural fatigue just shy of his 85th birthday. The device likewise aids the pontiff's security, especially in the wake of the 2009 incident that saw Benedict pulled to the ground by a mentally unstable Italian woman as he entered the basilica for Christmas Midnight Mass. (After some minutes of disruption, the liturgy proceeded without incident.)

The originator of the concept of a renewed push to proclaim the faith in the West, today marks the 33rd anniversary of Karol Wojtyla's election as the 264th Roman pontiff. And for the first time since his May beatification, this coming Saturday brings the first JPII feast-day on the anniversary of his Inaugural Mass as Pope.

As the feast is technically limited to celebration in Rome and Poland in accordance with tradition for those not yet canonized, the US bishops will consider adding John Paul's memorial to the Stateside calendar at their upcoming November plenary in Baltimore.

And for the record, while the reigning pontiff has reinstituted the wheeled platform, the late Pope's coat of arms -- tiara and all -- still adorn its sides.

SVILUPPO: At his midday Angelus following the morning Mass that revealed the initiative, the Pope linked the coming Year of Faith to two of his predecessors -- John Paul and the pontiff who closed Vatican II, Paul VI:
Benedict XVI explained that "already the Blessed John Paul II had clearly indicated to the Church it was an urgent and exciting challenge. He [who] in the wake of Vatican II was the one who started its implementation -- Pope Paul VI -- was, in fact, both a staunch supporter of the mission ad gentes, to the peoples and territories where the Gospel had not yet taken root, and a herald of the new evangelization. "

New evangelization and mission ad gentes go together, "They are - he said - aspects of the mission of the Church, and therefore it is significant to consider them together in this month of October, characterized by the celebration of World Mission, next Sunday."

The pontiff also said that "the motives, purposes and guidelines of this 'Year', I have illustraded in an Apostolic Letter which will be published in the coming days."

He added: "The Servant of God Paul VI proclaimed a similar 'Year of Faith' in 1967, during the nineteenth centenary of the martyrdom of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and in a time of great cultural upheaval. I think that, after half a century since the opening of the Council, linked to the happy memory of Blessed John XXIII, it is appropriate to recall the beauty and the centrality of faith, the need to strengthen and deepen it on a personal and community level, and to do so not in a celebratory perspective, but rather a missionary one, the mission ad gentes and new evangelization. "
PHOTOS: Reuters