Porta Fidei , [the “door of faith”], that is, the door God opened to the pagans at the time of the Emperor Claudius and of Paul’s missions. Since then, therefore, it has been open to all peoples, to our day, to the beginning of the 21st century in a global world subject to rapid and unpredictable changes. Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio begins with this evocative image from the Acts of the Apostles, the book of the Bible that tells of the first steps taken by the Church. With it the Pope proclaims a new “Year of Faith”, similar to the Year that Paul VI proclaimed to commemorate the martyrdom of the Apostles, patrons of Rome, two years after the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council.
The document — announced by the Pope at the end of an important congress marking the debut of the recently created dicastery for the New Evangelization — is as it were a small encyclical, steeped in biblical references and with an acutely sensitive attention to today’s times.
The Motu Proprio comes under the banner of the Second Vatican Council and of those who directed, governed and brought it to conclusion and began to apply it in the Church and throughout the world: Paul VI and John Paul II. The date of the document is significant in this respect: October 11, the anniversary of the opening of the Council and the liturgical feast of Bl. John XXIII, the Pontiff who had the courage to convoke it and who opened it.
Indeed, the Year of Faith will begin on 11 October 2012, the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Council and the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church , which is its richest doctrinal fruit. It resembles the one proclaimed by Paul VI in 1967: “If the Council does not expressly address faith, it speaks of it on every page”, the Pope said on 8 March. And on 29 June, the 19th centenary of the Apostles Peter and Paul, he opened the year of faith, which ended on 20 June 1968, by proclaiming the Creed of The People of God.
In the Motu Proprio, Benedict XVI recalls how his immediate predecessor, also proclaimed Blessed, defined Vatican II in 2001 as “the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century”, and from a historical perspective too the event appears as of indisputable importance, despite contrary and inconsistent points of view. At the end of 2005, Joseph Ratzinger — the last Roman Pontiff to have had a first-hand experience of the Council — presented an interpretation of it consistent with Catholic tradition and both theologically and historically convincing.
This new initiative of a Pope who can speak to everyone and go straight to the heart of the matter will follow precisely in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. Benedict XVI thus claims that since the beginning of his ministry as Successor of the Apostle Peter, he has recalled the “need to rediscover the journey of faith”. And this is what matters too, because in a context in which a “unitary cultural matrix” inspired by Christian faith is often lacking, we cannot accept “that salt should become tasteless or the light be kept hidden”.
Therefore, faced by the thirst for God that women and men of our times experience in the deserts of this world, each and every follower of Christ, through continuous personal renewal, must make their witness of the one light that enlightens the world shine out. “In a journey”, writes the Pope, “that lasts a lifetime”.
St. Peter’s Square
Sept. 22, 2019
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