For the Inauguration of the Year of Faith - 11 October 2012
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
The “Door of Faith” (Acts 14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church. It is possible to cross that threshold when the word of God is proclaimed and the human heart allows itself to be shaped by transforming grace. To enter through that door is to set out on a journey that lasts a lifetime”.
With these words Pope Benedict XV1 announced a “Year of Faith” to be kept by Catholics throughout the world beginning next Thursday, 11 October. Why this date? Because it marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council which has shaped the life of the Church for most of our lifetime. Why this month? Because a Synod of Bishops will be held in Rome to explore the need for a New Evangelisation. Why this year? Because it marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Pope John Paul 11.
But every day, every month and every year is a time of faith for the believer in Jesus Christ. The reality is, however, that the life of faith is under pressure in our times in ways unheard of in previous generations. The books of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens seem to have become the new bibles of a world seemingly deaf to the things of God. The tensions between living faith privately and expressing it publicly seem to be reaching breaking point in our society. The publicly held view that Faith contradicts Reason, and should not be allowed to influence public policy, is just one indication of this. The debates on Human Rights legislation, where a religious outlook on life is seen as undermining the rights of different groups, takes little account of the rights of people of faith to follow our conscience in public and in private. The language of equality is confused to mean that everybody and every institution must be the same in its public service. Proper dialogue and real communication between people of different views becomes more and more difficult, despite the revolution in communication technology.
Addressing Parliament on his visit to Great Britain in 2010, Pope Benedict said:
“If the moral principles underlining the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident. Herein lies the challenge for democracy”.
Our faith is not just contained in a book, or a set of teachings or a series of rules. In his first encyclical the Pope wrote: “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty ideal, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction”.
Faith and Reason. Human Rights. Public and private morality. All of these are part of the discourse which needs to take place in the public square. They are amongst the reasons I have invited Dr. Stephen Wang to the Cornerstone at St.David’s to launch the year of Faith on Thursday 11 October. He will speak at 1.00pm and 7.00pm on the important subject of “Faith and Reason”. Each parish and school will have received details of this important event. I invite them to circulate the “questions and answers” sheet about the Year of Faith which were also sent and are available on the Diocesan website. The Pope’s booklet “The Gate of Faith” provides study material for Advent reflection. Extracts could be printed in parish newsletters between now and then.
Why mark a Year of Faith at this time? To give thanks for the community which nurtured and sustained our faith. To remind ourselves of the challenge of the Second Vatican Council to engage with “the joys and hopes” of the world of the 21st century. And to develop means by which God’s faith in us may be proclaimed afresh “….so that they may all have life and have it abundantly”. (John 10:10)
With every blessing
Archbishop of Cardiff
7th October 2012