Pope Benedict told those present that the reason the Church was proposing a new Year of Faith and the new evangelisation was not to honour an anniversary but because there is an even greater need than there was 50 years ago. He said that in these past decades a “spiritual desertification” had advanced and this “void has spread around.” At the time of the Second Vatican Council, the Pope said, it was already possible from a few tragic pages of history to know what a life or a world without God looked like. Unfortunately, he added, we now see it every day all around us.
However, Pope Benedict said, it’s by using this desert as a our starting point that we can once again re-discover the joy of believing and the value of what is essential for life. In our contemporary world “there are numerous signs of that thirst for God” and the ultimate meaning of life.
Referring to the Year of Faith, Pope described it as “a pilgrimage in the desert of the contemporary world” in which the only essential thing to carry is the Gospel and the faith of the Church of which the documents of the Second Vatican Council are a shining expression, along with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. He went on to say that during the Council there was a dynamic effort regarding the common task of making the truth and the beauty of our faith shine again in our times, without sacrificing it to the needs of the present or holding it tied to the past.
It’s for this reason, the Pope continued, that I have often insisted on “the need to return, as it were, to the letter of the Council, that is, its documents,” to find its authentic spirit. By referring to the documents, we avoid the extremes of anachronistic nostalgia or racing ahead and are able to pick the novelty within the continuity. The Council, the Pope said, “did not formulate anything new in matters of faith, nor did it wish to replace what was ancient. Rather it concerned itself with seeing that the same faith might continue to be lived in the present day, that it might remain a living faith in a world of change.”
But as the Pope reminded those present, the Council Fathers were able to do that because they were sure of their faith and the solid rock on which it was based. Instead, he added, in the years following the Council many people blindly followed the prevailing mentality, putting into question the very pillars of the depository of the faith.
Pope Benedict concluded his homily by entrusting the Year of the Faith to the Mother of God whom, he said, shines like a star on the path of the new evangelisation.