The upcoming 2012-2013 “Year of Faith” seeks to awaken humanity at a critical moment, Pope Benedict XVI said as he addressed the Church's highest doctrinal office on Jan. 27.
“In vast areas of the earth the faith risks being extinguished, like a flame without fuel,” the Pope told assembled members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who met in a plenary session on Friday.
“We are facing a profound crisis of faith, a loss of a religious sense which represents one of the greatest challenges for the Church today.”
Pope Benedict hopes the Year of Faith, which will run from Oct. 11, 2012 to Nov. 24, 2013, will contribute “to restoring God's presence in this world, and to giving man access to the faith, enabling him to entrust himself to the God who, in Jesus Christ, loved us to the end.”
“The renewal of faith,” the Pope announced, “must, then, be a priority for the entire Church in our time.”
His remarks to the doctrinal congregation came two days after the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, the final day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The Pope spoke about the quest to reunite all Christians, as he acknowledged that ecumenical efforts had not always served to strengthen believers' faith.
Along with the “many good fruits that have emerged from ecumenical dialogue,” there are also “risks of indifference and of false irenicism” – which give the appearance of unity, without regard for truth.
In today's world, the Pope observed, there is an “increasingly widespread” perception “that truth is not accessible to man, and that, therefore, we must limit ourselves to finding rules to improve this world.”
“In this scenario,” he noted, “faith comes to be replaced by a shallow-rooted moralism,” which can cause the dialogue between Christian groups to become superficial.
“By contrast, the core of true ecumenism is faith, in which man encounters the truth revealed in the Word of God.”
Pope Benedict told officials of the doctrine congregation, the office he led before his election to the papacy, that controversial issues cannot be downplayed or ignored in talks between the Catholic Church and other Christian churches and communities.
Matters of faith and morals, he said, “must be faced courageously, while always maintaining a spirit of fraternity and mutual respect … In our dialogues we cannot overlook the great moral questions about human life, the family, sexuality, bioethics, freedom, justice and peace.”
By defending the Church's authentic tradition, he observed, “we defend man and we defend the creation.”