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Year of two popes leaves indelible mark on Year of Faith

Vatican City, 16 Nov 2013: The goal of the Year of Faith, which concludes Nov. 24, has been to educate Catholics about basic church teachings, strengthen their faith and inspire them to share it with others. If it has succeeded, as organizers say it has, the credit ultimately lies less with its special projects and events than with the historic papal transition that occurred in its course, reports Catholic News Service.

"The election of Pope Francis has given new visibility to the core teachings of Jesus Christ, which ultimately is what the Year of Faith sought to achieve," Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told Catholic News Service.

Both Pope Benedict XVI, who opened the celebration in October 2012, and Pope Francis dedicated their Year of Faith talks to explaining the creed, looking at modern cultural challenges to faith, recognizing faith as a gift, and urging Catholics to proclaim God's love and share the Gospel.

Eight months after Pope Francis' March 13 election, the number of visitors to the Vatican continues to be higher than usual, which most observers attribute to his easy rapport with a crowd and his touching focus on children and the sick.

By Nov. 13, more than 8 million Catholics had come to Rome and officially registered as Year of Faith pilgrims at a visitors' center just down the street from St. Peter's Basilica. But Father Francesco Spinelli, an official at the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, said the real number of participants in Year of Faith events at the Vatican is far higher, "because most come without registering at all."

Pope Francis will close the Year of Faith with Mass Nov. 24, the feast of Christ the King. The evening before, he will preside over the Rite of Acceptance, a brief ceremony in which adults who had been inquiring about the Catholic faith officially become catechumens preparing for baptism.

The pope also plans to publish an apostolic exhortation on the new evangelization, promoting what he calls a "culture of encounter" between Christ and humanity and among believers themselves. The document and the ceremony with future Catholics will underline a key point of Pope Francis' teaching: Christ not only knocks on hearts to get inside, he knocks on the doors of churches asking to be let out into the world.

Archbishop Jose Octavio Ruiz Arenas, secretary of the new evangelization council, told Catholic News Service that Pope Benedict proposed the Year of Faith "to give a strong push to the new evangelization" and to help Catholics "recognize the joy that comes from the great gift of faith" and from knowing that God loves them so much that he sent his son to save them.

Pope Francis' election during the Year of Faith can be seen as "providential," the archbishop said. "The personality of Pope Francis, his closeness, his use of language that is simple and profound, his desire to go out and meet people, has captivated people's hearts.Source: CNS


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