Pope Benedict arrives to start Year of Faith in 2012.
Here is an unsigned editorial from the Nov. 21 issue of The Catholic Register, the Toronto-based national Catholic Canadian newspaper.
The Year of Faith is ending and what a remarkable year it was.
It saw faith sown in many forms and in many places, but in particular it provided two remarkable examples of living faith. First came the stunning resignation of Pope Benedict XVI followed by the inspired election of the first Pope Francis. In their own ways, these two very different men were the faces of the Year of Faith.
Pope Benedict launched the Year of Faith in response to what he called the threats of secularism, individualism and relativism. Catholics were hardly immune from "these dangers," he said, and in today's consumer society faith too often is lived passively if lived at all. To relieve the tension between traditional faith and modern life, Pope Benedict urged Catholics to reinvigorate their faith lives and then spread Christian joy and hope to help mend a wounded culture.
A central component of faith, Pope Benedict taught, is courage. Christians need courage to remain faithful amid the temptations of these anti-religious times, courage to make their voices heard in the public square and, ultimately, courage to trust in God's will. And so four months into the Year of Faith Pope Benedict, after much prayerful reflection, made the stunning but courageous decision to resign the papacy so that a younger man could carry on the important work of leading the church.
Pope Benedict's papacy epitomized wisdom, compassion and, above all, a deep, abiding faith. He said he reached his difficult decision after repeatedly examining "my conscience before God." It was a decision that said the papacy isn't about the person who wears the ring of St. Peter but about the greater mission of the church. And that mission, embracing and spreading God's word, is what inspired Pope Benedict to initiate a Year of Faith.
Pope Francis embraced that message. The first eight months of his papacy have been about inspiring Catholics to dedicate their lives to the church's core teachings. Almost daily, by his words and actions, Pope Francis has embodied the spirit of the Year of Faith. More than simply preaching how to live, he has shown by example how Christians must inject humility, charity and faith into their workaday world. His message is that, more than just knowing the catechism, being a Christian means living like Christ, "thinking like him, acting like him, loving like him."
And that entails spreading Christian faith beyond the walls of churches, schools and other institutions. "It is vital for the church not to shut itself off, not to feel satisfied with what it has already achieved," he said. "If this happens, the church becomes ill ... and is weakened."
The foundation of a strong church is faith, as demonstrated by these two popes in one remarkable year.