Pastoral Letter 2012 of Bishop Peter Bürcher

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On January 6, 2012, the Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sent a very interesting note with some pastoral suggestions for the Year of Faith to the entire Catholic Church. It also concerns us here in Iceland:

“With the Apostolic Letter of 11 October 2011, Porta fidei, Pope Benedict XVI declared a Year of Faith. This year will begin on 11 October 2012, on the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, and will conclude on 24 November 2013, the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King. This year offers to all the faithful a good opportunity to understand more profoundly that the foundation of Christian faith is “the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” Founded on the encounter with the Risen Christ, faith can be rediscovered in its wholeness and all its splendor. “In our days too faith is a gift to rediscover, to cultivate and to bear witness to” because the Lord “grants each one of us to live the beauty and joy of being Christians.”

The beginning of the Year of Faith coincides with the anniversaries of two great events which have marked the life of the Church in our days: the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, called by Blessed Pope John XXIII (11 October 1962), and the twentieth of the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, given to the Church by Blessed Pope John Paul II (11 October 1992). The next General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to be held in October 2012, will have as its theme: The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.

The Year of Faith is intended to contribute to a renewed conversion to the Lord Jesus and to the rediscovery of faith, so that the members of the Church will be credible and joy-filled witnesses to the Risen Lord in the world of today - capable of leading those many people who are seeking it to the “door of faith.” This “door” opens wide man’s gaze to Jesus Christ, present among us “always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). He shows us how “the art of living” is learned “in an intense relationship with him.” “Through his love, Jesus Christ attracts to himself the people of every generation: in every age he convokes the Church, entrusting her with the proclamation of the Gospel by a mandate that is ever new. Today too, there is a need for stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelization in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith.”

“I know him in whom I have believed” (2 Tm 1:12). These words of St Paul help us to understand that faith is “first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed.”

The Year of Faith “will also be a good opportunity to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist.” In the Eucharist, mystery of faith and source of the new evangelization, the faith of the Church is proclaimed, celebrated and strengthened. All of the faithful are invited to participate in the Eucharist actively, fruitfully and with awareness, in order to be authentic witnesses of the Lord.

Faith is both a personal and a communal act: it is a gift from God that is lived in the communion of the Church and must be communicated to the world. Every initiative for the Year of Faith should be designed to aid in the joyous rediscovery of the faith and its renewed transmission.The recommendations provided here have the goal of inviting all of the members of the Church to work so that this Year may be a special time in which we, as Christians, may share that which is most dear to us: Christ Jesus, the Redeemer of mankind, Universal King, “the leader and perfecter of faith” (Hb 12: 2).

Dear Brothers and Sisters, may this advice already help us to attain a stronger and more joyful faith in Jesus Christ! I recommend to each of you to recite this short and beautiful prayer as often as possible from now on: Yes, Lord, I believe, but strengthen my faith! Amen.

+ Peter Bürcher, Bishop