The goal of the Year of Faith has been to educate Catholics about church teachings and strengthen their faith. If it has succeeded, the credit ultimately lies less with its special projects and events than with the historic papal transition that occurred in its course.
- 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.
But a different pope means a different personality and a different style, even when teaching or preaching on the same themes. In addition, a new pope tends to draw more visitors to the Vatican because many Catholics are eager to meet their new shepherd.
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 November 13, more than 8 million Catholics had come to Rome and officially registered as Year of Faith pilgrims at a visitors' centre 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 on Sunday, 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.