Chinese Regional Bishops' Conference
     
Pastoral Letter for the Year of Faith (2012-2013)
     
"I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly."1
     
"I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved."2
     
     

I. Faith is a call.3 Through the witness and services of the Church, everyone is called to enter into a life of communion with the Blessed Trinity. This call, which is testified in the Scriptures, is given through Christ, the Word made flesh, and by the grace of the Holy Spirit, to all mankind till the end of the world.4 The Church constantly deepens her understanding on this grace gift at the previous Ecumenical Councils, proclaiming it continuously, bearing witness for it and passing it on.

II. "The Church must not hide herself; faith must be explained." 5 On October 11 this year, two great events in the Church history with significant importance coincided: the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the 'Catechism of the Catholic Church'. Seeing this historical coincidence and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed the "Year of Faith" which begins on October 11, 2012 and ends on November 24, 2013, solemnity of Christ the King. We live in "a society of greed that dares less and less to hope°K"6 Pope Benedict XVI is encouraging the whole Church to study the documents of Vatican II and the 'Catechism of the Catholic Church' during these 410 days, in order to deepen the understanding on our faith, strengthen our personal relationship with Christ, be more solidly rooted in our faith and "to bear witness with a living faith, to live the beauty and joy of being Christians." 7 We believe that the "Year of Faith", proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI for the Universal Church, and particularly here in Taiwan, will give rise to a systematic and more comprehensive understanding on the content of our faith. When faith is interiorized, the spiritual experience of the faithful will be deepened, and by cultivating a practical faith and by witnessing, the mission of evangelization will gradually be achieved for we have "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." 8

III. Looking back at Vatican II which took place 50 years ago and looking at the 'Catechism of the
Catholic Church' which was published 20 years ago, one can see God's providential intervention in both anniversaries. Both events firmly marked the unity and uniqueness of the faith of the Church.

The four key Constitutions of Vatican II: on the Word of God (Dei Verbum), on the Church (Lumen Gentium), on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium) and on the Church in the modern World (Gaudium et Spes), are known as the four main pillars of the Council. Thirty years after the Council, the 'Catechism of the Catholic Church' responded in accordance with Vatican II with four main parts: the Creed, the Sacraments, the Ten Commandments, and Christian Prayer.9 Pope Benedict XVI firmly believes and gives the assurance that if the Church is faithful to these two documents, "issues concerning our faith are going forward on the right track." 10

IV. In response to the invitation of Pope Benedict XVI to celebrate the Year of Faith and to the 'Note' with Pastoral Recommendations of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, so as to actively participate in this year of grace, the Bishops' Conference intends to revive the process of rediscovering the faith and its content, and at the same time to re-enkindle the zeal of the faithful, by proposing the following practical recommendations, in addition to those in 'The Door of Faith', 'Note' and 'Guidelines for Celebrating the Year of Faith', in view of the current situation of the Church and the challenges of the Taiwan society. Moreover, we encourage all Christian communities to enthusiastically implement the innovative programs planned for the celebration so that this Year of Faith may become a vital turning point for the Church in Taiwan.

 

1. Deepening the faith

"The Year of Faith will have to see a concerted effort to rediscover and study the fundamental content of faith that receives its systematic and organic synthesis in the Catechism of the Catholic Church." 11 As regards the content of the faith, besides having the Sacred Scripture as foundation and attending continuously Bible studies, faithful of all Christian communities are encouraged to have recourse to seminars and workshops to study and discover anew the riches of the faith in the two aforementioned documents, or to make use of various activities and workshops to acquire their knowledge of their faith and to deepen their understanding on the doctrine of the faith. Reading the Bible is the basic condition to deepen one's faith, whereas learning the Creed is necessary for understanding the faith. For this reason, the Bishops' Conference published the "Guidelines for Celebrating the Year of Faith" which also comprises these two parts: "Reading the Bible Together" and 'Discovering the Creed". We believe that this will be a great help not only to understand the content of the Bible and the content of the faith, but this will also help the faithful develop the habit of reading the Bible and the ability of articulating correctly the faith of the Catholic Church.

Concrete actions:

  • Read the Bible; become familiar with the content of the Gospel
  • Study the Creed; knowing the history of the Creed

2. Interiorizing the faith

"Without the liturgy and the sacraments, the profession of faith would lack efficacy, because it would lack the grace which supports Christian witness."12 The doctrinal teachings of the Church, liturgy and prayer all must be integrated in the moral life of the faithful. Only then can one be purified and obtain the sanctifying fruits for the soul.13 The more one knows God, the more one will become aware of "living in the presence of God". So the knowledge of and the obedience to the Faith must be concretized in one's Christian life in terms of zeal. Through various spiritual practices and devotional exercises such as adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, pilgrimages especially to Marian shrines and churches of which the patron saints are the Martyrs and Saints of China etc., and getting involved in various kinds of charity work and cultivating a special and intimate relationship with God, interiorizing the faith will then become an attitude and an habitual act in daily life.14 This will eventually enable us to communicate our faith "from mouth to ear" with powerful results.

"One thing that will be of decisive importance in this year is retracing the history of our faith - the great witnesses in the history of our faith." 15 Therefore, some well-known people of Catholic faith in Taiwan are becoming increasingly important and valuable. Paul Cardinal Shan (02.12.1923 °– 22.08.2012) is an example, who used to say in his farewell speeches: "The last call of God in my life is be a witness of my faith." This is a virtuous way of interiorizing faith par excellence, an open act of living holy: "I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me."16. Cardinal Shan's testimony has become the best illustration of the dialogue between the Church and society and the best way to draw non-Christians to know Jesus Christ. Another example is the high recognition which the Ministry of the Interior conferred to some late foreign missionaries like Rev. Fr. Istvan Jaschko S.J. (18.08.1911°–17.03.2009), Rev. Fr. Franz Burkhardt S.J. (08.12.1902 °– 23.07.2002 ) and to some other religious Sisters as well for their contributions to the people and society in Taiwan. This certainly is an honor for our local Church and they are models of our faith.17 As a Chinese proverb says, "It is better to step back and weave a net to catch fish rather than merely staring at the fish in a pond." If the faithful meditate more on the content of the Catholic faith, their faith will likewise bear fruits. The third part of the "Guidelines for Celebrating the Year of Faith" contains a wide range of topics for spiritual reflection of which the purpose is to help the faithful discover areas for improvement in their spiritual life.

Concrete actions:

  • Participate in conferences, retreats and other activities during the Year of Faith
  • Examination of conscience; reflecting on issues of faith and moral in a quiet atmosphere

3. Proclaiming the faith

"The Year of Faith is also a good opportunity to intensify the witness of charity."18 Faith and charity are correlative and complementary. They complement each other; a genuine solid faith is shown in concrete acts of love. Although the Church in Taiwan has numerous social works, cultural organizations and educational institutions which are places to proclaim the faith, during this year, aside from relying on these charitable ministries, let the love of our Christian communities and our personal faith also blossom and bear fruit in our concern for the local government and civil society so that they may know our faith and Jesus Christ whom we serve, instead of letting our love be reduced to a secular humanitarian service, like salt without savor, 19 having no effect in evangelization.

The 'Guidelines for Celebrating the Year of Faith' is meant to help the user to grow little by little in his/her faith, to acquire the habit of reading the Sacred Scripture, to deepen the knowledge of the Creed, to reflect often on his/her relationship with God and eventually to become zealous for evangelization. Consequently, the last part of the 'Guidelines for Celebrating the Year of Faith' is on proclaiming the faith. To brothers and sisters who are reading this pastoral letter and using the 'Guidelines for Celebrating the Year of Faith', the last part of the Guidelines provides some simple but feasible means of evangelization of the non-Christians.

Concrete actions:

  • Share with relatives and friends the significance of the Year of Faith
  • Promote interaction between the neighbors/neighborhood and the parishes

V. From the bottom of our hearts we hope that during this grace-filled and exceptional year, each faithful through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, summit of our faith, will encounter the risen and living Lord Jesus Christ, and bear witness with words and deeds by following the concrete directives suggested in the 'Guidelines for Celebrating the Year of Faith' becoming a 'door of faith' for Christ to enter into the lives of others.
     
September 8, 2012, Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Bishops of the Chinese Regional Bishops' Conference
     
     
     
     
Footnotes:
1. Jn 10:10.
2. Jn 10:9.
3. Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, 6.
4. Cf. Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini, 2.
5. Cf. Benedict XVI, Licht der Welt (The Light of the World), p. xv.
6. Cf. Benedict XVI, Licht der Welt (The Light of the World), p. xvii.
7. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Note, 1.
8. Eph 4:5-6.
9. Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Note, Introduction.
10. Cf. Benedict XVI, Licht der Welt (The Light of the World), 3.
11. Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, 11.
12. Ibidem.
13. Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, 11.
14. Cf. Benedict XVI, Licht der Welt (The Light of the World), p. xi.
15. Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, 13.
16. Gal 2:20.
17. Cf. Ph 1:27-30.
18. Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, 14.
19. Cf. Mt 5:13.

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