Opening Mass for the Year of Faith

Archbishop John Dew blogs from the Synod on the New Evangelisation and the transmission of the Christian Faith in Rome.

Greetings from Roma.

This morning instead of being in the Synod Hall all of those bishops and others at the Synod joined Pope Benedict and many other bishops and people from around the world for Mass in St Peter's Square. We go back to the Synod Hall this afternoon.

The Mass was held outside in brilliant sunshine and very hot conditions and was to mark the Opening of the Year of Faith and the 50th Anniversary of the Opening of the Second Vatican Council and 20 years since the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The first thing that impressed me very much was the fact that as the bishops vested for Mass I thought I would go and pray at the tomb of Blessed John XXIII, I was thinking of him as he formally opened the Council 50 years ago and what it must have been like. At his tomb, when I got there were already about a hundred bishops, and that number remained constant for about an hour before the Mass began. It was an amazing experience to be there at his tomb and to be thinking about him and all those who gathered 50 years ago, and how their actions, their prayer and their love for the Church changed the Church forever. My impression was that these bishops who have come to Rome for the Synod on the New Evangelisation are hoping to have the same effect and are hoping for a New Pentecost. I prayed for that during the Mass and prayed for the people of the Church of Wellington in particular.

At the end of the Mass Pope Benedict symbolically handed out messages to representatives. These messages were that same as those given to people at the end of the Second Vatican Council in December 1968. We were all given a copy of these messages which I will bring home with me. The introduction said:

On December 8, 1965, at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI addressed the Council Fathers in St Peter's Square at the end of four years of intense work. His words captured the importance of the moment: "We seem to hear from every corner of the world an immense and confused voice, the questions of all those who look towards the Council and ask us anxiously: 'Have you not a word for us? For us rulers? For us intellectuals, workers and artists? And for us women? For us of the younger generation, for us the sick and the poor?' These pleading voices will not remain unneeded."

Fifty years later, the highly significant expressions of support and esteem which the Council Father wished to address to the People of God through a series of messages still resound with undiminished importance.

I found Pope Benedict's gesture of handing out those messages again in 2012 highly significant. It is my hope that this Synod will somehow be able to speak again to those people and others throughout the world who are looking for signs and words of hope and new life.

All good wishes,
+John