Pope Benedict announced the beginning of the Year of Faith, which will last until Nov. 24, 2013. The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Gallup marked the start of the Year of Faith with a mass Thursday morning.
Thursday marked the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, also called Vatican II. It was also the 20th anniversary of the Cathecism of the Catholic Church.
The Year of Faith is an opportunity for Catholics who have experienced a crisis of faith to renew their commitment and enter into a deeper relationship with Jesus.
"We want this Year to arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with conviction, with confidence and hope. It will also be a good opportunity to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy," Pope Benedict XVII wrote in his letter entitled "Porta Fidei," or Door of Faith.
Pope Benedict wrote that the anniversary of Vatican II and the 20th anniversary of the publication of the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" provides an opportunity to help people understand the sacred texts of the Catholic Church.
Vatican II marked a major transformation in the Roman Catholic Church. The council met from 1962 until 1965 and issued a series of 16 documents. Vatican II changed the language masses would be held in from Latin to vernacular and also changed the way the priest stood during mass. Before Vatican II, priests stood with their backs to the congregation, but afterwards they were encouraged to face the parishioners.
The Church hopes the Year of Faith will strengthen its members' faith.
"We make it our prayer that believers' witness of life may grow in credibility. To rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed, and to reflect on the act of faith, is a task that every believer must make his own, especially in the course of this Year," Pope Benedict wrote.