A procession of over 400 bishops from around the world will form a key part of the ceremony to open the Church’s Year of Faith on Oct. 11, a day that will also mark the 50th anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council.
“When you look at the television images of Vatican II from 50 years ago, first of all you see a big procession with all the bishops. We will repeat the same” procession, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, told EWTN News Oct. 9.
“It should be a moment of prayer, a moment of spirituality, and also a moment when we can take into serious consideration the teachings of Vatican II,” he said.
At an Oct. 9 Vatican press conference, Archbishop Fisichella unveiled the details of Thursday’s opening ceremony in St. Peter’s Square, promising it will be “deeply impregnated” with symbols of the Second Vatican Council, which lasted from 1962-65.
“Extracts from the four conciliar constitutions will be read out as expressions of the Council’s work and of renewal in the life of the Church,” he explained.
This opening part of the ceremony will be followed by the grand procession of bishops. They will then concelebrate an open-air Mass with Pope Benedict XVI. Among their ranks will be 14 of the 70 surviving bishops who participated in the Second Vatican Council.
“In fact,” Archbishop Fisichella revealed, “on Friday the Holy Father will give an audience to this small group of bishops in order to remember the beautiful days of the Council.”
Following the episcopal procession, the Sacred Scriptures will be enthroned, just as they were before the solemn sessions of the Second Vatican Council in St. Peter’s Basilica. This was done to “remind everyone that they were at the service of the Word of God, which lies at the heart of the Church’s activities,” the archbishop explained.
He also disclosed that the same lectern and copy of the Sacred Scriptures that were used 50 years ago will be used in this week’s ceremony.
After the Mass, Pope Benedict XVI will re-enact his predecessor Pope Paul VI’s conclusion of the Second Vatican Council in 1965 by issuing a series of “Messages to the People of God,” which will include words for rulers, scientists, artists, women, workers and the young.
The 2012 version feature people like the American journalist Kathryn Lopez of the National Review Online receive the message to women, while the Scottish composer James MacMillan will be entrusted with the message to artists.
This ceremony, said Archbishop Fisichella, will “indicate that the teachings of the Council retain all their validity and deserve to be better known and studied.”
As well as the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, the Year of Faith also recalls the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
To mark this event, Pope Benedict will conclude Thursday’s ceremony by presenting a special edition of the Catechism to two representatives of catechists, one of whom will be Caroline Fairey of the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, England.