VATICAN CITY — At the opening of the Year of Consecrated Life, Pope Francis issued a challenge to consecrated men and women, inviting them to lives of courage, communion and joy.

Nearly 50 years after Vatican II’s decree on the adaption and renewal of religious life, Perfectae Caritatis, Pope Francis convoked the year with the aim of expressing the “beauty and preciousness of this unique form” of Christian discipleship.

The Year of Consecrated Life began Nov. 30, the First Sunday of Advent, and concludes Feb. 2, 2016.

Because the start of the 2015 Year of Consecrated Life coincided with Pope Francis’ trip to Turkey, his message was read out in his absence on Nov. 30 by Cardinal João Braz de Aviz at the beginning of Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Through various initiatives in the coming months, Pope Francis told consecrated men and women in his message that their “shining witness of life will be as a lamp,” placed where it can “give light and warmth to all of God’s people.”

Pope Francis renewed his call made in a message to superior generals a year ago to “wake up the world,” illuminating it with their “prophetic and countercurrent witness.”

Consecrated men and women can respond to this invitation, first, by “being joyful,” the Pope said.

“Show everyone that to follow Christ and to put his Gospel into practice fills your hearts with happiness.” This happiness should be contagious, he continued, leading people to seek the reason for this joy, so that they can share in it.

The Holy Father also told consecrated men and women to be “courageous,” reminding them that “he who feels the Lord’s love knows how to place full confidence in him.”

Finally, Pope Francis called consecrated persons to be “deeply rooted in personal communion with God.”

“Show that universal fraternity is not a utopia, but Jesus’ same dream for all humanity,” he said.

In his homily, Cardinal Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, recalled how, like Pope Francis, consecrated persons wish to “entrust the journey and [destination] of the Year of Consecrated Life to Mary.”

The Holy Father “wanted to dedicate the year 2015 to consecrated men and women of the whole Church,” who have been called by the Lord “to a life [that is] closer to the God of love by means of the evangelical councils of poverty, chastity and obedience.”

Coinciding with the First Sunday of Advent, this Year of Consecrated Life, the cardinal continued, commences “in the sign of Christian hope, because the Lord is faithful and, with his mercy, transforms our unfaithfulness.”