The people and the stories making the news in what was a momentous year for the Church
Benedict XVI resigns… The retired Pope told a stunned group of cardinals on the morning of February 11: “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.” The days that followed were a surreal and on the last day of February the inevitable came and we watched the Holy Father leave the Eternal City in a helicopter, rarely to be seen again. The world waited for a new Pope.
Cardinal O’Brien steps aside… The year had got off to a tumultuous start for Catholics and was about to grow more so, especially for the Scottish Church. It was a Saturday evening in late February when Twitter timelines started jumping with news that Cardinal Keith O’Brien had been accused of “inappropriate acts” against three priests and a former priest. O’Brien denied the allegations at first but later admitted “there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal”. His resignation began with immediate effect and Britain was to have no presence at the 2013 papal conclave.
Pope Francis is elected… The election of any Pope in the Church’s history is always significant and the demands on the 266th successor to St Peter were immeasurable. He would be the first Pope for hundreds of years to lead the Church while his predecessor was watching. Furthermore, he would inherit a Church that had been shaken and wounded in more ways than one. But on March 13, when white smoke was greeted with screams and bells, two names subsequently emerged that few would have predicted; Bergoglio and Francis.
World Youth Day… The shy Bishop of Rome who greeted the world in March rapidly became the relaxed and outspoken leader that we know him as now. World Youth Day in August was a unique opportunity following his election to really understand Pope Francis and his message to the Church and the world. Although, it was organsied long before his election, the location of Rio, Brazil was an auspicious one for the world’s first Latin American Pope.
Pope prays for peace in Syria… The usually avuncular Pope Francis turned grave in September as the threat of foreign intervention in Syria loomed following a chemical attack on innocent civilians. During a passionate Angelus address, Pope Francis warned: “There is the judgment of God, and also the judgment of history, upon our actions from which there is no escaping.” He went on to announce that the following Saturday, September 7, would be a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria and 100,000 faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square where Pope Francis led a prayer vigil for peace, and the Church across the world imitated this example.
Francis interviewed… Pope Francis had surprised the world with an impromptu press conference on his return from World Youth Day in August and he revealed even more of himself in a 12,000 word interview with Jesuit priest, Fr Antonio Spadaro in late September. Revelations included the Pope’s prayer habits and his top priority for the Catholic Church; “the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful.”
Canonisations announced… On the last day of September, the long-awaited date of the canonisations of Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II was announced as Divine Mercy Sunday 2014, which will fall on April 27 next year.
Pope visits Assisi… On October 4 Pope Francis travelled to the Italian town of Assisi to pay his respects to his namesake. During the visit he prayed and laid flowers at the shrine of St Francis, who famously rejected his father’s riches and dedicated himself to God.
World consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary… On October 13 Pope Francis consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The consecration was one of the final events of the Year of Faith and also coincided with the anniversary of the final apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, Portugal.
Vatican survey… In preparation for the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in October 2014 on the ‘Pastoral Challenges of the family in the context of evangelisation,’ the Vatican requested that the world’s bishops distributed a survey on marriage and family life as widely as possible. Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general to the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops, asked the world’s bishops’ conferences to distribute the poll “immediately as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes so that input from local sources can be received”.