2014 was a record year for Pope Francis, which ended with more than 6 million people attending Vatican events, as recorded by the Prefecture of the Papal Household, between general and special audiences, liturgical celebrations and addresses before the midday Angelus.
But it also was a year marked by demanding international trips, carried out with courage and under the sign of dialogue. To begin was that to the Holy Land, like Pope Paul VI, announced as a surprise during the Angelus of Jan. 5 and undertaken from May 24-26 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ecumenical embrace of Pope Montini with Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras.
Then there was the trip to South Korea in August, on the occasion of Asian World Youth Day, a small block to build an ever more robust bridge with Asia and perhaps realize the hoped for opening with China. And there was the visit to Albania on September 21, synthesized in the image of a tearful Francis after the testimony of a priest persecuted by the Communist regime. Also, there were the three days in Turkey at the end of November, a country of Muslim majority, where the Pope prayed at Saint Sophia barefoot, in silence, next to an Imam and where, in the Diyanet, he called for the collaboration of political and religious leaders to fight against every violation of human rights.
Finally, the pastoral visits in Italy, each one marked by a strong word of the Pontiff: the excommunication of the mafiosi, for instance, at Cassano all’Jonio on June 21; the appeal to give back dignity to workers at Campobasso and Isernia on July 5, the “reconciliation” with the Evangelicals at Caserta on July 26, the request for forgiveness “for the victims of all the pointless slaughters” to the Memorial Chapel of Redpuglia on Sept. 13, on the occasion of the centenary of World War I.
It was also a year of important addresses: those to the European Parliament and to the Council of Europe in the lightning visit of November 25 to Strasbourg, to reawaken the conscience of a continent that has now become a tired “grandmother” of faded identity. Or the address, which became an object of different criticisms, to the Popular Movements, in which the Pontiff expressed clearly his positions in terms of Social Doctrine, or that to FAO during the 2nd International Conference on Nutrition.
It was also a year of spiritual gems distributed daily from the altar of Saint Martha’s Chapel; of vigorous appeals against the martyrdom of Christians in the Middle East; of harangues in defence of the family “scorned and mistreated from all sides”; of denunciations against the “scourge” of human trafficking and the even greater one of corruption (see the homily of the Te Deum) of which no one is immune, in the Curia as well as in the Municipality of Rome.
2014 also was a year of geopolitical manoeuvres of historical significance, such as the “defrosting” of relations between the USA and Cuba, in which the Pope, as indicated by the two Presidents, Obama and Castro, participated actively; of international agreements, such as the recent Treaty to overcome every form of slavery, signed by representatives of all the world religions; of little internal readjustments at the Holy See – especially in the financial and economic offices, carried out thanks to the help and suggestion of the Council of the Nine Cardinals, the ‘C9.’
It was also the year of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family in October, the “aperitif” of the forthcoming Ordinary Synod of 2015, accompanied for months by a media bustle that reduced the ample discussion to the question of the Sacraments for divorced and remarried persons and to the “fights” between conservative and progressive cardinals.
In connection with cardinals, 2014 saw 19 red birettas created in the Consistory of February 22, outstanding among which are the names of two Secretaries: the Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, and the historic private Secretary of John XXIII, Loris Capovilla.
This last appointment occurred in fact by a fortunate coincidence in the year in which the “good Pope” was elevated to the honor of the altar. Together with him, another “giant of the faith” John Paul II, proclaimed Saint in a canonization ceremony on April 27, which has remained in history as “the event of four Popes, because of the presence of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and which gathered in Rome close to 1.5 million faithful from all over the world. Of a lesser number but animated by the same enthusiasm were the pilgrims who came to render homage to Pope Paul VI, beatified by Francis on October 19 at the end of the works of the Synod.
An exacting year, therefore, but 2015 does not promise to be less so. Some events have already been noted that will see the Pope as protagonist, month after month. It begins in January, Jan. 12-19, with the trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, his second to Asia, his seventh in the world.
It will continue with a “February of fire” in which the C9 will proceed to the launching of a draft of the reform of the Roman Curia Feb. 9-11. Following in subsequent days Feb. 12-13 will be a closed-door meeting in which a new order of the Pontifical Councils will be analyzed, possibly regrouped in two maxi Congregations: one in which the dicasteries for the family and the laity and the Academy for Life will come together and the other having within it Justice and Peace, Migrants, “Cor Unum” and Health Workers. Finally, Feb. 14-15 there will be the second Consistory for the creation of 20 new cardinals.
March will mark a new visit of the Pope to an Italian diocese: Naples, where he will go on the 21st of the month for the Feast of its Patron Saint Januarius. First, however, Francis – as JP II did in his time – will stop at the Shrine of Pompeii. And, on June 21, Bergoglio will go to Turin for the bicentenary of the birth of Saint John Bosco and the exposition of the Shroud.
Instead, there is no confirmation of the dates of the trip to France at the invitation of President Hollande. It will almost certainly take place in August and leaked from the program it seems that Francis will visit three cities: Paris, Lisieux and Lourdes.
Everything is ready, however, for the trip to Philadelphia from September 22-27, for the 8th World Meeting of Families. On this occasion, the Pope might also go to New York and Washington for two much anticipated addresses to the US Congress and the United Nations.
October will be the month dedicated to the Ordinary Synod on the theme “The Vocation and the Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World,” planned from the 4th to the 25th, of which the Lineamenta [Guidelines] and questionnaires are already out for parishes worldwide.
2015 might end with two other international trips: to Paraguay, on November 15, where the Pope hopes to visit Our Lady of the Miracles of Caacupe, and to Uganda, a trip that is not confirmed even if the canonization of the Ugandan martyrs is suitably postponed in the expectation of a hoped-for visit of the Holy Father.
This, therefore, is the year that is foreseen for Pope Francis. However, considering that about half the events that took place in 2014 were organized at the last minute, perhaps there are many more surprises in store from the unpredictable Pontiff.[Original Text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]