A new encyclical, a visit to Rio, and possibly two consistories of new cardinals are just some of the highlights expected for Pope Benedict XVI this coming year.
Over the past few months, the pontiff has been putting the finishing touches to his fourth encyclical, expected to be published during Lent. Dedicated to the subject of faith, and published during a special “Year of Faith” for the Catholic Church, Vatican sources say the Pope’s letter to Catholics and to the world will reflect on what it means to be a Christian today, the role of faith in the life of man and society, and the value of Christian truths.
Coming at a time when, in many respects, the world is in crisis, the Pope is also expected to share some fitting words of wisdom and encouragement on the power of faith.
It will follow three other encyclicals of Pope Benedict: two on the other theological virtues of charity "Deus Caritas Est" (2005) and hope "Spe Salvi" (2007), and a “social encyclical” — Caritas in Veritate (2009) — on how love and truth are essential to building the common good.
Although he will turn 86 in April and is looking increasingly frail, the Pope continues to travel. He has pledged to visit Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day in June — a week-long meeting of hundreds of thousands of young Catholics that takes place every two to three years. The Pope will be there giving his support, encouraging youth to enter into a relationship with Christ.
But so far, this will be his only visit outside Italy. Pope Benedict has been cutting back on his long-haul travels, making just two trips in 2012, but he may also visit Panama and Colombia. The Vatican has said the Pope is considering making visits to these countries in the coming year although nothing has yet been confirmed.
During 2012, the Pope emphasized the new evangelization — an initiative aimed at re-evangelizing the increasingly secular West — and this is likely to be even more of a focus this year. During this Year of Faith, which is the Pope’s own initiative, many large and unprecedented events are planned.
In May, he will welcome every Catholic movement in existence in St. Peter’s Square. The groups and institutions, such as Communion and Liberation and the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, have millions of followers. They seek to reflect the zeal of the early Church, building communities and undertaking initiatives aimed at bringing the Catholic faith to others.
June will be one of the Pope’s busiest months. He will be holding the first-ever meeting with all his nuncios, or papal ambassadors, with the aim of discussing and rethinking the role and functions of Vatican diplomacy in the modern world.
The Pope is also to host at the Vatican a world meeting of pro-life activists that month and, for the first time, lead an hour of Eucharistic adoration. A traditional devotion, it involves adoring and meditating on what Catholics believe is the real presence of Christ. The tradition fell out of favor after the Second Vatican Council, but has seen a resurgence partly thanks to the Pope’s personal encouragement.
In October, the Pope also will hold a meeting for families worldwide in Rome to reflect on how faith helps them overcome everyday challenges. He may also break a record that month when he canonizes 802 holy men and women in the same ceremony: 800 martyrs from Otranto, Italy, killed in 1480 out of hatred for the faith, plus the first Colombian saint, Mother Laura and Mexican nun, Blessed Mother Maria Guadalupe.
Following on from his foray into Twitter, the Pope is also expected to extend his use of digital social media to help spread the message of the Gospel. In a few weeks, he will begin tweeting in Chinese and Latin.
Vatican sources have also told Newsmax that the Pope may take the rare step of holding two cardinal-making consistories in 2013 — as he did in 2012. The number of cardinals under the age of 80, the only ones eligible to vote for a new Pope, will be 10 short of the maximum limit of 120 by Oct. 19.
Sources say he may choose new cardinals in both February, and then again in November. Last year, the Pope held two consistories – a regularity that was relatively common up until the 1950s. Vatican officials say smaller, more regular consistories are easier and more efficient to handle.
Despite his age, Benedict XVI is still in relatively good health. In an interview shortly before Christmas with a German newspaper, his 88 year-old brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, said apart from some trouble walking, the Pope’s health “was in order” and that he was “relatively fresh and constantly taking exercise.”
That helps him “stay fresh” and prevents a “dampening of his spirits,” he said.
Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek, and The Sunday Times. Read more reports from Edward Pentin
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