Tags: C9 | Jorge Bergoglio | Pope Francis | Sri Lanka | Philippines | U.S.

Additional Challenges Await Pope Francis in 2015

By Friday, 26 December 2014 10:48 AM Current | Bio | Archive

The coming year will be considerably more challenging for Pope Francis than the one just passed. A new encyclical in the spring, a visit to the United States in the fall, and a controversial synod on the family October are just some of the expected highlights.

In September, the Bishop of Rome will travel to Philadelphia to take part in the 8th World Meeting of Families, which will be held Sept. 22-27. It will be Jorge Bergoglio’s first ever visit to the U.S.

The program has yet to be published, but the Pontiff is expected to celebrate a large open-air Mass in the city. He is also scheduled to travel to New York to address the United Nations and probably visit Washington D.C., during which he is expected to accept a very rare invitation to address a joint session of Congress.

One of Pope Francis’ first major engagements of 2015 will be to hold a consistory of new cardinals Feb. 14-15. At least 10 new prelates are likely to be elevated to the College of Cardinals, within the quota of 120 voting cardinals under the age of 80. Cardinal-making consistories are significant as they offer a pope the chance to ensure his successor is of similar mind — and in the case of Pope Francis — likely to continue his program for reform.

American Archbishops Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, José Gomez of Los Angeles, and Blasé Cupich of Chicago are considered candidates for a red hat, although their predecessors are still under 80 and so able to vote in a conclave — which may mean they are passed over this time around.

February will be a busy month for Francis and will include a meeting of the Council of Cardinals — the so-called C9 — for reform of the Roman Curia Feb. 9-11. Major reforms, including a new constitution for the Curia, may be announced later in the year.

The Pope’s first visit outside Italy in 2015 will be to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, Jan. 12-19. The former will be somewhat perilous, coming shortly after presidential elections in the country. Many Sri Lankans are urging the Pope to postpone the visit to avoid it being exploited for political purposes, especially by the ruling party desperate to cling to power.

On Jan. 16, the Pope will arrive in Manila for a four-day visit where he is expected to draw record crowds, exceeding the 5 million who came to see St. John Paul II in 1995.

The Pope has said he will also visit three Latin American countries in 2015. Bolivia, Chile and Cuba are possible destinations — but not Argentina due to elections there. Francis has also said he plans to include a trip to Africa next year, possibly Uganda.

Within Italy, the Pope’s pastoral visits will include a trip to Turin June 21, where he will venerate the Holy Shroud. The famous relic, which increasing numbers believe to be the shroud placed around Jesus after his crucifixion, is being displayed in Turin cathedral from April 19 to June 24.

The Pope’s new encyclical, on human ecology, will be published sometime between February and April. The document, addressed to Catholics worldwide, will be Francis’ first. He published one on faith last year but it was largely the work of Benedict XVI. This one is expected to link environmental concerns with crises in the family, and sources say it is expected to make up a significant part of Francis’ speech to the UN in September.

Arguably the greatest challenge for the Pope this coming year will be calming and reassuring a flock perturbed by the upcoming synod. The 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the family will take place Oct. 4-25 and follows a controversial extraordinary synod in October this year.

The chances of unsightly public confrontations remain high as figures intent on usurping Church doctrine on key hot-button issues push their agenda. The meeting may, however, signal their last hurrah as awareness grows of such attempts, resulting in a possible push-back.

The synod will conclude with an apostolic exhortation, a final summary document, by Pope Francis, although that is not expected to appear until 2016.

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 — Click Here Now.

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The coming year will be considerably more challenging for Pope Francis than the one just passed.
C9, Jorge Bergoglio, Pope Francis, Sri Lanka, Philippines, U.S.
Friday, 26 December 2014 10:48 AM
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