Fortunetelling, like all occult practices, is strictly taboo at the Vatican; and prophecy is a rare gift among journalists.
Benedict XVI’s calendar for 2013 is already filling up with planned,
probable or possible events.
Here are 10 to watch for in the news during
the coming year.
Italian elections: When Italians go to the polls
Feb. 24, the big story for most foreign observers will be the fate of a
comeback attempt by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. For the
pope and other Italian bishops, a prime concern will be whether voters
instead elect a center-left majority that could bring Italy into sync
with other major Western European countries — and out of line with
Catholic moral teaching — on such issues as in vitro fertilization and
legally recognized unions of same-sex partners.
New Encyclical: Pope Benedict’s fourth encyclical
will be released in the first half of next year, very possibly in the
spring, according to Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican
spokesman. Treating the subject of faith, the encyclical will complete a
trilogy on the three “theological virtues”; the previous installments
were “Deus Caritas Est” (2005) on charity, and “Spe Salvi” (2007) on
Worldwide solemn eucharistic adoration: On the
feast of Corpus Christi, June 2, Pope Benedict will lead an hour of
eucharistic adoration to be observed simultaneously around the world,
highlighting a traditional devotion that fell largely out of use in the
decades after the Second Vatican Council, but which has lately grown
more popular with the pope’s personal encouragement. This promises to be
one of the most visually impressive of many events scheduled for the
Year of Faith, which ends Nov. 24.
New charter for health care workers: The Vatican
plans to publish an updated version of its 1995 guidelines for Catholic
hospitals, taking into account nearly two decades of technological
developments and political trends in areas including abortion,
euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research and human cloning. The
document, whose target release date is in June, will reflect Catholic
moral teaching on biomedical issues and Catholic social teaching on the
equitable and effective provision of health care.
World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro: Hundreds of
thousands of young Catholics are expected to gather in Rio in July for a
week of events whose highlight will be the presence of the pope,
encouraging them to cultivate their faith and religious identity. This
will be Pope Benedict’s second trip to Brazil, the country with the
world’s largest Catholic population, where he is also likely to address
problems of inequality in a developing economy, as well as the need for
good government and civil peace in Latin America as a whole.
New U.S. ambassador? The post of U.S. ambassador to
the Vatican has been vacant since Miguel H. Diaz stepped down shortly
after the November 2012 elections, and the choice of his replacement
will be especially delicate given current tensions between the church
and the Obama administration. All previous ambassadors have been
Catholics, but it could be hard to find one who has not taken a public
stand over the administration’s plan — strenuously opposed by U.S.
bishops — to require that most Catholic institutions provide insurance
coverage for contraception and sterilizations, which violate the
church’s moral teaching.
New Secretary of State? Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
has served as Pope Benedict’s top aide since 2006. Some commentators,
especially in the Italian press, have accused him of neglecting
necessary administrative reforms and blamed him for mismanagement
documented in the so-called “VatiLeaks” of confidential correspondence.
Pope Benedict reaffirmed his confidence in his longtime collaborator
last July, but the cardinal is already three years past the standard
retirement age of 75, so he could well leave the stage this year. His
replacement would likely be another Italian, perhaps Cardinal Mauro
Piacenza, currently prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy.
New archbishop of Chicago? Cardinal Francis E.
George, who has led the Archdiocese of Chicago since 1997, turned 75 —
the age at which bishops must offer to resign — last Jan. 16. Pleased
with the effects of his recent chemotherapy for kidney cancer, he has
called his prognosis “very, very hopeful” and said that he has no plans
to step down. But he has acknowledged the seriousness of his condition
and the possibility that Pope Benedict might replace him this year.
New cardinals? The number of cardinals under the
age of 80, the only ones eligible to vote for the next pope, will be
down to no more than 110 by Oct. 19. Pope Benedict could choose to boost
their number to the legal limit of 120 by calling a consistory on the
day before the feast of Christ the King (Nov. 24, 2013), a traditional
occasion for the creation of cardinals and the last day of the Year of
Faith. Likely additions to the College of Cardinals include Archbishop
Gerhard L. Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith, and Archbishop Vincent G. Nichols of Westminster, England.
Anniversary of the Edict of Milan: 2013 is the
1,700th anniversary of the Roman Empire’s legal toleration of
Christianity, a watershed moment in the history of the church. Hopes
have dimmed that Pope Benedict and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of
Moscow might jointly commemorate the occasion at the Serbian birthplace
of the Emperor Constantine I, who promulgated the edict. But the pope is
almost certain to mark the anniversary in some way, perhaps taking the
opportunity to highlight one of his primary concerns, threats to
religious liberty around the world today.