As Pope Benedict XVI says goodbye to 2009, his 2010 calendar is already being filled.
On the horizon for the next 12 months are four papal trips; a Middle East Synod of Bishops; the expected publication of a document on the Bible and the second volume of “Jesus of Nazareth;” a major gathering of the world’s priests; a pilgrimage to the Shroud of Turin; a probable consistory and several likely canonizations and beatifications — including that of Pope John Paul II.
In April Pope Benedict marks five years in office, and the event will no doubt be marked by modest festivities and lots of analysis on the accomplishments and priorities of the German pontiff, who turns 83 the same month, according to Catholic News Service.
Several of his endeavors are works in progress, like the ongoing negotiations with the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X and the effort to bring its leaders back into full communion.
January brings traditional papal liturgies and meetings, including an encounter Jan. 11 with the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican. Six days later, Pope Benedict will visit Rome’s synagogue for the first time, an event that has added drama since the pope’s recent decision to advance Pope Pius XII’s sainthood cause.
The Our Lady of Fatima statue will be visiting San Antonio Jan. 3-23. With the blessing of Archbishop Jose H. Gomez the statue will visit different parishes throughout San Antonio as well as schools, convents, and monasteries. Below is the schedule of all the parishes where the statue will visit. Go to the Web site www.pilgrimvirginstatue.com for additional information.
– Jan. 3 — Our Lady of Perpetual Help — 618 South Grimes — 10:45 a.m.-7:15 p.m.
– Jan. 4 — Church of the Holy Spirit – 758 West Ramsey — 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m.
– Jan. 6 — San Juan de los Lagos — 3231 El Paso – 8 a.m.-10:15 p.m.
– Jan. 8 — Our Lady of Mt. Carmel – 1855 Leal Road — Noon- 5 p.m.
– Jan. 9 — Immaculate Conception — 314 Merida — Noon-5 p.m.
– Jan. 10 — St. Cecilia- — 125 West Whittier — 10 a.m.- 7 p.m.
– Jan. 11 — St. Matthews — 10703 Wursbach Road — 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
– Jan. 13 — Antonian College Preparatory High School — 6425 West Avenue — 8:30 a.m.-3:15 p.m.
– Jan. 14 — St. Gerard — 1523 Iowa
– Jan. 15 — St. Mary’s Cathedral – Austin
– Jan. 17 — St. Jerome — 7955 Real Road
– Jan. 18 – Carmelite Sisters Convent — 2006 Martin Luther King Drive
– Jan. 19 — St. Anthony — 16505 Kilowatt Rd., Elmendorf
– Jan. 20 — St. John Berchman (Chapel) — 1147 Cupples — 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
– Jan. 21 — St. Agnes – 814 Ruiz
– Jan. 22 — Our Lady of Perpetual Help — 618 S. Grimes — 9:30 a.m.-7:15 p.m.
– Jan. 23 — Our Lady of Perpetual Help — 618 S. Grimes — 7:55 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Seniors at Villa de San Antonio, a Catholic senior living community in the Medical Center area, want to be among the first San Antonians to welcome the New Year. Beginning at 4 p.m. they will enjoy a cocktail hour that kicks off an elegant New Year’s Eve party beginning at 5 p.m. Not only will the residents be dressed in after five attire, but some residents and staff will be dressed in keeping with the Roaring ‘20s party theme. More than 100 people are expected to participate.
The Villa de San Antonio cantina will become a speakeasy for the evening, and residents will need to provide the password to enter. Awards will be given for the best dressed and the winner of the Charleston contest. Also beginning at 5 p.m. and continuing on the hour, residents will observe a New Year’s Eve tradition from another country. For example, in Italy, the tradition is eating lentils. Residents will be served black eye peas, combining the Italian observance with a popular Southern New Year’s Eve tradition.
The Vatican will decide how to proceed with the young woman responsible for knocking down Pope Benedict XVI during Christmas Eve Mass only after it reviews medical and Vatican security reports, said Vatican spokesmen.
Critical to the prosecutor’s decision will be the doctors’ evaluation concerning the woman’s mental state and whether or not she was of sound mind, Father Ciro Benedettini, vice director of the Vatican press office, told Catholic News Service Dec. 28. The prosecutor will also take into consideration eyewitness accounts, he said.
When the Vatican prosecutor has all the information, including a medical evaluation, he can recommend acquitting her of any crime, handing her over to Italian or Swiss authorities, or handing down a sentence, Father Benedettini said.
The prosecutor will send his recommendation to the Vatican tribunal, which will then make the final ruling, he said.
Susanna Maiolo, 25, jumped a security barrier at the start of the Dec. 24 liturgy as Pope Benedict processed into St. Peter’s Basilica. As Vatican security guards tackled her to the ground, she was able to pull on the pope’s vestments, causing him to lose his balance and tumble to the marble floor.
The woman, who has Italian and Swiss citizenship, was taken away by papal guards. She was not armed but she showed signs of mental instability, according to a Vatican statement Dec. 25.
Immediately after the incident the pope was back on his feet and appeared unharmed. The Mass and other papal events took place as scheduled.
Maiolo was transferred Dec. 25 to a psychiatric hospital in Subiaco, about 45 miles outside of Rome, for what the Vatican called mandatory clinical treatment.
While the pope was unharmed by the attack, French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, 87, suffered a broken hip and spent Christmas in Rome’s Gemelli hospital. He underwent surgery and received a total hip replacement Dec. 27. The operation was successful and the cardinal’s condition was good, the Vatican said in a written statement later that day.
Vatican sources confirmed that Maiolo was the same person who attempted to rush the pope at midnight Mass in 2008, but had been tackled by guards before she could reach the pontiff.
Asked what kind of precautions the Vatican was going to take in order to prevent Maiolo from having an opportunity to repeat something similar at future papal events, Father Benedettini told CNS that for security reasons the Vatican would not reveal what strategies it intended to take.
The debate over health care reform topped the religious news stories of 2009, and Pope Benedict XVI and President Barack Obama were again the top newsmakers, according to the annual poll conducted by Catholic News Service.
The continued effects of the recession on the U.S. and global economy took second place among the 30 news stories on the ballot. The controversy over Obama’s commencement address at the University of Notre Dame in May and the decision to award the president with an honorary degree came in third.
Most first-place votes on the newsmakers list went to either Obama or Pope Benedict, although the pope was the clear winner this year. The late Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts was a distant third.
The poll was the 48th annual survey conducted by CNS.
Last year, editors chose the election of the first African-American U.S. president and controversy surrounding the role of Catholic voters in the campaign as the top religious story of the year. Pope Benedict and Obama were the top newsmakers.
Rounding out the top five for religious news stories were the papal encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”) and the Vatican-ordered visitation of U.S. women religious, which was to continue into 2010.
Pope Benedict took first place in the CNS poll for his travels to the Middle East and Africa, his outreach to Anglicans and traditionalist Catholics and his proclamation of a Year for Priests. Obama, whose first year as president included the Notre Dame controversy, his reception of the Nobel Peace Prize and a fight over abortion funding in health reform legislation, was second.
The next three top newsmakers were separated by only one vote each. The late Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts was third, new Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor fourth and Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, named to head the New York Archdiocese in February, was fifth.
The current health care reform bill is “deficient” and should not move forward without “essential changes,” the chairmen of three committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said Dec. 22.
The chairs, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, of the Committee on Migration, stated their position in a December 22 letter to senators working to pass the Senate version of health reform legislation.
The legislative proposal now advancing “violates the longstanding federal policy against the use of federal funds for elective abortions and health plans that include such abortions — a policy upheld in all health programs covered by the Hyde Amendment as well as in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program — and now in the House-passed ‘Affordable Health Care for America Act,’” the bishops said.
They said that the health care bill passed by the House of Representatives “keeps in place the longstanding and widely supported federal policy against government funding of elective abortions and plans that include elective abortions” and “ensures that where federal funds are involved, people are not required to pay for other people’s abortions.” The Senate bill does not maintain this commitment.
In the Senate version, “federal funds will help subsidize, and in some cases a federal agency will facilitate and promote, health plans that cover elective abortions,” the bishops said. “All purchasers of such plans will be required to pay for other people’s abortions in a very direct and explicit way, through a separate premium check payment designed solely to pay for abortion. There is no provision for individuals to opt out of this abortion payment in federally subsidized plans, so people will be required by law to pay for other people’s abortions.” The public consensus against abortion funding, said the bishops, “is borne out by many opinion surveys, including the new Quinnipiac University survey of Dec. 22 showing 72 percent opposed to public funding of abortion in health care reform legislation.”
“This bill also continues to fall short of the House-passed bill in preventing governmental discrimination against health care providers that decline involvement in abortion,” the bishops said.
They also called for all immigrants, regardless of status, to be able purchase a health insurance plan with their own money.
“Without such access, many immigrant families would be unable to receive primary care and be compelled to rely on emergency room care,” the bishops said. “This would harm not only immigrants and their families, but also the general public health.”
Tickets for Christmas Eve Mass with Pope Benedict XVI were in high demand and short supply this year.
There were not enough tickets available for all the people who wanted to attend the liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica, according to the Vatican.
The basilica holds 7,000 people for Christmas Eve Mass, which this year begins at 10 p.m. Those without tickets were being invited to take outdoor seats in St. Peter’s Square and follow the ceremony on two large video screens.
Although the total request for free tickets was not available, the Vatican stopped accepting written requests early in December. Some people living in Rome who have traditionally received tickets were informed by fax that they could not be accommodated this year.
The Church of Santa Susanna, the parish for Americans in Rome, also had to stop accepting requests for tickets to the papal Christmas Eve Mass because the large demand made it impossible to guarantee fulfilling all the requests.
In signing the decrees Dec. 19, the pope confirmed the recommendations of Vatican officials who have studied the causes for several years. Both popes can be beatified once a miracle is attributed to their intercession.
That does not mean, however, that both popes would be beatified together. There is no Vatican timetable for verification of a miracle, and in some cases sainthood causes have waited many years for that step.
In 2005, Pope Benedict set Pope John Paul on the fast track to beatification by waiving the normal five-year waiting period for the introduction of his sainthood cause. That seemed to respond to the “Santo subito!” (“Sainthood now!”) banners that were held aloft at Pope John Paul’s funeral.
In April, the church will mark the fifth anniversary of Pope John Paul’s death. The initial diocesan phase of his sainthood cause was completed in April 2007.
In November 2008, a team of theological consultors to the Congregation for Saints’ Causes began studying the 2,000-page “positio,” the document that made the case for Pope John Paul’s beatification. After their favorable judgment, the cardinal and bishop members of the sainthood congregation met last month and gave their go-ahead for the decree of heroic virtues.
The presumed miracle for the Polish-born pontiff, meanwhile, is being studied in a five-step process that involves medical experts, a medical board, theological consultors, the members of the congregation and, finally, Pope Benedict.
According to church officials, the Vatican’s sainthood congregation had assembled the necessary documents for Pope Pius’s beatification cause in 2004. Subsequent evaluations by historians, theologians and a panel of cardinals and bishops resulted in the recommendation in 2007 to proceed with the advancement of the beatification process.
While welcoming a “good-faith effort” by Sen. Robert Casey to improve the treatment of abortion in the Senate’s health reform legislation, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities said a “fundamental problem” remains that makes the bill morally unacceptable.
According to Catholic News Service, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops would continue to oppose the Senate legislation “unless and until” it is amended to “comply with long-standing Hyde restrictions on federal funding of elective abortions and health plans that include them.”
Casey, a Catholic Democrat from Pennsylvania, has proposed language that he says would permit individuals to opt out of abortion coverage in any policy offered in a health-care exchange and would require segregation of funds in the exchange so that federal subsidies are not used to pay for abortions.
But Cardinal DiNardo said Casey’s “good-faith effort to allow individuals to ‘opt out’ of abortion coverage actually underscores how radically the underlying Senate bill would change abortion policy.” “Excluding elective abortions from overall health plans is not a privilege that individuals should have to seek as the exception to the norm,” he added. “In all other federal health programs, excluding abortion coverage is the norm.”
The cardinal also praised provisions in the Casey amendment to improve conscience protections and to support pregnant women and adoptive parents.
Santa is making a special visit to the kindergarten classes at Rhodes Elementary School on Dec. 18, thanks to the folks at Villa de San Antonio, a senior living community located just down the street from the school.
Thomas Swift, 78, and a Villa de San Antonio (VSA) resident, has spent 40 years portraying Santa for kids at churches, schools and other community organizations.
For the third year, he will bring the love and excitement that only Santa can generate to 100 kindergarteners at Rhodes. He will distribute stockings filled with toys provided by VSA.
Swift began his role as Santa years ago when he worked at a downtown hospital. When he became a deacon at his Catholic Church, more requests came. “I’ve always loved bringing joy to children,” he said. “It is something that I can give to them. Of course, Santa also brings smiles to the faces of older people, too.” After visiting with the students at Rhodes, he is packing his Santa suit and heading for Estes Park, Colo., to celebrate the holidays with his six daughters and their families. It’s a special trip for him. “I’m going to be Santa for my first great granddaughter,” he said.