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How can I possibly summarize the year 2020 A.D.? It has been a painful, interesting, exciting, and terrifying year for almost everyone on the planet. I have tried to keep things global in this list, but, as an American, I am simply more aware of what happens closer to home. So, for those in other countries, please forgive me for leaving out important events.
There are also many things that have transpired in the United States this year that I have chosen not to include in this list. It does not mean that these events are unimportant. The purpose of this snapshot overview is to look at specifically Catholic news stories that have a more global reach.
January 15, 2020 – First Woman to Hold Management Position in the Vatican Secretariat of State
The Vatican appoints Francesca Di Giovanni as the undersecretary for multilateral affairs in the Secretariat of State becoming the first woman to hold a management position in this office.
February 12, 2020 – Pope Francis says No to Married Priests and Women Deacons
In keeping with the unchanging and unchangeable Tradition of the Church, infallibly declared most recently by St. John Paul II, Pope Francis ruled against allowing women to be ordained as deacons. He also ruled against ordaining married men as priests as a measure to address shortage of Catholic priests.
Commentary: There is a unity to the Sacrament of Holy Orders, in which the diaconate, presbyterate, and episcopacy are different levels of participation in the one Sacrament. Only a baptized male can receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders. The second issue of priestly celibacy can change because it is a discipline rather than an infallibly declared doctrine.
March 6, 2020 – First Confirmed Case of Coronavirus in Vatican City
March 27, 2020 – Pope Francis Delivers a Special Urbi et OrbiBlessing
Pope Francis delivers a special Urbi et Orbi blessing in an empty Saint Peter’s Square praying for the end of coronavirus pandemic.
Commentary: For those who watched it, the image of the Holy Father walking alone in the dark and rain to the center of an empty St. Peter’s Square will forever be etched in our memories. He gave a beautiful sermon and then went to adore the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Then, he gave a Eucharistic Benediction to the whole world. At a time of isolation, suspended public Mass all over the world, and uncertainty, this was the action of a tender father.
April 7, 2020 – Cardinal Pell of Australia Wins His Appeal
George Cardinal Pell won his appeal in the High Court of Australia against child sexual abuse convictions.
Commentary: It is so important for allegations of abuse to be taken seriously and that justice is served. However, it is also important that the truth is discovered after thorough and fair investigation. Cardinal Pell has always been a stalwart force for good in the Church and the “evidence” brought against him was absurd, in the estimation of those much more intelligent and informed than I. His exoneration is a victory for justice and for the good of the whole Church.
April 12, 2020 – Easter – Pope Francis Livestreams the Urbi et Orbi Blessing
Pope Francis livestreams the Urbi et Orbi blessing for the second time in just a month. This address to the whole world is usually given on Christmas and Easter.
April, 12, 2020 – Easter – Sri Lanka Catholic Church Forgives 2019 Easter Suicide Bombers
April 19, 2020 – Divine Mercy Sunday
On Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis speaks at Santo Spirito in Sassia warning about a “worse virus” of forgetting the poor and of “selfish indifference”
May 14, 2020 – The Vatican Encourages Everyone to Participate in a Day of Prayer, Fasting, and Acts of Charity for the End of the Coronavirus Pandemic
The John Paul II Shrine in Washington D.C., run by the Knights of Columbus, was visited by President Donald Trump to promote religious freedom and the legacy of St. John Paul II. This visit was at the invitation of the Knights of Columbus and was long scheduled. However, Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory opposed the visit.
Commentary: Whether you like him or not, a sitting president of the United States visited the National Shrine of John Paul II and honored his legacy in fighting for religious freedom. This seems like a good thing, to me.
The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Catholic school teachers are “ministers.” This allows for Catholic schools to have greater protection for policies regarding ethics and rights of conscience.
August 31, 2020 – Vatican Reiterates That Catholic Politicians Cannot Support Abortion
The president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Paglia, reiterates that Catholic politicians cannot promote legal protections of any kind for abortion, and he called on all Catholics to promote the Gospel of Life.
September 30, 2020 – Document Highlighting St. Jerome Released by the Pope
Pope Francis highlighted the life and figure of St. Jerome in an apostolic letter for the 1,600th anniversary of the Doctor of the Church’s death. The letter Scripturae sacrae affectus discusses the Scriptural contribution of the 4th-5th Century Saint who translated the Bible and produced the Latin Vulgate.
October 3, 2020 – Pope Signs New Encyclical in Assisi Entitled Fratelli Tutti
October 10, 2020 – Beatification of Carlo Acutis: The First Millennial to Be Declared Blessed
October 21, 2020 – Pope Francis Seems to Call for Civil Union Laws for Same-sex Couples
In a seeming shift from the Vatican stance Pope Francis appears to call for civil union laws for same-sex couples in a documentary.
Commentary: The scandal caused by the perception of the Pope’s comments in international, secular news could have been put to rest by a strong clarification from the Vatican. Though the documentary seems to have doctored what the Pontiff said, the clarification from the Vatican came far later than it should have and was not nearly as clear as it needed to be.
October 26, 2020 – Pope Francis Says that Christmas Liturgies at the Vatican Will Take Place Without the Public
Commentary: This report is important because it begins to tell the story of how a predator like ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick could rise to power in the Church. The fruits of accountability and transparency will remain to be seen in the coming years. Personally, I was perturbed by the complete pass given to Pope Francis in the narrative and the burden being shifted almost entirely to St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI. There seems to me to be more going on than what was stated by the report. It is still, however, an important step towards restoring trust between the hierarchy and the laity.
November 28, 2020 – Pope Creates 13 New Cardinals, including Washington Archbishop
Pope Francis created 13 new cardinals. Cardinals are the electors of a new Pope during a papal conclave and they are advisors of the Pope. Archbishop Wilton Gregory made history as the first African American prelate to be created a Cardinal in the United States of America.
December 10, 2020 – Pope Francis Declares the Coming Year as Dedicated to St. Joseph