To say this has been an eventful year for Pope Benedict XVI would be an understatement. So many significant and surprising papal moments have taken place in 2006 — the Holy Father’s first full year as Pope — that to do them all justice might require writing a book, not a newspaper article.
But it is possible to briefly examine the most significant events, both in terms of defining Benedict’s papacy so far and in providing clues regarding its future direction.
A natural place to start is the Pope’s lectio magistralis at
“The Pope demonstrated at
Three months later, debate still continues as to whether the Holy Father was aware of the consequences of his speech. Some maintain that he misjudged the reaction in parts of the Islamic world, while for those who know him, such as Weigel, believe it is “absurd to suggest that a 79-year-old certifiable genius didn’t know what he was doing.”
Certainly, it’s doubtful the Pope’s visit to
At the same time, he advanced the cause of religious freedom and significantly advanced prospects of unity with the Orthodox Church.
Benedict XVI’s simple,
humble and innocent approach — evident in
And although some criticized his omission to condemn anti-Semitism there, his choice of words and depth of his speech were a highlight of the papal year for some observers.
“It was an extraordinary speech, rich in theology,
spirituality and personal testimony to the horrors that took place,” said
Father Vincent Twomey, a moral theology professor at
St. Patrick’s College in
Elsewhere, the Pope has slowly but surely continued
to put his stamp on the
He appointed a pastorally and doctrinally oriented secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
Interreligious dialogue isn’t an attempt to find common ground, as ecumenical dialogue is, but an attempt to co-exist with decorum. So Pope Benedict put Cardinal Paul Poupard, president the Pontifical Council for Culture since 1988, in charge of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
“He has made interreligious dialogue more real,” said Weigel. “The Pope has shown that you can raise all the hard issues without being aggressive, and raise them in a way that cuts to their theological roots, and that’s very important.”
Benedict made several other key appointments.
Despite the risks of upsetting Beijing, he appointed the Archbishop of Hong Kong, Joseph Zen, to the College of Cardinals; he brought in a media-skilled Jesuit, Father Federico Lombardi, as the new Holy See press spokesman; he named Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias as prefect of the Congregation for Evangelization; and he chose a former friend of liberation theology, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, as the new prefect of Congregation for the Clergy.
At the same time, Benedict XVI has also continued to
write and speak in ways that change hearts and draw crowds, particularly in
“It’s wonderful to see how much Italians have taken
Pope Benedict to their hearts — more so, I think, than with John Paul II,” says
“Of course, they had great respect for John Paul II and were proud to have him as ‘their’ pope, but they have certainly taken to Benedict in a big way.”
Edward Pentin writes from