The cover photo of this "Year in Review" issue reflects a milestone for the Church. Not only does it illustrate the historic event of Pope Benedict XVI stepping down from the papacy, but it is also a powerful reminder of the symbolic passing of the keys — from the previous shepherd of the world’s more than 1 billion Catholics to Pope Francis. The impact of Pope Francis’ unique approach to his role has been extraordinary and has drawn uncharacteristically positive attention to the Holy See from those outside of the Church.

Inside these pages, you will also find photo essays of the top stories of the year: from the inspiring gains made by the pro-life movement to the misguided effort to redefine marriage; from the simple wisdom of the Holy Father’s first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, to the obsessive attempts by the U.S. government to deny religious freedom to millions of U.S. citizens in imposing unjust health-care legislation.

I pray that these photos that tell the story of our coverage in 2013 will affirm your commitment to the Truth and instill a resolve to faithfully follow the path that the Lord is carving out for you and your families in the year ahead.

God bless you with a happy and holy new year!