Pope Planning an Intense 2010


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ROME, JAN. 1, 2010 ( The year beginning today promises to be the busiest yet for Benedict XVI's pontificate, as the almost-83-year-old-Pope is planning four international trips and a synod on the Middle East.

The year 2010 looks to be one of the most intense of his five years in the Chair of Peter. The Pope will turn 83 on April 16, but this does not affect how quickly his calendar fills up.

The Holy Father will visit Malta, Portugal, Cyprus and the United Kingdom during 2010. He will also preside over the first synod on the Middle East, and his several pilgrimages within Italy will include celebrations as momentous as a visit to the Shroud of Turin.

It also promises to be a year when the expected will come to pass: Pope John Paul II might be beatified (though the Vatican has repeatedly reiterated that his cause must follow the normal path leading to beatification), and the second part of Benedict XVI's bestseller "Jesus of Nazareth" could be published. As well, his apostolic exhortation taking up the conclusions of the 2008 synod on the Word of God could be released.

The year beginning today is also expected to bring forward causes that the German Pope has made a priority: advances in Christian unity, and unity with other religions, particularly Islam and Judaism.

In fact, one of the most symbolic events of the year will be his Jan. 17 visit to the Synagogue of Rome. That trip will take place just weeks after some Jews have protested the Holy Father's official recognition of the heroic virtues of his predecessor, Pope Pius XII.

In reviewing 2009 with the Roman Curia, Benedict XVI observed that last year developed in the light of Africa. The synod on Africa in Rome and the Holy Father's first trip to the continent as Pontiff marked 2009. In this regard, 2010 will be a year in the light of the Middle East, given that the synod to discuss that region is scheduled for Oct. 10-24.

The Pope will officially present the working document for the synod during his visit to Cyprus from June 4 to 6.

That trip is symbolic for other reasons because it will bring to light certain central themes of the pontificate, such as dialogue with the local Orthodox Church. That Church, since the 2006 election of Chrysostomos II, has become a leader in ecumenical efforts, as well as a promoter of interreligious dialogue with Islam, due to Turkish presence on the divided island.

Benedict XVI's first 2010 trip out of Italy will bring him to Malta, April 17-18. The visit will mark the 1,950th anniversary of St. Paul's shipwreck there, which tradition holds to have taken place in A.D. 60. Paul was headed to Rome, but instead was welcomed by the local population and spent three months evangelizing the archipelago, which is still majority Catholic.

Then the Pontiff will head to Portugal in May, a visit that includes a pilgrimage to Lourdes -- one more stop on what has become his world tour of Marian shrines including Loreto, Italy; Altötting, Germany; Mariazell, Austria; Aparecida, Brazil; Lourdes, France; Mvolye, Cameroon; and Pompeii, Italy.

The fourth international trip will bring the Pope to the United Kingdom. Though the dates have not been officially announced, it is expected that he will be in England between the 17th and 19th of September.

While there, it is expected that the Pontiff will beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890), an intellectual Anglican convert. That visit will obviously have decisive ecumenical repercussions in light of last year's Oct. 20 announcement that paves the way for Anglicans to come to full communion with the Holy See in groups.

There are also four apostolic trips within Italy already on the papal agenda. The first is to Turin on May 2, during the extraordinary exposition of the Shroud that will take place from April 10 to May 23. In July, the Holy Father will visit the region affected by last April's earthquake. That visit will mark the 800th anniversary of the birth of Pope Celestine V (who died in 1296), one of the few popes to abdicate.

In September, Benedict XVI will visit Carpineto Romano, a small town of the Roman province, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Pope Leo XIII.

And finally, in October, the Holy Father will visit Palermo to participate in meetings with families and youth.

Not to be overlooked in 2010 is the closing of the Year for Priests, with June 9-11 events in Rome. The Holy Father has invited the priests of the world to participate in the celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Vianney. But he has also asked the faithful of every walk of life to include themselves in the celebrations by expressing the Church's love for its priests.