The year of Our Lord 2008 was, by common consensus, an utter misery. And pundits predict that 2009 may be even worse. Catholics are required to be neither optimists nor pessimists, but rather to look at the world with a steady gaze and the hope of heaven. We do not know for certain what the next year will bring, but here are 10 things that are likely to happen in 2009.
Westminster succession: Early in the year we should learn the identity of the man who will be the 11th Archbishop of Westminster. Let’s pray for a successor worthy of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.
Vatican II anniversary: January 25 is the 50th anniversary of John XXIII’s call for a Second Vatican Council. This is an opportunity to take up Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue of Lancaster’s challenge and reflect on whether we have truly become the Church that the Council Fathers envisaged.
A new encyclical: Early in 2009 Pope Benedict XVI is expected to issue his third encyclical, Caritas in Veritate. This is likely to address the most pressing issues of our time: the global financial crisis and environmental devastation.
Darwin commemorations: This year the Vatican will mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by hosting a major conference. This will be a great opportunity to bury the myth that the Church is opposed to science.
Papal trip to Africa: In March Benedict XVI will make his first apostolic journey to Africa. The trip to Cameroon and Angola is part of a concerted attempt by the Church to highlight the needs of Africans in 2009. In September the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) will hold its plenary assembly in Rome. And a month later the second Synod for Africa will take place at the Vatican. These three events suggest that 2009 will be, to use commentator John Allen’s phrase, “a Year of Africa” in the Church.
highlight the needs of the African Church
Push for assisted suicide: The wave of assisted suicide propaganda at the end of 2008 is a prelude to renewed attempts to change the law. Catholics must be ready to resist this effort to reshape public opinion with reason, compassion and outspoken concern for the common good.
New film released: This year the film Doubt will go on general release in Britain. The movie focuses – in a way that Catholics are likely to find sympathetic and thought-provoking – on priestly sexual abuse. The film has strong Catholic interest and is already generating an Oscar buzz.
Papal trip to the Holy Land: In May Pope Benedict is likely to make an arduous pilgrimage to Israel. He hopes the visit will give new momentum to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
A presidential visit: In July Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, is expected to hold talks with Benedict XVI at the Vatican. This crucial meeting will set the tone for Catholic engagement with the new administration.
Visit of St Thérèse of Lisieux’s relics: The relics of the Little Flower have toured the world leaving numberless conversions in their wake. We pray that they will help to revive the Church in England during their month-long stay here. After a gruelling 2008 we look forward to receiving St Thérèse and her promise that “after my death, I will let fall a shower of roses”.