Never failing to surprise, Pope John Paul II marked the month of the rosary by publishing Rosariwrt Vitginis Mariae (Rosary of the Virgin Mary), in which he took the remarkable steop of adding five "Mysteries of light" or "luminous Mysteries'. to a formula unchanged since the 15th century. They included Christ's baptism in the Jordan. his self revelation at the wedding feast at Cana, his announcement of the Kingdom of God and call to repentance. the Transfiguration and the institution of the Eucharist.
Earlier in the month, the Pope conducted his third major canonisation of the year when he elevated Opus Dei founder St Josemaria Escriva to the altar before 300,000 pilgrims in St Peter's Square. He urged the faithful to force themselves to be saints in the saint's example. "Raise the world to God and transform it from within." he said. "Following in his footsteps, spread in society. without distinction of race, class, culture or age. the awareness that we are all called to holiness."
But it was not long before the bitter subject of clerical sex abuse was back in the headlines as Rome rejected an application from the American bishops for a formal "recognitio" to make their child protection guidelines canonically binding. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect for the Congregation of Bishops, called their proposals "vague", a "source of ambiguity" and said they failed to protect the basic rights of priests. The bishops accepted his plans for a mixed commission to work on a revised charter.
In England, Julian Filochowsld announced his resignation from his 05,000-ayear post as director of Cafod. He gave no clear reason for his decision nor had he any other job to go to. Mr Filochowski. 54, denied rumours his resignation was linked to a Mass celebrated in London last year to mark his 25-year relationship with gay rights activist Martin Prendergast.
Dom Antony Sutch also resigned as headmaster of Benedictine-run Downside School, Somerset. He was protesting against the "geek culture" of a box-ticking bureaucracy in schools that he believed had rendered education "utterly self-serving, instead of serving other people" and was forcing good teachers out of the profession.
Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton caused a stir by inviting German Lutheran woman Bishop Margot Kaessman to preach in his cathedral during a service to celebrate the ministry of women in the Church. Ianthe Pratt of Catholic Women's Ordination hailed Bishop Lang's actions as "significant". She said: "I think it is a major advance and it's very encouraging that Bishop Lang is so positive."
October was also the month when it was revealed that Catholic Women's Network defied the demands of Auxiliary Bishop Vincent Malone of Liverpool to clarify its position on abortion, marriage and women priests, yet remained in 2003 edition of The Catholic Directory of England and Wales. It was the month when the Vatican rejected the case for deaconesses and when Cardinal Francis Arinze was made Prefect for the Congregation of Divine Worship.
October was also the month when Archbishop George Pell of Sydney was cleared of a retrospective accusation of sexual assault by an independent inquiry led by retired judge Alec Southwell. The archbishop's first public engagement on resuming office was to offer Mass in St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, for the victims of the Bali bomb attacks, the majority of whom were Australian.
November was another testing month for the Church in England and Wales. It began on an upbeat note with Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor unveiling his plans for the renewal of Westminster archdiocese. But within weeks the Cardinal
was subjected to yet another media onslaught over his handling of paedophile Michael Hill. He began the month by summoning his 400 priests to a three-day conference at Butlins in Bognor Regis. He told them he had decided to import a three-year programme of evangelisation and pastoral renewal from the United States. The programme. called Renew, has been designed to reinvigorate parishes through small groups of "faith sharing" communities, which resemble the new movements that have developed in the Church since the Second Vatican Council. "I promise you that the fruit of our endeavour will be rich in blessing, not only for us but also for those who will see and understand the Good News of the Gospel by the way in which they see us live it," the Cardinal said.
A sense of renewal in the Church was underlined in the same week by the news that a homegrown Catholic youth movement was forming a lay community for young people. Youth 2000 hoped the new community, the Sons and Daughters of Mary, would deepen the spirituality of young people and support the new evangelisation called for by the Pope. "We want to establish a more contemplative community with a deeper prayer life based around the Blessed Sacrament." said Josie Callaghan, leader of the Youth 2000 mission team. "We already have a very structured prayer life that we want to extend." The community will be based at the movement's headquarters in East Keswick, near Leeds.
BBC Radio Four's Today programme launched an offensive against Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor when Hill admitted indecent assault at the OW Bailey. The Times joined the assault. accusing the Cardinal of "a woeful lack of moral seriousness and an hypocrisy that ranks with the worst of the Victorians". The attacks were so severe and protracted that they prompted him to issue a letter to his parishes. "As you know, not only I personally but the whole Catholic Church in England and Wales have been under attack from some quarters during these past days," he wrote. "I am very conscious that all our priests and people, feeling the weight of that pressure, are deeply concerned. For myself, I deeply regret any damage that has been done following a mistaken decision in the past. Failure, of course, has to be acknowledged, but we also recognise the gift of the Lord's forgiveness." The letter was described as "diabolical self-pity" in The Times.
November also witnessed a spectacular row at one of Arundel and Brighton's bestloved churches. Changes to the Sunday sung Latin Mass at the Sacred Heart, Hove, prompted the resignation of the parish director of music and most of the choir.
Meanwhile, the Bishops of England and Wales issued a statement warning Britain and America not to go to war against Iraq. They said that a new conflict would result in the deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians and must come only as a last resort.
Britain's Catholics mourned the death of Elizabeth Countess of Longford, the celebrated biographer and historian and wife of the late Lord Longford. She died peacefully, aged 96, in her sleep.
In Rome, a fugitive Mafia boss handed himself into police after hearing Pope John Paul appeal for a return to Christian values. Benedetto Marciante, sentenced in absentia to 30 years for murder, gave himself up at Rebibbia prison after listening to a speech by the Pope to the Italian parliament. Lawyer, Roberto Tricoli said his client's change of heart was "miraculous". "He just suddenly felt the need to do what was expected of him by the law."
The BBC and The Times stepped up their witchhunt of Cardinal MurphyO'Connor but December was the month he cleared his name. The Cardinal arranged for the files of 10 priests accused of abuse in Arundel and Brighton over the past 10 years to be sent to a firm of solicitors in Leeds for analysis. He was later able to call a press conference to announce that the audit had found that in every case he had behaved properly. The reception from the media was nevertheless deeply hostile and just days earlier, a journalist from BBC2's Newsnight had told Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton that the BBC was out to get the Cardinal's resignation. Meanwhile, Catholic commentator Clifford Longley made an official complaint to the BBC, accusing it of a "serious abuse of impartiality" in its manipulation of a Today programme on the issue, in which he had agreed to be interviewed. He also asked for an apology.
The BBC also pushed its anti-Catholic agenda into its Christmas schedule and on the fourth Sunday of Advent broadcast The Virgin Mary, a programme in which it suggested that Our Lady conceived Jesus when she was raped by a Roman soldier. The decision by the BBC to make an anti-clerical cartoon called Popetown, in which the Church is portrayed as "sinister and corrupt" and the Pope as "senile and infantile", also offended Catholics, with one priest urging churchgoers to stop paying their television licence fees in protest.
It was not all bad news for the Church. Catholic family rights campaigner Victoria Gillick finally walked away from a three-year libel battle against the Brook (formerly Advisory Centres) with E5,000 and an apology after she was wrongly blamed for a huge surge in unwanted teenage pregnancies. Brook, a state-funded birth control charity, had stated on one of its "fact sheets" that the rise in the 1980s was a result of Mrs Gillick's legal action against the Government, which for one year made it illegal for doctors to prescribe the Pill to girls under the age of 16 years without parental consent. But government statistics revealed that the year in question was the only one in the entire decade which did not see such a rise.
December was the month when the Pope accepted the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, who flew to Rome just days after he announced a plan to declare his diocese bankrupt in the face of some 450 sex abuse lawsuits. Some 58 priests in his archdiocese signed a letter demanding Law's resignation and the Voice of the Faithful, an organisation representing about 25,000 Catholics, also expressed the view that he should go. Cardinal Law, who had moved some abusers from parish to parish, said he was "profoundly grateful to the Holy Father" for accepting his resignation.
Nevertheless, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, criticised the media for using the scandals to discredit the Church. "In the United States there is constant news on this topic, but less than one per cent of priests are guilty of acts of this type," he said. "The constant presence of these news items does not correspond to the objectivity of the information or to the statistical objectivity of the facts. Therefore, one comes to the conclusion that it is intentional, manipulated, that there is a desire to discredit the Church. It is a logical and well-founded conclusion."