Pope Francis described 2016 as a “packed year,” one full of initiatives that helped Catholics “see and touch with their hands the fruits of the mercy of God.”
“The Lord always surprises us and goes beyond our expectations,” the pope said on 28th November, looking back at what happened over the past 12 months, especially in events related to the Year of Mercy.
While the jubilee celebrations dominated the papal calendar, they did not halt other activities and responsibilities, nor other surprises.
After decades of work and hope and prayer, Pope Francis finally was the first pope to meet with the Russian Orthodox patriarch. He and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow met briefly in Cuba in February and signed a joint declaration.
In April, after visiting with refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos, Pope Francis – without prior announcement – brought 12 of them back to Rome with him. The Vatican is providing the funds needed for their living expenses and the Rome-based Sant’Egidio Community is helping them with language lessons and logistics. The 12 all had the legal paperwork necessary to move to Italy.
In May, Pope Francis held a dialogue with the superiors general of women’s religious orders from around the world. One of the women asked him to establish “an official commission to study the question” of the identity and role of the women described as deacons in the New Testament and early Christian writings.
The pope agreed and later named six men and six women to the commission, in addition to commission president Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The commission held its first meeting in late November.
Picture: Pope Francis closes the Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica before a Mass to conclude the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy at the Vatican on 20th November. In concluding the Holy Year, the pope called for mercy to become a permanent part of the lives of believers. (CNS photo/Maria Grazia Picciarella, pool).