As 2017 comes to an end, it’s time to clear out the columnist’s notebook of those items that were noteworthy but never quite grew up to be columns. Perhaps they may do so in 2018.
◻ What happened to the Knights of Malta? The year opened with a blazing controversy over the Pope’s decision to fire the head of the previously-thought-to-be sovereign order. Has the order been renewed? What was the scandal that required the removal of the Grand Master? Has justice been served? Is anyone paying any attention?
◻ At the end of the liturgical year Pope Francis held the first World Day of the Poor, a worthy initiative to emphasise the centrality of the poor in the Gospel.
It might be time to judiciously prune the other World Days that have been established by the Vatican over the years, to give better attention to priorities such as the poor, or youth. World Youth Day is the best known of the Vatican “days”, but here is a partial list of other World Days: Peace, Communications, Prayer for Vocations, Sick, Consecrated Life, Sanctification of Priests, Migrants and Refugees, and Food. Under St John Paul II there was also a World Day for Tourism and a World Day for Literacy, but those seem not to have endured. Perhaps the pruning has already begun.
◻ We might need to make room for a World Day for Diplomats, the favourite priests of Pope Francis. He signalled that early on when he abolished the honorary title “monsignor” for parish priests under 65, but kept it for fortysomethings in the diplomatic corps. This year he created a “third section” of the Secretariat of State, increasingly powerful now that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has been sidelined. The third section is to provide better spiritual and professional care for the Holy See’s diplomats. Ordinary priests have the Congregation for the Clergy. One of Pope Francis’s first curial appointments was to put in charge of that congregation the head of the Vatican training academy for priest diplomats.
◻ The appointment of a new archbishop for the world’s largest diocese, Mexico City, was a distinctively Francis touch. He named Carlos Aguiar Retes to Mexico, having already made him a cardinal in November 2016. Cardinal Aguiar was then Archbishop of Tlalnepantla, one of those dioceses that had never had a cardinal before. Pope Francis had evidently decided a year ahead of time that Cardinal Aguiar would be the new archbishop in Mexico City. The same thing was done when Joseph Tobin was made a cardinal in Indianapolis, Indiana, only to be subsequently transferred to Newark, New Jersey, just across the river from New York. Cardinals in peripheral places may not stay there.
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