The Best Of 2011 in the Church, Part 1/4

January: Announcement of the Beatification of Pope John Paul II.
2011 began with some unexpected news. On January 14 the Vatican announced the beatification of John Paul II. Father Federico Lombardi the Vatican spokesman said during a press conference on January 14, 2011: “The pope has approved the beatification to take place on the first of May this year. It will be on the Sunday of Divine Mercy, an important date in his life and in his encounter with God.”

During the last weeks of 2010, doctors and experts from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints reaffirmed that the healing of a French nun Marie Simon Pierre couldn't be scientifically explained. The pope then approved the miracle.

Also in January 2011, Pope Benedict XVI visited the children in Rome's Gemelli Polyclinic hospital. He explained the meaning of Christmas to them and blessed the care center for children with spina bifida. One day later he baptized 21 children of Vatican employees. The ceremony took place in the Sistine Chapel.

February: Radio Vatican Turns 80.
On February 2011 Vatican Radio celebrated its 80th anniversary. To kick off the celebration, an exhibit showcasing the most commemorative events of 2011, opened at the Vatican Museum.

During the month of February, the Vatican published new data on the Church. According to its Central Statistics Office, 809 priests were ordained in the 2009. The number actually shows an increase of 1.4% when compared to the last ten years. The continent with the highest vocation growth is Africa.

Also in February, Benedict XVI welcomed Russia's president, Dmitry Medvedev to the Vatican. It was actually their first meeting, after the Holy See and Russia established full diplomatic relations. Up until a few months ago, both states only had 'permanent representatives' and not resident ambassadors.

During that month, 68 year old Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran was appointed the new Cardinal Protodeacon, meaning he's in charge of announcing the famous “Habemus Papam,” phrase, once a pope is elected by the conclave.

March: The Pope Publishes a New Book.
In March, Cardinal Marc Ouellet introduced the second volume of Pope's book “Jesus of Nazareth”. The writing reflects on the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. For it's release, 1.2 million copies were published in 7 languages. 

Benedict XVI also received the Chilean president Sebastián Piñera at the Vatican. During the meeting, the pope asked about the recovery of miners who were trapped for more than two months 2000 feet below ground.

The pope then met with the executive director of the UN's World Food Programme. They mostly spoke about the humanitarian crisis at that time in Libya.

It was also in March when the only Catholic minister in Pakistan's government was assassinated. Shahbaz Bhatti died at 42. He was in charge of the country's religious minorities. He had received several death threats after trying to repeal the blasphemy law in Pakistan, the law which provides the death penalty against anyone who insults Islam or the prophet Mohammed.

In preparation for Easter, the pope and cardinals from the Curia took a spiritual retreat. This spiritual exercise was a preparation for the big event of the year, the beatification of John Paul II.”

Near the end of the month, Benedict visited the Ardeatine Caves near Rome, where the German army shot 335 civilians in 1944. For this historic visit, he was accompanied by the Chief Rabbi of Rome. Benedict called the massacre a “grave offense to God.”

Toward the end of the month, the pope blessed the new parish of St. Corbinian at Infernetto in Rome. The church is located in the south of the city in an area called “Infernetto,” where the city's coal used to be produced. The parish is named after the patron saint of the pope's home country of Germany, as a gift from Rome to the German bishops.

The Maronite Church elected a new Patriarch on the 15th of March after a three days spiritual seclusion by the maronite bishops in Bkerke. Mar Beshara Peter Al Rahi becomes the 77th maronite patriarch after the resignation of patriarch cardinal Mar Nasrallah Peter Sfeir.

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