The Best Of 2011 in the Church, Part 2/4

April: The Pope Turns 84 and Takes Part in a TV Show.
At the beginning of April the pope met with Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the new Major Archbishop of the Greek-Catholic Church in Ukraine. It's the second largest of the Eastern Churches in communion with Rome with around 6.5 million followers, the largest being the Maronite Church with more than 10 million followers around the world.

During a general audience, Benedict XVI expressed concern over the growing hostilities at that time in Libya and the Ivory Coast and said:"Violence and hate is always a lost cause! I therefore make a renewed and heartfelt appeal to all parties to the cause to initiate a process of peacemaking and dialogue, and to avoid further bloodshed.”

On April 16, the pope turned 84 years old and received a large number of emails from the faithful wishing him a happy birthday, at:

The Vatican was then filled with the celebrations in preparation for Holy Week, including Palm Sunday that held a procession in St. Peter's Square. As custom dictates during Easter, the pope washed the feet of 12 priests in memory of the original act committed by Jesus.

On Good Friday, Benedict XVI became the first pope to hold a question and answer session on television. The first question came from a seven year old Japanese girl, many of her friends had died or disappeared after the Japanese earthquake. She asked the pope how God could allow the suffering of children, and he answered:"We don't have the answers but we know that Jesus suffered just like you, because he too was innocent. The true God who comes to life in Jesus is with us. Even in sadness, when we don't have all the answers, God is on our side and that will help us.”

Also as a part of the Holy Week, Benedict XVI attended a Ways of the Cross ceremony at the Colosseum, remembering the forteen stations of Jesus carrying the cross. 

May: The Beatification of Pope John Paul II.
The month of May began with the beatification of John Paul II. Statues and photographs of the polish pope were filling every corner in the city of Rome. The first ceremony was a prayer vigil at the Circus Maximus. There, some two hundred thousand people listened to the testimony of John Paul II's secretary Stanislaw Dzivisz, as well as former Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls, and the nun who was miraculously cured by the pope, Sister Marie Simon Pierre. Many of the pilgrims spent the night camped in front of the Vatican for the ceremony of the first of May.

More than one million pilgrims were trying to enter Saint Peter's Square on that day and tens of thousands of believers were lining up in queues along the road Via della Conciliazione leading to the basilica. Benedict XVI proclaimed:“With our Apostolic authority we concede that the Venerable Servant of God, John Paul II, pope, shall be called henceforth blessed.”

For the ceremony, the remains of John Paul II were exhumed from the Vatican Grottoes and placed in Saint Peter's Basilica. They remained there late into the night as an endless line of pilgrims passed through to pay their respects.

The beatification also served as a chance for the Vatican to hold its very first conference with Catholic bloggers. They came from across the world and brought forth different ideas and concerns in order to build a closer relationship. The pope then traveled to Venice where he took one of the city's Gondola tours and met with local church officials.

Benedict XVI also made history this month by becoming the first pope to make a video call to space. He spoke with a group of astronauts at the International Space Station after the docking of the space shuttle Endeavor. He also answered the questions of the astronauts.

The month of May was also when Osama Bin Laden was killed. The Vatican said that even though he represented violence, a Catholic should not celebrate the killing of any person.

Also in May, the Vatican announced that the Italian Giovanni Angelo Becciu would be the Substitute for General Affairs to the Secretary of State, known as the number 3 spot at the Vatican.

June: The Pope on Twitter With an iPad.
Benedict XVI began the month of June with an important State visit by the Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. During the meeting with President Abbas, the pope said that Palestine had a legitimate right to become a state. The pope then took a two day trip to Croatia. It was his 19th international trip since becoming pope. The main purpose was to celebrate the national meeting of families in the capital of Zagreb. He said: "Your daily task of helping the new generation in its formation of faith, marriage preparation and support of families, is a fundamental way to regenerate the Church and to revive the country's social fabric.”

The pope then returned to Rome and took part of the procession of Corpus Christi. After celebrating Mass in the basilica of Saint John Lateran, a procession wound its way through the streets of the Eternal City.

In June the Vatican launched it's news service and a new website: It was inaugurated by the touch of an iPad, as the pope sent his first ever tweet for the launch:"Dear Friends, I just launched Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! with my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI." The Pope did not actually write the tweet but it was prepared for him, he just clicked to send the tweet. The Vatican also launched a youtube channel, a facebook page and many other applications. The Pope's first tweet has been ranked by the international press among the "top ten of everything" in 2011.

The Church then celebrated the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29th. The event had a special meaning because it was also the 60th anniversary since Benedict XVI was ordained as a priest. “It is a time of thanksgiving: thanks to the Lord for the friendship that he has bestowed upon me and that he wishes to bestow upon us all. Thanks to the people who have formed and accompanied me”, said the Pope. This feast day is also when the pope receives the newest archbishops named in the past year. This year there were forty. Each of them was given a pallium. It's a white scarf made of wool that carries six black crosses, symbolizing each bishop's unity with the pope.

The pope ended June by giving away the Ratzinger prize in theology to a Spanish priest, a German Cistercian, and an Italian professor of Christian studies. The award is considered to be the “Nobel prize of theology”.

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