Agenda for a year of faith: looking ahead at Pope Benedict’s 2013

popeBY FRANCIS X. ROCCA, CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Fortunetelling, like all occult practices, is strictly taboo at the Vatican; and prophecy is a rare gift among journalists. But Pope Benedict XVI’s calendar for 2013 is already filling up with planned, probable or possible events. Here are 10 to watch for in the news during the coming year.

Italian elections: When Italians go to the polls Feb. 24, the big story for most foreign observers will be the fate of a comeback attempt by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. For the pope and other Italian bishops, a prime concern will be whether voters instead elect a center-left majority that could bring Italy into sync with other major Western European countries — and out of line with Catholic moral teaching — on such issues as in vitro fertilization and legally recognized unions of same-sex partners.

New Encyclical: Pope Benedict’s fourth encyclical will be released in the first half of next year, very possibly in the spring, according to Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman. Treating the subject of faith, the encyclical will complete a trilogy on the three “theological virtues”; the previous installments were “Deus Caritas Est” (2005) on charity, and “Spe Salvi” (2007) on hope.

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