The year in review in Catholicism 2015

The year in review in Catholicism 2015

The year in review in Catholicism 2015

Pope Francis addressed a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, Sept. 24, 2015, making history as the first pontiff to do so. (L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)

Keeping up with news about the Church is always interesting, but 2015 was a banner year in many ways. There was the release of a first-ever encyclical on the environment, vigorous debates about religious freedom after the legalization of same-sex marriage in Ireland and the United States, an intense back-and-forth

Keeping up with news about the Church is always interesting, but 2015 was a banner year in many ways. There was the release of a first-ever encyclical on the environment, vigorous debates about religious freedom after the legalization of same-sex marriage in Ireland and the United States, an intense back-and-forth about how the Church deals with the modern family, and of course, Pope Francis’ three-city tour of the United States.

Here are some of the biggest stories from 2015, as told through Tweets from Crux, our staff and contributors, and you, our readers.

We want to hear from you: What were your favorite stories? What did we miss? And what do you hope 2016 brings? Let us know by leaving a comment below or by posting on Twitter using the hashtag #2015Crux.

In September, Pope Francis visited Cuba and the United States.
By choosing to begin his North American tour in Cuba, Francis sent a message that the two nations should continue efforts to normalize relations, a process in which he played a role in 2014. Highlights of the visit included a first-ever papal address to the US Congress, a robust plea to protect the environment to the United Nations General Assembly, and a massive public Mass on Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

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While in Washington, the pope asked bishops to ease off the culture wars.
During his prayer service with US bishops at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, Francis told them that their job “is not about preaching complicated doctrines, but joyfully proclaiming Christ who died and rose for our sake.”

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The US Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in June.
More than a decade since Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, Americans everywhere were granted the right by the Supreme Court. Catholic bishops had been some of the most vocal opponents of gay marriage, and many voiced their disappointment in the ruling. But others were more nuanced in their reactions, urging Catholics to remain calm and repeating the Church’s teaching to treat everyone with respect.

With that ruling came increased tensions between those who advocate for LGBT rights and those who object on religious grounds. Most notably, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis was jailed for refusing to comply with a court order to sign a marriage license for a same-sex couple, the state of Indiana faced backlash after passing a law that supporters said provided protections for opponents of same-sex marriage but that critics said codified discrimination, and businesses were cited for refusing the serve gay customers.

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Battles over the separation of church and state heated up in 2015.
Catholic entities continued to challenge the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, Supreme Court justices predicted that religious freedom would be the next major battle in the culture wars, and Pope Francis himself waded into some controversies, meeting with the Little Sisters of the Poor to express support for their fight against the White House.

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The pope lent the power of Peter to the fight against climate change.
One of the Francis’ signature issues as pope since his first week in office has been protecting creation, and he gave the fight against environmental degradation a big boost in 2015 when he released the first-ever papal encyclical to deal exclusively with the subject. The Vatican invited a laywoman and a self-described atheist scientist to co-present Laudato Si’ in Rome, signaling that protecting the natural world would take cooperation among unlikely allies.

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Anti-Christian persecution rolled on around the world.
Anti-Christian persecution is growing around the world, monitoring groups say, and Christian leaders from Pope Francis on down have called for increased protection for vulnerable communities. The pope noted that terrorists don’t distinguish between Christian denominations, uniting martyrs in blood, while others pointed out that the issue goes far beyond the Islamic world.

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In December, Pope Francis launched the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
After months of preparation, the pope launched the Jubilee Year of Mercy in December, inviting Catholics everywhere to repentance and forgiveness through 2016. Francis made headlines this year by announcing that priests would be granted the power to absolve all kinds of sins, including abortion.

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Francis continued to be a papal globetrotter.
Big crowds greeted the pope wherever he traveled, where he brought a message of mercy, peace, and forgiveness. In addition to his first-ever visit to the United States, the pope also visited Europe, Africa, South America, and Asia.

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Leaks continued to flow at the Vatican.
Even though the pope’s popularity continues to soar, that’s not to say he isn’t facing challenges at home. Two new books claim to expose continued financial misconduct at the hands of Vatican officials, as well as intense opposition to Francis’ efforts to reform the Roman Curia, the bureaucratic apparatus that runs the Vatican’s day-to-day operations.

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Bishops from around the world met in Rome in October to discuss family life.
The Synod of Bishops convened to continue its discussion of family life that began in 2014, pitting reform-minded bishops against traditionalists on a range of issues, including opening up Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. In the end, bishops appeared to give Francis wiggle room to come down on either side, and the pope is expected to weigh in sometime next year.

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The pope’s effects at Vatican reform continued.
Despite what critics point to as missteps in how he talks about clergy sex abuse, Francis’ commission on clergy sex abuse wrapped up its work and passed along its recommendations to Francis. There was also movement in reforming the Vatican’s financial management and its communications operations.

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Some bishops were booted out because of their records on sex abuse.
Advocates for victims of clergy sex abuse often lament that bishops have not been held accountable for their handling of the crisis, but in 2015, a few bishops were removed from office for precisely that reason.

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But another one hung on in spite of protests.
A bishop accused of covering up for an abusive priest in Chile was given support by Pope Francis, and he remains in office.

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The Church got a few new saints.
During his visit to the United States, Francis canonized the Rev. Junipero Serra, the 18th century Spanish missionary who is accused by critics of being complicit in the slaughter of Native Americans, but whom fans say actually tried to protect them from exploitation. Francis also canonized a married couple, and gave Sri Lanka its first saint.

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Some Catholic figures got a step closer to canonization.
Slain Archbishop Oscar Romero was officially recognized by the Church as a martyr in May, thus clearing the way for his beatification, the final step before sainthood. And just a few weeks ago, the Vatican confirmed a second miracle at the hands of Mother Teresa, paving the way for her canonization next September.

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Some well-known Catholic leaders passed away.
Three prominent American cardinals, an influential Catholic university president, and a nun well-known to members of the “God beat” passed away in 2015.

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The College of Cardinals took on a more global hue.
Francis went to the peripheries of the Church to select new cardinals, most of whom will be able to vote for his eventual successor. For the first time, the countries of Tonga, Myanmar, and Cape Verde have a red hat.

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Forced migration reached alarming levels in Africa and the Middle East.
The pope has made migration one of his signature concerns, coming at a time when global conflict is forcing millions to flee their homes in Africa and the Middle East. Europe is seeing the highest rate of refugees seeking asylum since World War II, and the pope has asked Catholic parishes throughout the continent to host families.

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The Church took a stand on resettlement here at home.
The Catholic Church says it is the largest refugee resettlement organization in the United States, and even after most US governors said no Syrian refugees would be welcome in their states, the Church didn’t stand down.

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And Pope Francis vowed to keep shaking things up in 2016.
Despite a litany of challenges, the pontiff said earlier this month that “Reform will move forward with determination, clarity, and firm resolve.”

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