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Catholic World News News Feature

2007 in review: CWN's 20 top headlines December 31, 2007

As the calendar year comes to an end, we take a retrospective look through CWN headlines, selecting our most important stories of the year. In some cases these were one-time headline stories; in many other cases the same themes kept recurring during the year. The top 20, by the editor's standards, were:

20. Zimbabwe's bishops battle the Mugabe regime. The Catholic bishops took a firm stand in opposition to President Robert Mugabe, charging that corruption and oppression in his government had made the situation unbearable. In evident retaliation, Mugabe's allies publicized an adultery charge against the most outspoken prelate, Archbishop Pius Ncube-- who stepped down when the scandal was aired.

19. Poland's "radio priest" surrounded by controversy. Did Father Tadeusz Rydzyk make anti-Semitic comments? Did he insult the wife of the Polish president? Those charges, and others, swirled around the founder of an influential broadcast outlet. Poland's bishops reportedly sought to rein in the outspoken Redemptorist priest; the outcome of their efforts remained uncertain as the year ended.

18. Continuing echoes of the American scandal. The ripple waves from the sex-abuse scandal still plague American dioceses. This year the focus was on California, where one bishop was rebuked by a judge for inaccurate bankruptcy filings, another faced contempt charges, and a third finalized a staggering $600-million legal settlement with abuse victims.

17. Milingo's anti-celibacy crusade. Excommunicated in 2006, Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo continued to trouble Catholic leaders with a campaign for an end to clerical celibacy-- evidently financed in large part by the Unification Church. The campaign appeared to be gaining traction in the troubled prelate's native land, Zambia.

16. Spanish Catholics defend the family On the final Sunday of the year, Spanish pro-family groups-- with powerful backing from the Catholic hierarchy-- drew nearly 2 million people to a rally in Madrid. That show of strength could have a lasting effect as parliamentary elections loom.

15. Tony Blair swims the Tiber Ending months of speculation, the former British Prime Minister formally embraced the Catholic faith. His reception raised new questions about his stance on issues such as abortion and homosexuality-- issues on which he had differed from Catholic teaching during his active political career.

14. Cardinal Lustiger, RIP The son of an Auschwitz victim, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger was an influential friend and ally of Pope John Paul II, and pillar of Catholicism in France, and a proud representative of his Jewish heritage.

13. Violence in Orissa At Christmas time, Hindu militants unleashed a wave of bloodshed directed against the Christian minority in a state that has seen more than its share of India's recent religious violence.

12. Chavez vs. Venezuela's bishops Sparring continued between President Hugo Chavez and the nation's hierarchy, with the autocratic leader complaining that the bishops were undermining his authority, and the prelates responding that Chavez was endangering democracy.

11. Openings to Islam In October, a group of 138 distinguished Islamic leaders issued an invitation for further talks with the world's Christian leaders. The group followed up with a Christmas greeting, and Pope Benedict asked the leaders to send representatives to Rome for formal talks-- an invitation the group has now accepted.

10. New liturgical directions Pope Benedict has appointed a new director of pontifical liturgical celebrations, and the results are already evident-- even as the outgoing liturgist, a favorite of liberal Catholics, begins an international tour to promote a new book promoting liturgical reform.

9. Orthodox-Catholic talks resume In October, Catholic and Orthodox theologians met in Ravenna, Italy, to continue doctrinal talks. Their statement on papal primacy marked a significant step forward toward Christian unity. But their efforts were at least partially undermined by the refusal of Russian Orthodox representatives to participate-- a walkout that dramatized the rising tensions between the main poles of Orthodox leadership in Moscow and Constantinople.

8. Christians under fire in Iraq The exodus continued, with thousands of Christians leaving the land where Chaldean Catholics were settled even before the Islam was founded. But brave Catholic leaders maintained the faith in the face of threats.

7. New leadership for Italian Catholicism Genoa's Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco-- soon to become Cardinal Bagnasco-- was selected to replace Cardinal Camillo Ruini as president of the Italian episcopal conference. Soon the new Catholic leader was plunged into a heated controversy over same-sex marriage, and became the target of repeated death threats.

6. Vatican focus on spreading the faith In July the Vatican issued a new document, in question-and-answer form, upholding the teaching that salvation comes only through Christ and his Catholic Church. In December another new document affirmed that Catholics have the right and the duty to seek converts from other faiths. Throughout the year Pope Benedict continued to stress that the faithful must preach and promote the Gospel.

5. Collaboration charges in Poland On the eve of his installation, the newly appointed Archbishop of Warsaw resigned, acknowledging the uproar that had been created by charges that he had collaborated with the secret police of the Communist era. Similar charges haunted other Polish clerics throughout the year, with few questions fully resolved.

4. Spe Salvi The 2nd encyclical letter of Pope Benedict XVI, a profound meditation on the virtue of hope, was released at the end of November. Before the end of the year the papal document had racked up over 1 million sales.

3. The November consistory Pope Benedict appointed 23 new members to the College of Cardinals. Some of the appointments were expected; others were a bit more surprising.

2. China and the Vatican In January the Pope summoned the Roman Curia for a special meeting on the delicate relations between Rome and Beijing. The careful Vatican focus on improving relations with China were evident later in the year, as several new bishops were installed with the tacit approval of the Holy See. While the "underground" Church remained subject to harassment, most Chinese Catholics drew closer to open ties with Rome.

1. Summorum Pontificum The motu proprio authorizing wider use of the traditional Latin Mass was the most dramatic move of this pontificate to date, and one that continues to cause intense discussion among Catholics, pro and con.

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