Our true “man of the year” is not on our list of “Top Ten People” of 2012. He is Pope Benedict XVI himself. His eloquent words, his courage in speaking the truth during this difficult year, have been an inspiration.
Each year, Inside the Vatican magazine selects ten people from around the world whom we feel are worthy of praise for their courage, their steadiness under difficulties, their fidelity to the Church and to the faith, their holiness. This year, we decided to focus more than usual on the Holy See and the leadership of the Church in Rome and in other places, because it seemed to us that 2012 was in some ways an “annus horribilis” (“year of horrors”) for the Church, when the Church’s central government was brought into serious question by the “Vatileaks” scandal. At the center of it all was Pope Benedict, betrayed by his own butler.
Some thought we should name the Pope as our “Man of the Year” because he has come through it all with “flying colors,” continuing to teach and preach in an astonishingly effective and profound way for those who have “ears to hear,” finishing his third book on Jesus, naming young and energetic new cardinals from around the world, traveling to Mexico and Cuba and Lebanon, launching the Year of Faith…
No Pope has ever been listed among our “Top Ten” because, in a sense, we have taken it for granted that the Pope is inevitably at the center of the struggle for the faith in the world today. That was true during the years when John Paul II was Pope, and it has been true during Benedict’s nearly 8-year pontificate.
But in the past year, Benedict has taken very serious blows — above all, his butler’s betrayal of his trust.
This not only brought sorrow to the Pope, it threatened to destabilize the government of the universal Church (what bishop would not think twice about communicating with Rome knowing his communications might be published worldwide?).
The “Vatileaks” scandal rocked the Barque of Peter in 2012 in a way that threatened to puncture large holes in the hull of the boat.
Now that storm has subsided, and the Pope has battened down the hatches for the final phase of his pontificate. He has begun to preach even more eloquently (See our “Lead Story”) about the great issues facing mankind in every age, but especially in our own time.
For steering the Church through this crisis, for continuing to keep up a grueling schedule which would exhaust most men half his age, for preaching the Gospel “in season and out of season,” Pope Benedict XVI is our choice for “Man of the Year” in 2012.
But the Pope is not the only one who is fighting to keep the Church on course, preaching, doing works of mercy, bearing witness to Christ. There are many others, and we have chosen ten of them.
In China, the bishop of Shanghai is a figure of enormous bravery and fidelity to Rome in spite of fear and oppression. Gerry O’Connell, our expert on Asian Church affairs, has given us a profile of Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin. In Rome, there is a Spanish cardinal, a theologian so in line with the thought of Pope Benedict that he is called “little Ratzinger” (he is also shorter than the Pope) who has now stepped out in support of the old Mass, or rather, the “eternal Mass,” as one of our letter-writers in this issue persuasively argues. He is Cardinal Antonio Cañizares. And in Rome there is right now one person whom the Pope trusts more than anyone else, someone who prays the rosary with him daily and who works with him from dawn to dusk and far into the night: his German private secretary, the new prefect of the Pontifical Household, Archbishop Georg Gänswein.
In the Middle East, where the Christian community is under such pressure, a cardinal from Lebanon is the incarnation of the Pope’s concern for the plight of the Christians of that region. He is the leader of the ancient Maronite Church, an Eastern-rite Church, so he also represents the universality of the Church. He is Patriarch Bechera Boutros Rai. In Africa, a new cardinal, from Nigeria, is fighting daily for his people against the pressure of militant Islam. He is a peacemaker, seeking ways to promote dialogue and understanding. This brave man is Cardinal John Olurunfemi Onaiyekan. In Asia, in Pakistan, there is a woman who has been in prison for three years due to false charges of blasphemy. This “prisoner of faith” is the mother of five children. Her name is Asia Bibi. In the United States, no voice in the past year has been more prominent than that of the cardinal archbishop of New York in speaking out against government infringements of religious freedom. He is Cardinal Timothy Dolan. In Europe, a Church leader in France is building a coalition for traditional values that is completely unexpected, given France’s secular nature. He is the cardinal archbishop of Paris, André Vingt-Trois.
All over the world, mothers and fathers sacrifice themselves daily for their children, but one Spanish woman sacrificed her life: she chose not to have chemotherapy to treat a cancer while pregnant, and died that her child might live. Her name: Barbara Castro Garcia.
Finally, there is one of the key assistants to Cardinal Ratzinger from his years at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a man who, under the Pope’s orders, has courageously toiled to “purify the Church” by investigating cases of priestly sexual abuse. This courageous man is Bishop Charles Scicluna of Malta.