Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Mar 13, 2023 / 13:15 pm
Pope Francis is the 265th successor of St. Peter. Here is a timeline of key events during his papacy:
March 13 — About two weeks after Pope Benedict XVI steps down from the papacy, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio is elected pope. He takes the papal name Francis in honor of St. Francis of Assisi and proclaims from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica: “Let us begin this journey, the bishop and people, this journey of the Church of Rome, which presides in charity over all the Churches, a journey of brotherhood in love, of mutual trust. Let us always pray for one another.”
March 14 — The day after he begins his pontificate, Pope Francis returns to his hotel to personally pay his hotel bill and collect his luggage.
July 8 — Pope Francis visits Italy’s island of Lampedusa and meets with a group of 50 migrants, most of whom are young men from Somalia and Eritrea. The island, which is about 200 miles off the coast of Tunisia, is a common entry point for migrants who flee parts of Africa and the Middle East to enter Europe. This is the pope’s first pastoral visit outside of Rome and sets the stage for making reaching out to the peripheries a significant focus.
July 23-28 — Pope Francis visits Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to participate in World Youth Day 2013. More than 3 million people from around the world attend the event.
July 29 — On the return flight from Brazil, Pope Francis gives his first papal news conference and sparks controversy by saying “if a person is gay and seeks God and has goodwill, who am I to judge?” The phrase is prompted by a reporter asking the pope a question about priests who have homosexual attraction.
Nov. 24 — Pope Francis publishes his first apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). The document illustrates the pope’s vision for how to approach evangelization in the modern world.
Feb. 22 — Pope Francis holds his first papal consistory to appoint 19 new cardinals, including ones from countries in the developing world that have never previously been represented in the College of Cardinals, such as Haiti.
March 22 — Pope Francis creates the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. The commission works to protect the dignity of minors and vulnerable adults, such as the victims of sexual abuse.
Oct. 5 — The Synod on the Family begins. The bishops discuss a variety of concerns, including single-parent homes, cohabitation, homosexual adoption of children, and interreligious marriages.
Dec. 6 — After facing some pushback for his efforts to reform the Roman Curia, Pope Francis discusses his opinion in an interview with La Nacion, an Argentine news outlet: “Resistance is now evident. And that is a good sign for me, getting the resistance out into the open, no stealthy mumbling when there is disagreement. It’s healthy to get things out into the open, it’s very healthy.”
Jan. 18 — To conclude a trip to Asia, Pope Francis celebrates Mass in Manila, Philippines. Approximately 6 million to 7 million people attend the record-setting Mass, despite heavy rain.
March 23 — Pope Francis visits Naples, Italy, to show the Church’s commitment to helping the fight against corruption and organized crime in the city.
May 24 — To emphasize the Church’s mission to combat global warming and care for the environment, Pope Francis publishes the encyclical Laudato Si’, which urges people to take care of the environment and encourages political action to address climate problems.
Sept. 19-22 — Pope Francis visits Cuba and meets with Fidel Castro in the first papal visit to the country since Pope John Paul II in 1998. During his homily, Francis discusses the dignity of the human person: “Being a Christian entails promoting the dignity of our brothers and sisters, fighting for it, living for it.”
Sept. 22-27 — After departing from Cuba, Pope Francis makes his first papal visit to the United States. In Washington, D.C., he speaks to a joint session of Congress, in which he urges lawmakers to work toward promoting the common good, and canonizes the Franciscan missionary St. Junípero Serra. He also attends the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, which focuses on celebrating the gift of the family.
Oct. 4 — Pope Francis begins the second Synod on the Family to address issues within the modern family, such as single-parent homes, cohabitation, poverty, and abuse.
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Oct. 18 — The pope canonizes St. Louis Martin and St. Marie-Azélie “Zelie” Guérin. The married couple were parents to five nuns, including St. Therese of Lisieux. They are the first married couple to be canonized together.
Dec. 8 — Pope Francis’ Jubilee Year of Mercy begins. The year focuses on God’s mercy and forgiveness and people’s redemption from sin. The pope delegates certain priests in each diocese to be Missionaries of Mercy who have the authority to forgive sins that are usually reserved for the Holy See.
March 19 — Pope Francis publishes the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which discusses a wide variety of issues facing the modern family based on discussions from the two synods on the family. The pope garners significant controversy from within the Church for comments he makes in Chapter 8 about Communion for the divorced and remarried.
April 16 — After visiting refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos, Pope Francis allows three Muslim refugee families to join him on his flight back to Rome. He says the move was not a political statement.
July 26-31 — Pope Francis visits Krakow, Poland, as part of the World Youth Day festivities. About 3 million young Catholic pilgrims from around the world attend.
Sept. 4 — The pope canonizes St. Teresa of Calcutta, who is also known as Mother Teresa. The saint, a nun from Albania, dedicated her life to missionary and charity work, primarily in India.
Sept. 30-Oct. 2 — Pope Francis visits Georgia and Azerbaijan on his 16th trip outside of Rome since the start of his papacy. His trip focuses on Catholic relations with Orthodox Christians and Muslims.
Oct. 4 — Pope Francis makes a surprise visit to Amatrice, Italy, to pray for the victims of an earthquake in central Italy that killed nearly 300 people.
May 12-13 — In another papal trip, Francis travels to Fatima, Portugal, to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima. May 13 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Marian apparition to three children in the city.
July 11 — Pope Francis adds another category of Christian life suitable for the consideration of sainthood: “offering of life.” The category is distinct from martyrdom, which only applies to someone who is killed for his or her faith. The new category applies to those who died prematurely through an offering of their life to God and neighbor.
Nov. 19 — On the first-ever World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis eats lunch with 4,000 poor and people in need in Rome.
Nov. 27-Dec. 2 — In another trip to Asia, Pope Francis travels to Myanmar and Bangladesh. He visits landmarks and meets with government officials, Catholic clergy, and Buddhist monks. He also preaches the Gospel and promotes peace in the region.
Jan. 15-21 — The pope takes another trip to Latin America, this time visiting Chile and Peru. The pontiff meets with government officials and members of the clergy while urging the faithful to remain close to the clergy and reject secularism. The Chilean visit leads to controversy over Chilean clergy sex abuse scandals.
Aug. 2 — The Vatican formally revises No. 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which concerns the death penalty. The previous text suggested the death penalty could be permissible in certain circumstances, but the revision states that the death penalty is “inadmissible.”
Aug. 25 — Archbishop Carlo Viganò, former papal nuncio to the United States, publishes an 11-page letter calling for the resignation of Pope Francis and accusing him and other Vatican officials of covering up sexual abuse including allegations against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. The pope initially does not directly respond to the letter, but nine months after its publication he denies having prior knowledge about McCarrick’s conduct.
Aug. 25-26 — Pope Francis visits Dublin, Ireland, to attend the World Meeting of Families. The theme is “the Gospel of family, joy for the world.”
Oct. 3-28 — The Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment takes place. The synod focuses on best practices to teach the faith to young people and to help them discern God’s will.
Jan. 22-27 — The third World Youth Day during Pope Francis’ pontificate takes place during these six days in Panama City, Panama. Young Catholics from around the world gather for the event, with approximately 3 million people in attendance.
Feb. 4 — Pope Francis signs a joint document in with Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, titled the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together.” The document focuses on people of different faiths uniting together to live peacefully and advance a culture of mutual respect.
Feb. 21-24 — The Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church, which is labeled the Vatican Sexual Abuse Summit, takes place. The meeting focuses on sexual abuse scandals in the Church and emphasizes responsibility, accountability, and transparency.
Oct. 6-27 — The Church holds the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region, which is also known as the Amazon Synod. The synod is meant to present ways in which the Church can better evangelize the Amazon region but leads to controversy when carved images of a pregnant Amazonian woman, referred to by the pope as Pachamama, are used in several events and displayed in a basilica near the Vatican.
Oct. 13 — St. John Henry Newman, an Anglican convert to Catholicism and a cardinal, is canonized by Pope Francis. Newman’s writings inspired Catholic student associations at nonreligious colleges and universities in the United States and other countries.
March 15 — Pope Francis takes a walking pilgrimage in Rome to the chapel of the crucifix and prays for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. The crucifix was carried through Rome during the plague of 1522.
March 27 — Pope Francis gives an extraordinary “urbi et orbi” blessing in an empty and rain-covered St. Peter’s Square, praying for the world during the coronavirus pandemic.
March 5-8 — In his first papal trip since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pope Francis becomes the first pope to visit Iraq. On his trip, he signs a joint statement with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani condemning extremism and promoting peace.
July 3 — Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who was elevated to the College of Cardinals by Pope Francis, is indicted in a Vatican court for embezzlement, money laundering, and other crimes. The pope gives approval for the indictment.
July 4 — Pope Francis undergoes colon surgery for diverticulitis, a common condition in older people. The Vatican releases a statement that assures the pope “reacted well” to the surgery. Francis is released from the hospital after 10 days.
July 16 — Pope Francis issues a motu proprio titled Traditionis Custodes. The document imposes heavy restrictions on the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass.
Dec. 2-6 — The pope travels to Cyprus and Greece. The trip includes another visit to the Greek island of Lesbos to meet with migrants.
Jan. 11 — Pope Francis makes a surprise visit to a record store in Rome called StereoSound. The pope, who has an affinity for classical music, blesses the newly renovated store.
March 19 — The pope promulgates Praedicate Evangelium, which reforms the Roman Curia. The reforms emphasize evangelization and establish more opportunities for the laity to be in leadership positions.
May 5 — Pope Francis is seen in a wheelchair for the first time in public and begins to use one more frequently. The pope has been suffering from knee problems for months.
July 24-30 — In his first papal visit to Canada, Pope Francis apologizes for the harsh treatment of the indigenous Canadians, saying many Christians and members of the Catholic Church were complicit.
Jan. 31-Feb. 5 — Pope Francis travels to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. During his visit, the pope condemns political violence in the countries and promotes peace. He also participates in an ecumenical prayer service with Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Moderator of the Church of Scotland Iain Greenshields.
March 29-April 1 — Pope Francis is hospitalized for a respiratory infection. During his stay at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital, he visits the pediatric cancer ward and baptizes a newborn baby.
April 5 — The pope appears in the Disney documentary “The Pope: Answers,” which is in Spanish, answering six “hot-button” issues from members of Gen Z from various backgrounds. The group discusses immigration, depression, abortion, clergy sexual and psychological abuse, transgenderism, pornography, and loss of faith.
April 28-30 — Pope Francis visits Hungary to meet with government officials, civil society members, bishops, priests, seminarians, Jesuits, consecrated men and women, and pastoral workers. He celebrates Mass on the final day of the trip in Kossuth Lajos Square.
June 7 — The Vatican announces that Pope Francis will undergo abdominal surgery that afternoon under general anesthesia due to a hernia that is causing painful, recurring, and worsening symptoms. In his general audience that morning before the surgery, Francis says he intends to publish an apostolic letter on St. Thérèse of Lisieux, “patroness of the missions,” to mark the 150th anniversary of her birth.
June 15 — After successful surgery and a week of recovery, Pope Francis is released from Gemelli Hospital.
Aug. 2-6 — Pope Francis travels to Lisbon, Portugal, for World Youth Day 2023, taking place from Aug. 1-6. He meets with Church and civil leaders ahead of presiding at the welcoming Mass and Stations of the Cross. He also hears the confessions of several pilgrims. On Aug. 5, he visits the Shrine of Our Lady of Fátima, where he prays the rosary with young people with disabilities. That evening he presides over the vigil and on Sunday, Aug. 6, he celebrates the closing Mass, where he urges the 1.5 million young people present to “be not afraid,” echoing the words of the founder of World Youth Days, St. John Paul II.
Aug. 31-Sept. 4 — Pope Francis travels to Mongolia, the world’s most sparsely populated sovereign country. The trip makes Francis the first pope to visit the Asian country that shares a 2,880-mile border with China, its most significant economic partner. Mongolia has a population of about 1,300 Catholics in a country of more than 3 million people.
Sept. 22-23 — On a two-day trip to Marseille, France, Pope Francis meets with local civil and religious leaders and participates in the Mediterranean Encounter, a gathering of some 120 young people of various creeds with bishops from 30 countries.
Oct. 4-29 — The Vatican hosts the first of two monthlong global assemblies of the Synod on Synodality, initiated by Pope Francis in 2021 to enhance the communion, participation, and mission of the Church. Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass of the synod at St. Peter’s Basilica on Oct. 29. The second and final global assembly will take place at the Vatican in October 2024.
Nov. 25 — Pope Francis visits the hospital briefly for precautionary testing after coming down with the flu earlier in the day. Although he still participates in scheduled activities, other officials read his prepared remarks. The Vatican on Nov. 28 cancels the pope’s planned Dec. 1–3 trip to Dubai for the COP28 climate conference, where he was scheduled to deliver a speech, due to his illness.
Tyler Arnold is a staff reporter for Catholic News Agency, based in EWTN News’ Washington Bureau. He previously worked at The Center Square and has been published in a variety of outlets, including The Associated Press, National Review, The American Conservative, and The Federalist.
Tina Dennelly is Senior Copy Editor for Catholic News Agency. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and has more than 25 years of experience writing and editing for Catholic newspapers, magazines, books, and other media.
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