What a decade! A look at the biggest Catholic stories of the 2010s

CNA 5140da7e8f8d6 19269 March 13, 2013: Pope Francis greets the pilgrims in St. Peter's Square and delivers his first Urbi et Orbi blessing. | Mauricio Artieda/CNA

When Church historians look back on the last ten years, they'll have several historic and important moments to study. And Catholics who've lived through the last decade may feel that changes, often one right after another, were both dizzying and exciting.

As a new decade begins on January 1, 2020, CNA offers a look back at some of the most important stories for the Church in the 2010s:


Pope Benedict XVI announces his retirement

When Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would retire in February 2013, he was the first pope to relinquish his office since 1415. The pope emeritus said that he would "serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer."

Pope Francis, first Latin American pope, elected

After the resignation of Pope Benedict XVi, the conclave of cardinals elected Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, who took the name Pope Francis. The pope is the first Latin American to be elected to the papacy, and the first Jesuit.


Pope St. John Paul II and Pope St. John XXIII canonized

John Paul II had been beatified in 2011 by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI. John XXIII had been beatified in 2000, by Pope John Paul II.

The two were canonized together by Pope Francis.

Pope John XXIII convoked the Second Vatican Council, and Pope John Paul II, the first Polish pope, has been the longest-reigning pope since Vatican II, Pope Francis pointed out during the canonization.

At the canonization, Pope Francis praised John Paul II's "untiring service, his spiritual guidance, and his extraordinary testimony of holiness."


Pope Francis releases Amoris laetitia

Pope Francis' pastoral exhortation on marriage and family life is written as a guide for both families and their pastors, and intended to address the unique challenges of family life in the modern world.

The document has proven controversial, however, and the debate has framed much of the dialogue regarding the pontificate of Francis. Critics say the document is ambiguous regarding some aspects of sacramental discipline and the theology of the conscience, and episcopal conferences have disagreed regarding its interpretation.

In 2016, a group of cardinals presented questions to the pope about the document's theological meaning, and some Catholics have raised concerns that those questions have not yet been answered.


More in Vatican

Mother Teresa canonized

Among the most well-known Catholic figures of the 20th century, Mother Teresa of Calcutta died in 1997 after decades of service among the poor in India and around the world, with her religious order, the Missionaries of Charity. She was named a saint by Pope Francis in September 2016.


Theodore McCarrick laicized

In 2018, revelations about the sexual abuse and coercion of then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick amplified a global crisis regarding clerical sexual abuse and misconduct.

Before the McCarrick scandal emerged, Pope Francis had already faced a crisis in Chile, which led to mass protests during his January 2018 visit to Latin America, and eventually culminated in every Chilean bishop submitting his resignation to the pope.

The McCarrick scandal, however, caught the attention of the globe, and led to a raft of charges from Archbishop Carlo Vigano, to the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, and to the eventual laicization of McCarrick.

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The McCarrick scandal also led to new norms from Pope Francis on investigating allegations of abuse or misconduct by bishops, and has led to the emergence of several other scandals regarding bishops.

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