So far, only one international trip is on the calendar: a January visit to his home continent.
After the close of Christmas with the celebration of Epiphany on January 6, Pope Francis’ coming year is already full. Whether at home in Rome with the synod on youth and the expected canonization of Paul VI, or outside of the City, tackling the problem of migration or other issues in Italian politics, the agenda is already filling up for the Supreme Pontiff.
On January 14, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on the World Day of Migrants, following his choice of the theme of migrants and refugees for the January 1 World Day of Peace.
From January 15-22, the pontiff will visit two countries on his home continent: Chile and Peru. This is currently the only apostolic trip outside Italy officially confirmed by the Holy See for the year, though in November, Lithuanian leaders said the pope would visit the country and the Baltic States in the fall of 2018, for the centennial of independence.
Of course the pope would also like to visit China and Russia. If these trips seem unlikely for the moment, the Vatican will undoubtedly continue its rapprochement efforts during the year 2018. In March there will be two simultaneous exhibitions held in the Vatican and Beijing, with reciprocal loans of works of art.
In February, the Vatican could recognize the martyrdom of Bishop Pierre Claverie and 18 other companions in Algeria, including the monks of Tibihirine. This would open the way for their beatification.
The last days of February will bring the Council of Cardinals (C9) to Rome for their 23rd meeting. After four years of work, their efforts on a reorganization of the Curia should be ready for a final proposal.
On March 13, the Argentine pope will begin the sixth year of his pontificate. His main challenge, says Vatican expert Andrea Gagliarducci, is to preserve the unity of the Church.
On March 17, Pope Francis will make a one-day trip to Pietrelcina, Italy, the birthplace of Padre Pio, and the city where the famous Capuchin spent the rest of his life, San Giovanni Rotondo, in Puglia in southern Italy. The trip marks the 50th anniversary of the saint’s death and the centenary of the apparition of his stigmata. The pontiff will also visit the hospital founded by Padre Pio, the Casa di sollievo della sofferenza. Staff there have voiced conscientious objection against the new Italian law on living wills at the end of life.
The pontiff could also visit Molfetta, also in Puglia, for the 25th anniversary of the death of Bishop Tonino Bello. A trip to Venice is also under consideration.
From March 19-24, at the Vatican, a pre-synodal meeting will be organized for young people from all continents, including representatives of different Christian denominations, as well as members of other religions and non-believers. The findings will be forwarded to the Synod Fathers, leading up to the Synod of Bishops to be held in October.
Mid-March should also bring Italian elections, the first under the pontificate of Pope Francis.
On April 1, the Supreme Pontiff will celebrate Easter — yes, it falls on April Fools Day this year, with Ash Wednesday coming on Valentine’s Day.
In June, Paul VI (1963-1978) could be proclaimed the new saint of the Church, in the same year that his landmark encyclical on artificial contraception, Humanae Vitae, turns 50. A miracle has indeed been recognized by the Theological Commission of the Congregation of Saints’ Causes; it seems that Paul VI enjoys interceding for the unborn and pregnant mothers.
Paul VI also wrote an encyclical on clerical celibacy — Sacerdotalis caelibatus in June 1967. He was beatified October 19, 2014, by Pope Francis, during the first synod on the family. A possible date for his canonization could be a Sunday in June, 50 years after his Credo of the People of God. Another option could be in October during the synod of bishops on the young.
From August 21 to 26, the World Meeting of Families will be held in Dublin, Ireland, organized under the auspices of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life. This will be the first WMF since the encyclical Amoris Laetitia (2016) on the family. Pope Francis could travel to Ireland to celebrate the closing Mass.
From October 3 to 28, the head of the Catholic Church will preside over the Synod of Bishops on youth, faith and vocational discernment.
Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, said the question of the ordination of married men is not the agenda of the Synod. Young people will be particularly involved. The Brazilian Cardinal Sérgio da Rocha, archbishop of Brasilia and president of the bishops’ Conference of the country, will lead the synod.
On December 17, Pope Francis will celebrate his 82nd birthday. This makes him still relatively young for the popes of the third millennium: John Paul II died just before his 85th birthday and Benedict XVI resigned shortly before his 86th. The Pope Emeritus, for his part, will reach the age of 91 on April 16.