Letter from Rome: Pope Francis begins his most important year

Curia reform, new cardinals and trips to unexpected places will shape the pontiff's 2020
Letter from Rome: Pope Francis begins his most important year

Pope Francis holds a globe covered in children's drawings during a Vatican ceremony on Dec. 21, 2019. He is expected to do plenty of traveling this year in a defining 12 months. (Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP)

Anno Domini MMXX. When the history of Pope Francis' time as bishop of Rome is finally written, there is a good chance that the Year of Our Lord 2020 will be recorded as the most important of his entire pontificate.

Some are wondering whether it may actually be his last.

The pope's recent decisions to "retire" the powerful Italian churchman Angelo Sodano as dean of the College of Cardinals and to make Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines head one of the most powerful Vatican offices — Propaganda Fide — are being read as signs that Francis is beginning to prepare for the election of his successor on the Chair of Peter.

The 83-year-old Jesuit pope will also be issuing two major documents in 2020, and probably a few others. He'll continue to travel the globe, possibly going to places where his predecessors had hoped to visit but were denied entry. And there's no doubt he will add more men to the illustrious red-hatted group from which will emerge the next bishop of Rome.

So any way one looks at this new calendar year, it will almost certainly prove to be pivotal.

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