By now, it's an All Things Catholic tradition to run down the top under-covered Vatican stories of the past year. The idea is not to flag the year's most celebrated events or personalities, because plenty of other news agencies do that. Rather, I try to lift up storylines that otherwise flew below radar but that were actually fairly important, writes John Allen in NCR Online.
If I were compiling a list of the biggest Vatican stories of the year, for instance, the beatification of Pope John Paul II on May 1 would probably be near the top. Yet it doesn't make the cut as an "under-covered" event, because it's hard to believe anybody who picked up a newspaper in May 2011, or who watched TV that day, could have missed it.
Instead, what follows is a run-down of 10 stories during 2011 that didn't have much echo, but which tell us something significant. In other words, this is the kind of stuff that armchair vaticanisti everywhere need to know.
10. Scola to Milan
Cardinal Angelo Scola, 70, was already in the top tier of papal candidates before his June 28 appointment as the new Archbishop of Milan, but that move certainly put a slammer on his status. During the 20th century, two popes were elected from Milan, Pius XI and Paul VI, and several other archbishops of Milan were considered formidable runners.
Scola comes off as an extroverted, optimistic, Italian-speaking version of Benedict XVI - a ferocious defender of Catholic identity, but someone who likes to put the accent on what the church is for rather than what it's against.
As a footnote, the appointment also confirms that Communion and Liberation is Benedict XVI's favourite movement. Scola has lifetime ties to the ciellini and is an intellectual disciple of its founder, the late Monsignor Luigi Giussani.
9. Courtyard of the Gentiles
Although it didn't have much traction in the English-language press, the March 24-25 "Courtyard of the Gentiles" event in Paris was a major hit in the Francophone world. Organized by the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture, under hyper-erudite Italian Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, and co-sponsored by UNESCO, l'Institut de France and the Sorbonne, the gathering brought Christians and secularists into serious dialogue.
One sign of success is that a celebrated French agnostic philosopher, Jean Luc Ferry, was so impressed that he requested an urgent meeting with Ravasi to propose that the two collaborate on a book on the Gospel of John.
FULL STORY The Top 10 under-covered Vatican stories (NCR)