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(RNS) — “God surprises us,” Pope Benedict XVI said in 2010, in a Christmas broadcast for the BBC. Assuring the English-speaking world that God always fulfills his promises, the pontiff cautioned that the divine doesn’t always do so in ways we expect.
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Neither did Benedict. Three years later, he became the first pope in half a millennium to resign his seat, making way for the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, the first Jesuit pope and the first from the New World. It was already the biggest religion story of the decade before Pope Francis began his unmaking of Benedict’s stern, “small church” Catholicism, allowing more room for divorced and LGBT Catholics and inspiring the world outside the church with his compassion.
But Benedict’s brief tenure seemed to foreshadow many of the major religion stories of the 2010s — in Catholicism and all faiths. In his critique of Islam as a faith with violent roots, his defense of faith against secular culture and his acknowledgment — the first by a pope — of the resurgent sexual abuse crisis, Benedict’s concerns prefigured the themes of Religion News Service’s coverage for the rest of the 2010s. A look back at the stories that drove religion news in the past 10 years:
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Ten years after the event, the echoes of 9/11 continued to reverberate. In New York, an ill-fated attempt by a group of New York Muslims to open a community center near the former World Trade Center site ended in a sordid anti-Muslim squabble. The next year, U.S. Rep. Peter King of New York held congressional hearings to examine “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response,” inviting stories of American youth converted to “radical Islam.”
As the 2012 presidential primaries got underway, some candidates stoked fear of Islam,...
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