VATICAN CITY — The year 2019 was one of the most challenging of Pope Francis’ six-year pontificate, filled with plentiful activity and personal contact, but also hamstrung by scandal and growing expressions of unease from a minority of the faithful concerned about its direction.

During the past 12 months, the Pope produced a post-synodal apostolic exhortation on young people, announced new norms for dealing with clerical sexual abuse, and held a synod on the Amazon. He also found time to make seven foreign trips, visiting Panama for World Youth Day, Morocco, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Romania, Mozambique, Madagascar, Mauritius, Thailand and Japan.

In February, he also became the first pope in modern history to set foot on the Arabian Peninsula, when he visited the United Arab Emirates — all in a year in which he turned 83 and celebrated his 50th anniversary as a priest.

The papal year began and ended on the theme of clerical sex abuse, with the Pope sending a message to U.S. bishops attending a Jan. 2-8 retreat, convened at his suggestion, on improving accountability and handling of abuse cases. He called for “collegial awareness” and “evangelical paths” and urged them to win trust by “sincere, daily, humble and generous service to all.” ….

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