By John Thavis
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – As Pope Benedict XVI looks at his 2008 calendar, he's no doubt recognizing that life doesn't slow down after 81.
With three foreign trips, a world Synod of Bishops on the Bible, a jubilee year dedicated to St. Paul, an important dialogue with Muslims, and an encyclical and a new book in the works, 2008 is shaping up as perhaps the busiest year of his pontificate.
The pope celebrated his 81st birthday in Washington April 16, the day he met with U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House and with U.S. bishops at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
The April 15-20 trip to the United States and the United Nations was the pope's first journey outside Italy in 2008.
In late July the pope will travel to Australia – by far the longest trip of his pontificate – to preside over World Youth Day celebrations. Sometime during the year, he's expected to visit Lourdes, France, to mark the 150th anniversary of Marian apparitions there.
Meanwhile, the pope’s schedule included several major trips inside Italy, including the Ligurian seaports of Genoa and Savona, the southern Italian region of Puglia, and the island of Sardinia.
On June 28, Pope Benedict was set to inaugurate the "year of St. Paul," which will feature liturgies, conferences and ecumenical encounters in Rome and around the world. The pope wants modern Christians to draw inspiration from the apostle's missionary energy, and that's a theme he'll be talking about in coming months.
The Synod of Bishops runs Oct. 5-26 on the theme, "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church." The pope chose the topic of Scripture, and he is expected to follow the proceedings closely. The synod's working document is due out earlier in the year.
And sources said the pope is continuing to work on another project dear to his heart: the second volume on the life of Jesus, following publication of "Jesus of Nazareth" last spring.
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