Looking back on 2009, it's difficult to imagine a busier year for 82-year-old Pope Benedict XVI.
The Year of St. Paul. The Year for Priests. A major social encyclical. A Holy Land pilgrimage. A first meeting with President Obama. Ten new saints. An African trip and an African synod. A Facebook debut. A controversial concession to Catholic traditionalists. An unexpected overture to disaffected Anglicans.
And those are just the highlights, of course. Being pope is a day-in, day-out ministry, and over the course of the past year Pope Benedict met with more than 200 dignitaries and groups, held talks with more than 300 bishops and celebrated more than 50 major liturgies.
The year brought moments of deep personal satisfaction, as when the German pontiff prayed in silence before Christ's empty tomb in Jerusalem, or when he arrived on his first African visit to a tumultuous welcome by hundreds of thousands of Cameroon residents.
But the pope's disappointment was also evident in 2009, in part because he felt misunderstood by some of his own faithful and the mass media over difficult decisions or statements.
In January, the pope announced that he was lifting the excommunications of four bishops of the Society of St. Pius X to open the way toward reconciliation talks with the traditionalist group -- a move that had been opposed by some bishops in several countries.