More than 2.3 million pilgrims attended audiences or celebrations with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican during 2012. • “Bold steps” are necessary to counter the “rising tide of aggressive posturing” between the United States and Iran, wrote Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, on Dec. 18 in a letter to National Security Advisor Thomas E. Donilon. • Lee Young-chan, a Jesuit priest jailed because of his support for campaigners against the construction of a military base on Jeju Island off the coast of Korea, was released on bail on Dec. 26. • Pope Benedict visited his former butler, Paolo Gabriele, in his cell in the Vatican police barracks, personally telling the butler he was forgiven and was being pardoned after his conviction for leaking Vatican documents. • Members of the Religion Newswriters Association picked the U.S. Catholic bishops’ opposition to a federal mandate for contraception coverage in health plans as the No. 1 religion story of 2012 and chose Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York as the year’s top newsmaker in their annual poll. • In his New Year’s message, Caracas Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino asked Venezuelans to pray for President Hugo Chavez in his continuing battle with cancer.