Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Pope's American Pilgrimage

Well Pope Benedict XVI has not been shy. He has addressed the clergy sexual abuse issue at least three times since coming to America. He has reminded Americans that faith is not a private matter, it must have behavioral/social implications to be real. He was met by the President at Andrews Airbase. He visited the White House and now begins meetings, services and dialogue in Washington and New York.

All of this is exciting. This was a man liberal Catholics “knew” would be rigid and avoid controversy, a transitional pope. This was a man conservative Catholics “knew” would be one of them in all matters. Well, thank goodness, they were all wrong, he speaks out forcefully against the war in Iraq. He calls for immediate action to curb global warming, calls for open, honest and respectful dialogue among faiths. He calls for an end to the death penalty. Labels such as liberal and conservative are too restrictive and artificial to describe this man.

However, what I love most right now is the pageantry of a multicultural Pope shepherding a multicultural nation. The Solemn Mass in Washington reflected the ethnic tapestry of America. The Pope has repeatedly demonstrated his mastery of multiple languages. It is this diversity that must be embraced if we are to begin to solve world problems. It is this diversity that reflects a universal church.

So I will keep watching as the Pope moves up the east coast, as he meets with members of other faiths and as he meets with the presidents of Catholic universities. The world sorely needs to see its leaders talk to one another, embrace one another in friendship and to call out for an end to the excesses of fanatical religious intolerance in all faiths, an end to excessive materialism and an acknowledgment of interdependency. This is a small planet, a beautiful and bountiful planet but a tired and injured planet. We need all of us if we are to heal it.

Pope Benedict, thank you for your message of hope.

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