Reflections on the Papal Visit

All in all — from the Roman Catholic Church’s perspective — this must be seen as a very positive visit by the Pope to his American flock. A warmer persona than perhaps many expected, Benedict XVI attempted to reveal his pastoral, in addition to his scholarly, side on this trip.

From my perspective, I think he took an important step with respect to the sexual abuse crisis. It was largely symbolic but sought to convey steps that already have been take to correct the abuses and hinted at some future changes. I hope that will not entail tarring homosexual persons with the brush of pedophilia by specifically banning them from the ordination track. And, it was a little frustrating to hear this continually referred to as “a crisis in the American church.”

The only reason this has come to light in the US is that our society provides the freedom and protection for victims to come forward and have some assurance that they will be heard. There are countless victims, many of them women as well has children, of Catholic (and other) clergy around the world. I pray that their voices may one day be heard as well…and that the Vatican will pay attention.

I thought Pope Benedict did a brilliant job at the United Nations, naming the downside as well as upside of globalization, affirming that assuring human rights around the world lies at the center of the UN mission, and even venturing into the controversial topic of the “responsibility to protect” raising the ante for international forces, perhaps coordinated by the UN, to intervene in places like the Sudan where the government is unable to protect its most vulnerable people.

The visit to the historic synagogue on the East Side was appropriate and timely, seeking to assure the Jewish community of the Roman Church’s commitment to dialogue and understanding even in the face of the restoration of the Tridentine Mass and its problematic Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the Jews. The ecumenical service was less successful, although no other office in world could gather as diverse a crowd of Christian leaders as we were in St. Joseph’s (German) parish on Thursday night.

A veiled slap at, undoubtedly, The Episcopal Church as one of those taking “so-called prophetic actions” not based on Scripture and Tradition which by relying on “local option” marginalizes such churches was painful, but I suppose fair enough. Ecumenical partners are supposed to be open to mutual “admonition” as well as mutual “affirmation” from one another. We certainly have our critique of the Roman church!

The Mass at St. Patrick’s, the visit to Ground Zero, and the concluding liturgy at Yankee Stadium were carefully scripted and predictable, but no doubt meaningful for those in attendance and many who watched. I was amazed at the energy of this 81 year old Pontiff! And, not only in comparison with the sad physical decline of his predecessor in recent years due to Parkinson’s disease. By any standards, this guy is in good shape for his age!

As I say, all in all, a very successful pastoral visitation to the US by the head of the largest church in the world. Let us pray that it will have positive effects for the church here and around the world.

One Response to “Reflections on the Papal Visit”

  1. JB Says:

    You know, bishop, I thought the comment was very balanced and pastoral, almost as if the pope recognized our claim to be fully catholic and fully protestant. Both sides in the current discussions have ingnored the wider body of Christ (and in a sense jettisoned the catholicity) to do what they think is right. The left went ahead with an action with which most of the communion thought was unbiblical, but the right has gone ahead and violated the traditions of the church (as evidenced in Vancouver this weekend). Both sides are adamant that they are right and in need of a pastoral solution (i.e. local option), so maybe his velvet glove will get people to think about the cross as the way to glory.


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