Benedict in America

Issue: 25 – May 2008
Benedict in America
Pope Benedict XVIs visit to America began on a sensitive note before even touching down on U.S soil: by addressing the sex abuse scandal that has rocked the faith of Catholics in America in recent years saying that he was deeply ashamed of the pedophile priests actions.

He emphasised the importance of the message in his remarks to the U.S. Bishops and his meetings a day later with abuse victims from Boston. While many American Catholics will wait for action, the promise to absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry is nonetheless encouraging. While the Holy Father set the stage for his visit by putting the abuse scandal front-and-centre, he came with messages for different constituencies as he met and addressed each in turn.

From the personal greeting at Andrews Air Force Base and the 21-gun salute to the singing of happy birthday by the 13,500 person crowd (the largest reception ever at the White House) and the U.S. Army Chorus moving performance of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, Americans were enthralled with the scene on an absolutely perfect day in Washington. For a man famous for disliking pomp and state functions, President Bush pulled out all the stops to welcome the Pope to America. Remarks by the Holy Father were equally welcome: From the dawn of the Republic, Americas quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator. For an increasingly secular country, to have God so present was a welcome sight.

The Popes meetings with various interreligious representatives and address to the United Nations stressed the importance of human dignity and religious freedom and the links between the two. The Holy Father stressed that human rights are increasingly being presented as the common language and the ethical substratum of international relations. At the same time, the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights all serve as guarantees safeguarding human dignity.

While many may debate whether the Papal visit was successful, the impression made on Catholics, America, and the World community through his actions and speeches may well have a lasting effect.


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