The Papal Visit

I came to the Washington D.C. area six weeks before the historic visit of Pope John Paul The Great in 1979.  It was an amazing event – Crowd estimates ran upwards of 200 000 on the Washington Mall that day, and I was lucky enough to be one of them.  To say that it was inspiring is to make an understatement, of course. But so many years later, all I remember is that the weather was cool that day and sunny, near perfect for the Mass and for the crowd that stayed throughout the morning, afternoon and into the early evening.

Pope Benedict will be visiting the city, and will say Mass on the 17th of this month in the Washington Nationals Baseball Team’s new stadium.  Except in spirit, I won’t be able to attend.  And I would hardly know what to expect.

But I know that his message won’t be political, and it won’t be well understood in this most political of towns.

His theme will be “Christ Our Hope”. And from the official Vatican Website:

Jesus Christ is hope for men and women of every language, race, culture and social condition,” he said. “Yes, Christ is the face of God present among us.

“Through him, our lives reach fullness, and together, both as individuals and peoples, we can become a family united by fraternal love, according to the eternal plan of God the Father.

“I know how deeply rooted this Gospel message is in your country. I am coming to share it with you, in a series of celebrations and gatherings.

Mark Stricherz at Get Religion knows that the reporters will miss the point.

Van Biema and Isrealy miss this central message of Benedict’s pontificate. Instead of summarizing and critiquing this theological view, the reporters emphasize his political philosophy:

This Pope, more a student of global drama than an eager protagonist, knows that rising religious conflict may be the 21st century’s great challenge. He also appears to sense that American power alone won’t solve it—but that the power of American values still might. In rummaging through our founding precepts for a path for his own purposes, he might find something important for us to remember too.

He reminds them of the big picture this visit frames.

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