Monday, April 14, 2008

The Pope`s Visit to the United States

The Pope`s visit to the United States is at least making some news in the United Kingdom.

The Times` coverage has been occasional but seems to recognise that it will be a visit of some significance.

The stress has been on the Pope`s visit to Ground Zero and the significance of a call (possible) by the Pope to terrorists.

The latest can be seen in The Times` article entitled Pope to pray for redemption of Islamic terrorists during US tour

Of some fun to some columnists is the simultaneous visit by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown to the United States. Most agree that he will be overshadowed by the Pope. In Clash of the Titans: Gordon Brown's visit to US clashes with Pope's trip, The Times writes (tongue in cheek):

"Next week a titan on the world stage will fly across the Atlantic to spend Wednesday talking war and peace with President Bush and making his mark on the American people.

Unfortunately for Gordon Brown, an awkward coincidence of timing means that his final visit to President Bush coincides with Pope Benedict XVI’s first to the United States, only the second time a pontiff has ever gone to the White House. Washington residents are already preparing for motorcade gridlock.

With a programme that includes a public Mass in the 40,000-seat National Park baseball stadium, the first nonsporting event in the new park, there seems little doubt which new arrival will be gripping the imagination more.

By contrast, Mr Brown’s agenda for his four-day, three-city trip – the economy and international financial stability, meetings with Wall Street bankers and discussions about the future of Africa – will never compete for the popular affection of the American people, despite recent attempts.

On Wednesday night the Prime Minister unleashed his fixed grin on an unsuspecting TV audience when he appeared on American Idol to pledge £200 million of mosquito nets for Africa, prompting one American newspaper to suggest he was a “parody of himself”.

Grover Norquist, the head of an American think-tank with close connections to the White House, said: “Most Americans are not aware of Mr Brown, and most Republicans in Washington are not aware of any change in the special relationship other than Tony Blair, a pal, has left. There is more buzz about the arrival of the Pope next week.”

Government figures are already nervous about seeing Mr Brown out of the country and appearing with President Bush so close to England’s local elections. Others in the party are more philosophical. “He can’t stop being Prime Minister just because there are local elections on,” one said.

Mr Brown will also use a big speech on Friday at the Kennedy library in Boston to urge the United States to reengage with the world in the way it did after the Second World War.

He will say the world is at a point in history when it needs American “values and leadership”. Downing Street says that there are no plans for the Presbyterian Mr Brown to meet the Pope.

The most eagerly anticipated part of the trip, however, will be the meetings that Downing Street says have been arranged with the three presidential candidates. After subtly distancing himself from President Bush, Mr Brown will be seeking to reaffirm Britain’s ties to the United States by seeing the Democrat contenders, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, as well as the Republican John McCain, whom he met last month. Downing Street says the meetings will take place behind closed doors and diplomatic conventions mean the Prime Minister will say little about their contents.

When the trip was arranged, no one in Downing Street expected the Democratic nomination still to be open. Mr Brown will have to negotiate his way through the tensions of the Clinton-Obama race without signalling favouritism, despite a longstanding relationship with Mrs Clinton.

But even this has risks. Downing Street could face disenchantment if there are last-minute complications because of the pressures of the campaign on the two Democrat contenders. Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton are expected to go head-to-head in a critical TV debate the night before the Pennsylvania primary on April 22.

Should either pull out of a meeting with the British PM, Mr Brown will once again be reminded that he does not have the pulling power in the United States of either his predecessor or, it seems, the Pope."

For those outside the United States, two articles in Time Magazine The American Pope and The Pope's Sex Abuse Challenge set out why the Pope`s visit is so important.

One matter which must be addressed is the clerical sex-abuse scandals which rocked the laity and have rocked the faith of many in the United States:

"Pope Benedict XVI's trip this week to the United States will include high-profile visits to the White House, United Nations and Ground Zero. But no matter what political issues or media angles may be buzzing before take-off, the Vatican tends to stress the pastoral aspect of any papal journey. The six-day itinerary is above all stacked with church services, baseball stadium masses and Catholic institutional encounters to allow the pontiff to tend to his flock, and to the priests and bishops who do the ministering when he's back in Rome.

The American visit, however, poses an unprecedented pastoral challenge for the 80-year-old pontiff. Benedict's is the first papal trip to the United States since the priest sex abuse crisis erupted in 2001. It is a controversy that has left much of the American laity bitterly disillusioned with their Church's leadership. For many of the 67 million American Catholics, how the Pope confronts the lingering fallout from the pedophilia scandal may largely determine the success of this visit.

Benedict's arrival in the U.S. is being seen as a make-or-break moment for Rome to regain the trust of its American flock, the third largest national contingent within a worldwide Catholic Church of 1.1 billion faithful. In recent days, the Vatican has confirmed that on at least one occasion Benedict will specifically address the issue. The Vatican's No. 2 official, Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, told FOX News that the Pope will confront the "open wound" of sex abuse during the April 19 morning mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral for New York-area clergy. It is unclear whether his words will amount to a Mea Culpa similar to those pronounced by John Paul II back in 2000 for the sins of the Church over past centuries, including persecution of Jews and heretics. Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, who heads the Vatican office for the clergy, sent a letter to bishops around the world in January, urging special prayer sessions for the victims of sexual abuse by priests."