Saturday, April 18, 2009

Anniversary of Pope Coming to America - Day 4

By David Fortwengler

Day 4 of Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to the United States found the Pontiff moving north to New York City. His schedule included an address to the United Nations, a planned visit to a Synagogue, and a planned meeting with ecumenical leaders. Kudos to the 81 year old Pope for his energy and stamina. His grueling Day 3 schedule outlasted mine, but I didn't miss the morning news about the "monumental" conclusion to his day. Did anybody?

End of Day 3

At 5:00 the Pope addressed 450 Catholic educators on the beautiful campus of Catholic University, a location as well known to D.C. Catholics as the “Exorcist” steps at Georgetown. He stressed the importance of faith in education, and praised academic freedom.

At 6:30 he attended a planned meeting with 200 inter-faith leaders, including representatives from Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. (yes, Jainism) He once again marveled at the ability to worship freely in this country, and pointed out how dialogue leads to truth. 

Dramatic, unprecedented, and smart pr 

In between his planned meetings with educators, Muslims, and Jainists; the Pope agreed to a surprise, unscheduled, private, 25 minute meeting with 5 victims of child sexual abuse by priests. Various media reports described Pope Benedict’s willingness to meet with victims as dramatic, unprecedented, monumental, and ..., (get out your own thesaurus) I really don’t know why it was such a big deal, most survivors are as nice as your average Jainist.

Any good news?

You bet. I am happy for the five who attended, their public comments afterwords indicated they found personal benefit in the meeting. Because of their courage, everyone knows the Pope has looked into the eyes of at least five survivors, who told him, “Ow, that really hurt”. Everyone knows Bernie McDaid pleaded with him “to do something about it”. 

Day 4

Because of the non-stop media coverage about the meeting, this might be a day the Pope doesn’t have to “mention it”. After all, he’s already “mentioned it” three times and met with victims.

United Nations 

Upon arriving in New York, the Pope went to the United Nations to address the General Assembly. His talk focused on four main points.

1. "Unchanging justice." The pope used this phrase to describe the principle that fundamental human rights cannot be denied or diminished because of a different race, creed, or social outlook. In our country we call it equal protection under the law, anti-discrimination, and all men are created equal. 

2. "The decisions of a few." The pope never mentioned Iraq, but it was a criticism of our decision to go ahead without a world consensus. We know. We know. On the other hand, it doesn’t bother me we didn’t check in with Uganda, Libya, and Burkina Faso. 3. "The order of creation." Referring to environmental actions, he said to "rediscover the authentic image of creation." I don’t know whether he meant the Garden of Eden or the Big Bang.

"The public dimension of religion." As he has already done many times, he emphasized the role of religion in making public policy. 

Can't get enough religion

Later that day, the Pope visited with Rabbi Arthur Schneier at the Park East Synagogue, which the Rabbi described as a clear message of good will. Evidently there have been tensions in the past. 

The Pope concluded another busy day by meeting with about 250 representatives from a dozen Christian denominations. With this group, the Pope could have discussed institutional failures dealing with child sex crimes, something they all have in common. I’m sure Christa Brown and Vicki Polin would have been happy to help educate the group.

 to be continued...

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