Apr 9, 2008
Next week "Shepherd One" will land at Andrew's Air Force Base, and Pope Benedict XVI will begin his brief visit to the United States.
Of course, the primary purpose of his visit is pastoral. The theme of the visit is "Christ our hope." As Peter's successor, Pope Benedict XVI comes to strengthen the faith, hope and love of Catholics. While he will only stop in Washington, D.C., and New York City, Catholics throughout the United States will welcome his visit. We sense that he has something to say to us.
However, he also will meet with religious leaders of other faiths and traditions as well as with President Bush; and he will address the assembled delegates of the United Nations as did Popes John Paul II and Paul VI before him.
While the Vatican is technically the world's smallest "state," he will not speak as a "head of state." This is important to understand lest his appearance before the United Nations be misunderstood. He is not just another player in a global game of power politics. He is not a politician but the Bishop of Rome and the universal pastor of the Catholic Church. This is not to say that he does not have his pulse on the world. Today, the Holy See has diplomatic relations with more than 175 countries. At the U.N. itself, the Holy See's permanent observer addresses the full range of political, social, economic and cultural issues that make up the organization's agenda.