From the Bishops Thank you, Pope Benedict!

My dear friends,


What a great week to be Catholic!


Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Washington, D.C., and New York — and the attendant media coverage — certainly achieved its purpose: to help the multilingual, multicultural multitude of Catholics in the United States reflect and rejoice in the faith that was handed down to us by the apostles.


The successor of Peter came to our country to do what St. Peter himself did, as described in the Acts of the Apostles: to preach Christ and to confirm us in the faith; to unite us; to strengthen us; and yes, to challenge us to put that faith into practice in the midst of a world that is not exactly receptive to the message of Christ. (Nothing much has changed in 2,000 years!)


Pope Benedict’s trip to the United States was brief but quite fruitful. Think of all the people he met with, the constituencies, if you will, that he addressed: Catholics in general; bishops, priests and religious; seminarians; people with disabilities; youths; leaders of other Christian faiths; leaders of non-Christian religions; victims of sexual abuse; relatives of those killed on 9/11; President George W. Bush; and the diplomats of the United Nations.


Not only did Pope Benedict meet with all these groups in a mere six days, his words to them were simple and direct — nothing that any eighth-grader could not comprehend.


He spoke about the need for the United Nations to do more and talk less when it comes to defending the human rights of all people around the globe.


He spoke to young people about the dangers of relativism and materialism, comparing them to the discredited ideology of Nazism prevalent during his youthful years in Germany, an ideology in which many of his contemporaries placed their hope seven decades ago. Those hopes died with the downfall of the Nazi movement.


He encouraged priests, religious and bishops in our vocations and as shepherds to our people.

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He spoke of the universal truths that bind people of all faiths around the world.


The Holy Father spoke of Christ as the only hope, and faith in Christ as the only means of fulfilling all of humanity’s longings, especially the longing for true meaning in life. He spoke of the empty unfulfilled hope of the “isms” of our day.


During this trip, Pope Benedict also let us glimpse his true self — that of an unassuming, smiling, compassionate man, not the “rottweiler” of Catholic orthodoxy which some had labeled him when he first became pope. At one point, he even reminded us that he is the successor of Peter not merely in name but in humanity as well — an ordinary man chosen by God despite his weaknesses and imperfections.


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The media analysts kept repeating the phrase a “church in crisis.” The problems of the American church are real — from the damage done by the clergy sexual-abuse scandal to the shortage of priests and religious to the “cafeteria” attitude toward the precepts of our faith.


But St. Peter faced similar crises in his time, as recounted in the passage from the Acts of the Apostles that served as the first reading for the fifth Sunday of Easter, the Mass Pope Benedict celebrated at Yankee Stadium. (The one all of us heard in our parishes as well.)


Like St. Peter, instead of scolding American Catholics for our purported lapses in faith, Pope Benedict reminded us of who we are: a church that has grown from a handful of Catholics more than 200 years ago to 63 million people today; a church that has done tremendous work among the poor and needy throughout our history; a “church of immigrants” filled with vibrancy and a spirit of constant renewal.


The pope exhorted us to continue to bring Christ’s message of hope to all our neighbors and to live it out faithfully in our daily lives. As St. Peter said in the second reading of last Sunday’s Mass: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people he claims for his own, to proclaim his glorious works” (1 Pt 2:9).


Yes, indeed, it was a great week to be Catholic!


Thank you, Holy Father, for sharing these days with us, for coming to jump-start and renew our faith!


The original story can be found at Florida Catholic.

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