We're not at Sapienza U. anymore

By  Catholic News Service
  • April 10, 2008
Americans have come a long way from being a people who couldn't bring themselves to electing a Catholic president. Today, a few days before Pope Benedict's arrival on his first visit to the United States, a new poll suggests that, by and large, Americans are reasonably well-disposed toward the German pontiff.

Catholic News Service reports that a survey from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 52 per cent of those surveyed have a favourable opinion of him. That's up considerably from the 44 per cent that felt the same way back in July 2005, just three months after Joseph Ratzinger's election as Pope.

Interestingly, Americans are less likely to label His Holiness as a "conservative" than they were less than a year ago. Only 45 per cent of the respondents thought him to be conservative, versus 56 per cent last August.

Benedict's visit comes at an interesting time in American public life. The news is chock full of Obama, Clinton and McCain, with little room for anything else. The Vatican can argue the Pope isn't dropping in during the midst of an election campaign since it really isn't officially underway until the Democrats pick their candidate in August. However, nobody's talking about anything else at the moment, so Pope Benedict's words can't help but be put through the punditry meatgrinder to be dissected for political intent.

In that light, recent comments by American Cardinal James Stafford make for interesting reading. In Benedict's April 18 address to the United Nations, Stafford told Catholic News Service that he expects the Pope to address "planned violence" in international relations and to call for a more careful assessment of the role of religion in resolving violence around the world. He also thought the Pope would use the occasion of his visit to talk about virtue and the objective nature of right and wrong. Whether that will touch on any of the hot-button political issues is good fodder for speculation. Expect lots.

 In case you haven't been paying attention, here's where Pope Benedict will be going next week (source: US papal visit web site). This doesn't include extra private visits with Jewish leaders that have been added to his agenda:

  • Tuesday, April 15
    Arrival at Andrews Air Force Base. Greeting by President George Bush and Mrs. Bush. Also present will be local dignitaries of the church and the apostolic nuncio.

  • Wednesday, April 16, 10:30 a.m.
    President Bush and the First Lady meet the Holy Father on the south lawn of the White House. This is only the second time in history that a pontiff has visited the White House. At the end of the welcoming ceremony, a private meeting is scheduled for the Holy Father and the President, while dignitaries of the two states also meet.

  • Wednesday, April 16, 5:30 p.m.
    Private prayer service and meeting with the 350 bishops of the United States at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Before the prayer service, which will be held in the crypt of the Shrine, there will be outdoor photo opportunities of the public welcoming the pope to this national church.

  • Thursday, April 17, 10:00 a.m.
    The pope will offer Mass at the new Nationals Park in Washington. This will be the first non-baseball event in the park, and Catholics from around the country are making plans to attend.

  • Thursday, April 17, 5 p.m.
    The heads of the more than 200 Catholic colleges and universities in the United States and superintendents from the 195 Catholic dioceses have been invited to an address by Pope Benedict XVI on the importance of Catholic education. The address will be on the campus of The Catholic University of America, the only college in the United States operated by the bishops.

  • Thursday, April 17, 6:30 p.m.
    Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews and representatives of other religions will meet the Holy Father at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, next door to Catholic University.

  • Friday, April 18, 10:45 a.m.
    Pope Benedict XVI will address the United Nations, after an early morning flight to New York.

  • Friday, April 18, 6 p.m.
    Prayer service with leaders from other Christian denominations at St. Joseph's Church, founded by German Catholics, in Manhattan.

  • Saturday, April 19, 9:15 a.m.
    Mass for priests, deacons and members of religious orders at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the heart of New York City.

  • Saturday, April 19, 4:30 p.m.
    The Holy Father will meet with young Catholics, including 50 youngsters with a range of disabilities, at St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers. Thousands of young people, including hundreds of seminarians, are expected to participate in a rally/prayer service and to hear the pope speak.

  • Sunday, April 20, 9:30 a.m.
    The Holy Father will visit Ground Zero, the site of the disaster at the World Trade Center.

  • Sunday, April 20, 2:30 p.m.
    Mass at Yankee Stadium will bring this historic visit to a close. The 200th anniversary of the Baltimore Archdiocese’s designation as an archdiocese, as well as the birth of four dioceses - Boston, New York, Louisville and Philadelphia - will be highlighted during the Mass.

  • Sunday, April 20, 8 p.m.
    Shepherd One lifts off from John F. Kennedy airport in the Brooklyn Diocese, heading east to the Eternal City.



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