Pope Benedict is coming to America and American Catholics may be in for some surprises.
Like Catholics globally, American Catholics are still mesmerized by the 27-year papacy of the late John Paul II and will get their first close-up look at Benedict next week when he visits Washington and New York.
Known as a fierce conservative when elected three years ago, he has surprised people with his gentle manner and stressing of the positive in Catholicism rather than the negative.
"The differences between the two popes is more stylistic than substantive," said Rev. Tom Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.
"They both hold the same theological views, the same views about Church doctrine, Church teaching and Church practices but their styles are very different," he said.
Indeed, John Paul was a larger-than-life personality who, because of his acting background, knew how to dominate the stage and ignite a crowd.
Benedict, who will mark both his 81st birthday as well as the third anniversary of his election during the trip, is reticent and shy but also charming.
"I do think that to some extent there is a disconnect between the public impression of this man and the private personality. You will never meet a more gracious figure," said John Allen, a prominent U.S. Catholic author and journalist.
...When he was elected, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger brought with him the baggage of his role as the Church's chief doctrinal enforcer, a position he held for nearly 25 years.
He now seems not so much an enigma but someone who takes time to get to understand.
An opinion poll by the Pew Forum this month showed that fewer Catholics in the United States now automatically attach the "conservative" label to his name and an increasing number identify him as moderate or even liberal.
George Weigel, a leading American lay theologian and senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, has described the change as a Catholic "hunger to be fed by a master teacher".
"This man so widely regarded as a kind of enforcer, a kind of heavy, turns out in this role (teacher) to be the gentle and brilliant grandfather who knows how to explain things and make the most complex parts of Catholic doctrine and practice make sense to ordinary people," Weigel said at the Pew Forum event.
Since his election, Benedict has seen his role as a strong re-assertion of a traditional Catholic identity but with a positive spin -- what Allen calls "affirmative orthodoxy".
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Spot the cliches
....from Philip Pullella of Reuters....here's a game. See how many tired phrases you can spot.