Pope Benedict has begun his first journey as Pope to the U.S. Though this papal visit is only to two American cities, Washington and New York, the Pope has said repeatedly he is visiting the entire American nation.
What's all the hoopla about a papal visit? The Pope travels to the U.S. to remind the nation of the roots of the church in the country. To return to roots means to go back to the sources of one's identity, and by doing so, to find a path to the future. A strong nation must also have solid and consistent human, moral and spiritual values. Economic globalization must always be accompanied by a profound moral globalization that lies at the heart of the church's mission.
The Pope's visit to the United States will offer Catholics in this part of the world an opportunity to see Pope Benedict up close. Millions of Americans (and Canadians) only know Pope Benedict simply as a soft-spoken, fluffy-white-haired professorial type who devours books, likes cats, plays Mozart compositions on his upright piano and causes a stir at international events.
Benedict does not often come across well through the mass media. He makes headlines primarily when there's potential for controversy -- with Muslims, Jews, Catholic politicians, Chinese Catholics, and addressing topics like abortion, euthanasia, health care, and a host of other complex issues of our times.
A need of hope
The "real Benedict" defies easy caricature and his words don't fit into sound bites. In many ways he is a nightmare for journalists. For many, he is a good shepherd who brings depth of thought to every word or action, in ways that are not entirely predictable. His passion is for the love of God and a desire that all might know and love Jesus who is above all a friend to every human being.
Last week Pope Benedict released a video message to American Catholics on the eve of his visit. In that simple message, he said: "Indeed, the world has greater need of hope than ever: Hope for peace, for justice, and for freedom, but this hope can never be fulfilled without obedience to the law of God, which Christ brought to fulfilment in the commandment to love one another. Do to others as you would have them do to you, and avoid doing what you would not want them to do. This "golden rule" is given in the Bible, but it is valid for all people, including non-believers. It is the law written on the human heart; on this we can all agree, so that when we come to address other matters we can do so in a positive and constructive manner for the entire human community."