Friday, February 22, 2008

The Tidings: "Pope has finger on pulse of U.S. church"

According to Carol Glatz of The Tidings, Pope Benedict's venture to the United States will not be "stepping into the unknown":

Through his many personal contacts with American church leaders and papal diplomats, his past trips to the U.S. and his ability to remember much of what he hears and reads, Pope Benedict has his finger firmly on the pulse of the church in the United States.

Bishops from around the world coming to Rome consistently have expressed awe and admiration for the pope's remarkable depth of knowledge, his familiarity with everyday events worldwide, and his recollection of minute or even obscure facts and past events.

"He has always been amazingly well-informed on the U.S.," said U.S. Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio, who studied under the future pope in the 1970s.

According to Carol, the Pope's prior occupation as Prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith presented him with many opportunities to acquaint himself with the challenges facing the Catholic Church in America:
The congregation has weekly meetings with experts on current prominent topics --- such as advances in medicine --- and it also receives regular reports from the world's bishops. . . .

As head of the doctrinal congregation and as pontiff, Pope Benedict has always had Americans on his staff. For instance, U.S. Archbishop James Harvey is one of his private secretaries, and the former San Francisco archbishop, Cardinal William J. Levada, is now head of the doctrinal congregation.

People who know Pope Benedict say he is a good listener and accessible, and it made meetings with him as head of the doctrinal congregation a positive experience.

"Not only was he present, as opposed to having just someone from the office meet (us), but he would listen, he would respond to questions, and he would seem to already have considerable knowledge of whatever the issues we brought to discuss," said Archbishop [Donald W. Wuerl of Washington].

He said bishops' group talks with Cardinal Ratzinger began with a prayer and with him asking participants what their issues and concerns were "rather than give a talk to us first."

"He didn't come to the meeting with an already formed vision of what was happening. He listened, and he responded across the board," the archbishop said.

The pope's ability to see things from so many points of view is also a sign of his having "a very wide vision" and sources of information that "were of considerable breadth," the Washington archbishop said.

Now that he is pope, the Holy Father can rely on a vast array of resources on the United States, from papal nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, in Washington and Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican's observer at the United Nations in New York, to talks with U.S. Bishops themselves during their ad limina visits to Rome -- not to mention the reporting of L'Osservatore Romano and correspondence from thousands of faithful.

As Cardinal Ratzinger, the Pope has visited the United States "at least 5 times."

(On Ratzinger's prior visit to New York city, where he spoke at a conference on "biblical interpretation in crisis" arranged by Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus (then a Lutheran pastor) and tangled with ACT-UP gay rights demonstrators (as recolleded by Alice von Hildebrand) see: Pope Benedict XVI: Grace Under Fire Against The Grain August 31, 2007).