The Pope is coming! The Pope is coming! People are talking about it, the news brings it up everyday.I write the above with a bit of irony. It's a very good thing that Pope Benedict is visiting the U.S. Yet all the hoopla is interesting since we have become such a secular nation.
Do Americans have that much interest in the Pope? considering many protestants don't think much of the Catholic Church. In fact, it looks like Catholics don't think much of their own church either. And even though the newspapers are saying that Americans were positive about Pope Benedict being elected - a sizable minority was very concerned because of his long term involvement with the Congregation for the Doctrine of Truth - which used to be called the Inquisition or Holy Office (Santo Oficio); his very conservative agenda - and his involvement with the Hitler Youth corps.
He didn't make us feel more secure with how he blasted the Muslim religion in a speech soon after his election: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." There was also the visit to the Nazi soldier cemetery, the Intl Herald Tribune (May 12, 2006):
'he visited a German military cemetery at La Cambe, where 21,000 German soldiers are buried, among them several hundred former members of the notorious Waffen SS, some of whom participated in the massacre of hundreds of men, women and children in the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane.
"As Germans we cannot help but be moved to realize that their idealism and their duty to the state was misused by an unjust government," Benedict said of the war dead at La Cambe. He expressed regret that the Germanic virtue of obedience - Pflicht - had been exploited and misused by the Nazis, and said that this did nothing to diminish their honor or service to the Fatherland.'
He has smoothed his image since these two events. His trip to the U.S. can also help him.
He has already balked at one controversial issue, deciding not to meet with some families of those sexually abused by Catholic priests. Lets hope that he becomes more accessible - maybe someone can talk to him.
Will he be sensitive to the screaming nativists who hate immigrants? Will he ignore the immigration issue - or will he take a stand and strongly encourage the U.S. to stop the ICE raids?
Having been a young man in Nazi Germany, the Pope knows all about people being hunted down. He experienced first hand the tragedy of living in a police state.
Today, for undocumented immigrants, few have died compared to the Jews in Germany. But the numbers are still in the thousands. Undocumented people are being hunted down. Their neighbors are reporting them. They are being arrested while at church. Thousands are incarcerated without charges. The hatred is only growing - yet we who were born here (in the U.S.) still lavish ourselves in the fruit of their labor. We have our lower cost fruits and vegetables, we eat at restaurants whose prices would be much higher without immigrant cooks, busboys and waiters, we pay them paltry amounts to mow our lawns, clean our houses and care for our children.
We use their labor but we hate them all the same.
In yesterday's speech in Rome, the Pope asked his audience to pray for a successful American trip. Maybe we should go one step further. Pray this Pope, who has seen the worst kind of violence - is reminded of his Nazi memories when told about the plight of undocumented immigrants* - that he can gather up enough empathy and passion - and make a strong statement about immigration. Pray that he helps convince Americans that hating is bad for the soul.
*Let's hope someone takes the time to explain all that is happening in the U.S. Also - Disclosure: perhaps I should tell you that I went to Catholic school until I was 12 - and that my Dad's best friend is a Basilian priest, but I very, very rarely go to mass anymore.
MoCo Pulls Greeting to Pope From Buses
Montgomery County officials today pulled plans to use hundreds of Ride On buses to greet Pope Benedict XVI, following concerns from some riders who questioned whether it was appropriate for a public entity to welcome a religious leader.
When Ride On buses began rolling this morning, their electronic message boards scrolled: "Welcome Pope Benedict."
Patrick Lacefield, a spokesman for County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), said county officials were under the impression that Metrobuses would be posting a similar message, in addition to giving participants in the pope's visit the option to buy a commemorative one-day Mass Pass. But Metro spokesperson Steven Taubenkibel said there are no plans for such a greeting when the pope arrives tomorrow.
After learning of concerns from riders and checking with Metro, Lacefield said the county decided to scrap the greeting. He said the idea originated with one of Leggett's advisers.
"If Metro isn't doing it, then we probably think it's not appropriate," he said. "We don't want to give any wrong impression about favoring one religion over another. We are a community of many faiths."
By Anne Bartlett | April 14, 2008; 4:06 PM ET