What Now?

Hopefully, the Holy Father’s visit has inspired us all.

First, we want to thank everyone for making uspapalvisit.org a success. Especially to all the people behind the scenes who worked long hours for many days, a heartfelt thank you. Also, we want to thank everyone for your complimentary e-mails.

The live stream and blog among other items were certainly firsts for the Office of Digital Media at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). There were some hiccups but all-in-all it went very well.

So, where do we go from here? We want to make sure everyone gets a chance to view the events of the papal visit. Therefore, uspapalvisit.org will remain up until the end of June. At that time, we will reassess the site to see if there is a need to keep the site going any longer.

On the site, you will find the texts and videos from most of the events. You will also find articles, images, audio and video on events, the church in the U.S. and the Holy Father himself.

We will continue to post reactions from the papal visit among other items as we get them. So, pass the word along to anyone looking for texts or video from the papal visit, they can find them on uspapalvisit.org.

In “Christ Our Hope”

Joe Larson, Director of Digital Media, USCCB

The interreligious gathering with Pope Benedict XVI on April 17, 2008, was entitled “Peace Our Hope” in parallel with the overall title of the Papal Visit to the United States: “Christ Our Hope”. The coincidence between the words “Peace” and “Christ” should not be seen as accidental: the Holy Father’s words reminded all present, Christians and non-Christians, that Jesus of Nazareth “is the eternal Logos who became flesh in order to reconcile man to God and reveal the underlying reason of all things.”

Experience in dialogue has shown us that the highest motivation for our dialogue weakens when we weaken the fundamental convictions of Christian faith. When Christ is known as the Logos, the Word of God, the one “through whom all things were made”, then our efforts at mutual understanding have a real basis in Christian faith. When we have an “ardent desire” to follow and serve Christ, we will quickly discover the sound of his voice in the truths that others have discovered such as compassion, forgiveness, self-sacrifice, intellectual rigor, meditative discipline and moral self-examination. These are resonances of the voice of the Logos. There is indeed, “an unknown Christ” already present in what is good and true in other world religions; the Christian’s love for Christ impels him or her to seek out that “unknown One” wherever he may be found.

Father Francis V. Tiso, Ph.D.
Associate Director, Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

What a graced time for the Catholic Church and, indeed, all Americans, to have Pope Benedict XVI with us during the Easter season! His message of turning to Christ our hope is simple and yet so profound. In his comments at Vespers with the U.S. Bishops, the Holy Father said “People need to . . . cultivate a relationship with him who came that we might have life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10).” As applied to marriage and the family, the Holy Father’s message could not be more relevant.

The Holy Father told the bishops that he was delighted that they have made the strengthening of marriage and the family one of their priorities in the next few years. The risen Lord Jesus should stand at the center of spousal and familial love. The Holy Father said that it is in the family that we experience “some of the fundamental elements of peace: justice and love.” “Mutual help in the necessities of life” are offered by family members to each other. “Readiness to accept others and, if necessary, to forgive” are essential marks of family life.

In addition, Pope Benedict XVI noted that children “deserve to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships.” Where else, but in the family, taught by their loving parents, can children learn this? But, the Holy Father warned, it is useless to “speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes.” Parents need to create a home life that is free of such false and destructive messages.

If we care “about young people and the future of our civilization,” said the Holy Father, then we must recognize “our responsibility to promote and live by the authentic moral values which alone enable the human person to flourish.” Empowered by Christ our hope, it is the unique responsibility of parents to firmly plant and nurture those moral values in their homes.

The “proclamation of . . . life in abundance,” said the Holy Father, “must be the heart of the new evangelization.” In the end, these are God’s gifts to us. My hope is that we will take these gifts into our families, and with Christ as our Lord, allow them to transform us and in turn, our world!

Theresa Notare, MA
Assistant Director, Natural Family Planning Program
Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth

The recent visit to Washington, DC and New York by the Holy Father was a wonderful experience of our Catholic family coming together to celebrate all that it means to be Catholic. For children and adults with disabilities, it was an especially rich time to feel a part of the family. The Holy Father and all those planning his trip made it clear that we were not only welcome, but that we belonged. Opportunities were extended for a public witness in Washington and a private meeting in New York. Accommodations were made at both masses so that Catholics with assorted disabilities were able to be present and fully participate. In Washington, a selected group of young (and older) adults with disabilities represented us all as they processed with the gifts to the Holy Father waiting at the altar. To have been one of four groups symbolizing our Catholic community selected to bear these gifts was truly an honor and a recognition of our valued place in the family.

Watching Pope Benedict taking time to bless each child and greet family members and caregivers in the chapel at St. Joseph’s Seminary in New York was another graced moment. His words to the children and their families touched our hearts and gave us not only great hope but a sense of purpose: “God has blessed you with life, and with differing talents and gifts. Through these you are able to serve him and society in various ways. While some people’s contributions seem great and others’ more modest, the witness value of our efforts is always a sign of hope for everyone.” He went on to assure us of God’s love and that our lives do indeed hold purpose: “Sometimes it is challenging to find a reason for what appears only as a difficulty to be overcome or even pain to be endured…God’s unconditional love, which bathes every human individual, points to a meaning and purpose for all human life.” He concluded by exhorting us to pray for him and others each day and to “become bearers of [Christ’s] hope and charity for others.”

Prior to the Papal visit, families were calling the National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD) and the Archdiocese of Washington Office of Ministry for Persons with Disabilities directed by Peg Kolm, expressing their desire to share in the Holy Father’s visit. On April 16 families from Corpus Christi, TX and Chicago, IL joined local families and NCPD board members from Salt Lake City, Boston, and Columbus in a Witness to Pope Benedict. We celebrated liturgy, then made our way to a selected spot on the Holy Father’s procession route from the USCCB building up 4th St., NE to the Basilica, waiting expectantly with thousands of other eager pilgrims. The Ruiz family of Corpus Christi offered the following reflections on the witness: “Being invited was an incredible honor. The Mass was beautiful and I will forever remember the spiritual impact of our family celebrating Mass in D.C. while also waiting for the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI. Our family will be forever blessed to have shared this once in a lifetime experience within a very special community of families from across the nation, remembering with special thoughts always the many in our world like Aaron, Dayton and Larry. They are truly a light and a witness for all to feel the spiritual meaning of “Christ Our Hope.”

As part of our witness, we held a banner expressing our gratitude to Pope Benedict: Holy Father, thank you for valuing and defending our lives. NCPD board member Karen Murray, who directs the Office for People with Disabilities for the Archdiocese of Boston, explains the significance of our message, “As a lifelong Catholic with a disability, it is a highlight of my life to be here at this moment. I am here to express my joy and gratitude for all that the Holy Father has said and done to uphold and proclaim the dignity and worth of every human person. I thank him for his unwavering defense of life and pray that his message will be heard and received by everyone who hears it.”

Catholics with disabilities and their families from throughout the U.S. join with Karen to indeed thank Pope Benedict for his words of affirmation and hope, which have strengthened us and given us a renewed sense of purpose in living our faith as a witness to Christ’s unfailing love.

Janice L. Benton, SFO
Executive Director
National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD)
Participants with their banner.

As a National Review Board member, I was delighted with both the tone and content of Pope Benedict’s remarks on the sexual abuse crisis.

First of all, there was the expression of shame, first made on the flight to America and repeated several times. We are deeply ashamed, he said, of this gravely immoral behavior by priests who minister in our name and of our breach of trust with those we should have protected.

What should we do to respond? He told the bishops their first priority should be showing compassion and care to victims. And then he showed how it should be done – by listening to survivors in person. No bishop can ignore his example of meeting personally with victims. But the Church is not just bishops. All of us bear the shame and all of us should attend to healing by listening to survivors’ stories. That is the model pioneered so powerfully by Voice of the Faithful in Boston in 2002. Pope Benedict called on all of us to do that in his homily at Nationals Stadium.

Addressing the bishops, Benedict noted that the crisis had sometimes been very badly handled. To prevent more abuse, he specifically commended safe environment programs – a strong papal answer to those in the American Church who oppose that part of the Charter.

The Holy Father also asked us to look for deeper cultural causes of the crisis. Why did this outbreak of crime against children occur in our Church in our time? To answer that question, we must complete the Causes and Context Study promised in the Charter and now under way, but not yet fully funded. For a fraction of what the papal trip cost the American Church, we can completely fund that study.

Benedict emphasized the crisis calls for a “determined, collective response.” Let that be an answer to any bishop who insists on his right to “govern” his diocese while ignoring the Charter.

Most importantly, by returning to the crisis repeatedly, Pope Benedict reminded us that the pain of victims cannot be cured by wishful thinking. Each of us must reach out in pastoral concern to make healing happen. We are called to that task by our common baptism.

Judge Michael R. Merz
Chairman, National Review Board

In several talks and homilies during his recent pastoral visit to the United States, Pope Benedict related the theme “Christ, Our Hope” to the defense and promotion of human life.

At St. Patrick’s Cathedral, for example, Benedict emphasized that the Church and all its members are “called to proclaim the gift of life, to serve life, and to promote a culture of life. … The proclamation of life, life in abundance, must be the heart of the new evangelization. For true life—our salvation—can only be found in the reconciliation, freedom and love which are God’s gracious gift. “This,” he continued, “is the message of hope we are called to proclaim and embody.”

What obstacles have hampered Catholics in the United States in their struggles to build a culture of life? Pope Benedict explained that American secularism has led to a separation of faith from everyday life. And this tendency is “aggravated by an individualistic and eclectic approach to faith and religion,” so-called cafeteria Catholicism. Many are “living as if God did not exist.” So “rather than being transformed and renewed in mind [by our faith], Christians are easily tempted to conform themselves to the spirit of this age.” This, he added, is evidenced “in an acute way in the scandal given by Catholics who promote an alleged right to abortion” (Responses of His Holiness … to the Questions Posed by the Bishops, April 16).

We must allow ourselves to be transformed by our faith, which “helps us to break open the horizon beyond our own selves in order to see life as God does,” for “God’s unconditional love … points to a meaning and purpose for all human life” (Meeting with Young People Having Disabilities, St. Joseph’s seminary, April 19). Christian truths—that every human is created in God’s image and loved and redeemed by God, “alone can guarantee respect for the inalienable dignity and rights of each man, woman and child in our world—including the most defenseless of all human beings, the unborn child in the mother’s womb” (Homily at Mass in Yankee Stadium, April 20). In and through Christ, our Hope, we can renew the call to all Americans to a greater respect and love for each unique human life—from conception through natural death.

Susan Wills
Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

At every venue where I experienced Pope Benedict’s presence in New York, the spirit was electric. From the exuberance of the 57,000 faithful at Yankee Stadium to the quieter, but just as enthusiastic, response of clergy, religious and laity at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the atmosphere was filled with joy.

In Yankee Stadium, I joined hundreds of other priests, to concelebrate Mass with the Pope. It was an enormous privilege for me to represent our archdiocese and to greet the Holy Father personally at the conclusion of Mass. I particularly appreciated the ways the Bicentennial dioceses were honored and celebrated.

I was moved by the Holy Father’s homily at St. Patrick’s Cathedral when he called for a new Pentecost, a new spring for the Church in America. At the end of Mass, he spoke without notes, expressing his appreciation, love and support for us and asking for our prayers to help him fulfill his obligations as successor of Peter.

Reflecting on the Papal visit, I am struck by what a wonderful pastor Pope Benedict is. As Cardinal Ratzinger, he was well known for his scholarship. But his ministry and words in America have highlighted his great love for his Catholic family.

Very Reverend Richard M. Erikson, Ph.D., V.G.
Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia
Archdiocese of Boston
From left to right: Fr. Arthur Coyle; Brother Jim Peterson, OFM Cap; Fr. Richard Erikson; Sr. Marian Batho, CSJ, all of the Archdiocese of Boston, outside St. Patrick’s Catedral, April 19, 2008 (Photo courtesy of Father Erikson)

Several commentators should be filing a “missing-persons” report right about now. The Benedict they were anticipating never showed up. Not one finger was wagged. Not one enforcement was enacted. Not one growl was heard.

Just broad smiles, repeated thanks, wide embraces, and deep affection. Some critics thought they knew Cardinal Ratzinger. And so now they chase after the questions: “What happened to change the supposed ‘hard-line’ Cardinal Ratzinger into the approachable Benedict XVI?” The real question is: “Did the reviewers know Cardinal Ratzinger in the first place?” Or were they simply victims of the oldest defense mechanism around: the self-inflicted wound of projection?

Personality, various experts say, is usually set early in adulthood. The assumption of an office or new job really does not change a person all that much. The logic would follow that this past week, Benedict, instead of showing us a new person, showed us who Cardinal Ratzinger was all along. The labels were all wrong. Which begs the question as to not where, but who really is the missing person?

The net of Peter has been broadly cast. Whether in person, through cable, or on web-stream, Benedict’s interlocked words compelled a Church to unite and a nation to listen. From lawns, stadiums, cathedrals, chapels, and halls of learning and of diplomacy, the turf felt firm beneath the feet. We have to run the replay in slow motion to catch all his moves. From victims to survivors, from the culture of death to the Culture of Life, from medical care to immigration, not once did he punt. Nor can we. He handed off – or rather, handed on, the faith.

Benedict XVI made clear his game plan. In one word: Forward. He identified the secularism, materialism, anti-life preoccupation, and technology without conscience of entrenched ideologies which attempt to cut the weave of the net. He wants to “recapture the catholic vision of reality” and present it “in an engaging and imaginative way.” He called back to the Second Vatican Council and the teaching of John Paul II on the New Evangelization, and clarified the Church’s “primary mission of evangelization.”

He called us to foundations that include immigrants; he summoned us to continue the work of moral theology. In all, he reminded us of our thirst. Only the encounter with Christ can satisfy the person made in his image. Benedict read the play book well. The New Evangelization is not choosing sides, grimly keeping score, but pointing out the goal: “The goal of all our pastoral and catechetical work, the object of our preaching, and the focus of our sacramental ministry should be to help people establish and nurture that living relationship with ‘Christ Jesus, our hope’ (1 Tim 1:1).”

He said we cannot simply count on “traditional religiosity,” but must stretch ourselves to proclaim the Gospel of Life with the insistence of a two-year-old child, and to rededicate ourselves to the family. The resources and opportunities are all around us: “Much progress has been made in developing solid programs of catechesis, yet so much more remains to be done in forming the hearts and minds of the young in knowledge and love of the Lord.”

After learning the goal, the next step of culture change is to find the lost. There is a “missing persons” report we each must file and follow: it leads to our neighbor.

Rev. J. Brian Bransfield
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis

The recent visit of Pope Benedict XVI offers many opportunities for renewal for the Church in the United States. With regards to young people discerning their place in the Church and their role for the future, the Pope’s visit could very well be a defining moment for some who may be contemplating ordained ministry or consecrated life.

In recent surveys of men ordained each year in the U.S., we learned that 20% attended World Youth Day in which contact with the Successor of Saint Peter offers a powerful impact on those thinking about a priestly or religious vocation.

On Saturday, April 19, 2008, Pope Benedict met with seminarians and young people at Saint Joseph Seminary, Dunwoodie, New York. He began his address by calling them to be fervent disciples of Jesus Christ. Continuing with this theme throughout his address, he offered vivid and powerful words, “Let your imaginations soar freely along the limitless expanse of the horizons of Christian discipleship.”

To encourage these young people to consider the possibilities of Christian discipleship, six men and women from our Catholic tradition were upheld as models. Those identified during the rally were: Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, Saint John Neumann, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, Venerable Pierre Toussaint, and Padre Felix Varela. In reference to them, the Pope said, “…any one of us could be among them, for there is no stereotype to this group, no single mold. Yet a closer look reveals that there are common elements. Inflamed with the love of Jesus, their lives became remarkable journeys of hope.”

It was evident that the crowd possessed the love of Jesus and a desire to encounter the Vicar of Christ. Also evident was the affection between the Holy Father and the young people. He offered a personal note of his own struggles to follow the Lord. He said, “My own years as a teenager were marred by a sinister regime that thought it had all the answers….”

The Holy Father also asked those gathered to learn more about the today’s priests and religious. He asked them, “Do not be shy to speak with Religious Brothers, Sisters or Priests about the charism and spirituality of their Congregation.” In this way, Pope Benedict asked them to talk to priests and religious so that those who are ordained and consecrated could help mentor young people in discerning God’s will.

Through his words and through his personal encounter with youth representatives, the Holy Father demonstrated his affection, hope and support for them. He said to the young crowd, “Have courage! You too can make your life a gift of self for the love of the Lord Jesus and, in him, of every member of the human family.”

The Mass earlier in the day included the reading from the Acts of the Apostles that speaks of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples at Pentecost. That same Spirit was present when they met with the Vicar of Christ. “What is God whispering to you? … Embrace it with joy. You are Christ’s disciples today.”

Monsignor Edward J. Burns
Executive Director of the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

If you missed an event or if you just want to relive your favorite moments, video of the papal visit events is archived here.

Streaming video and video on demand of the 2008 Apostolic Journey of Pope Benedict XVI is made possible by a grant from the Catholic Communication Campaign. The Catholic Communication Campaign spreads the Gospel message locally and nationally on radio, television, in print, and on the Internet. The CCC is funded by an annual parish collection taken up in most dioceses the third weekend of May. The CCC Collection is split evenly between the diocese and the national office. Dioceses use their 50% share to support local communications efforts such as televised Masses and diocesan newspapers; the national share supports the development and production of a wide range of media programming.

The Catholic Communication Campaign — it’s how the Good News gets around.