Today the Vatican released an online edition of the liturgical texts the Holy Father will use during his visit to the United States next week. The Apostolic visitation edition of the Roman Missal is on the Vatican website, and the prayers for all of the liturgies in both Washington, D.C. and New York are contained in the official Vatican text. In the meanwhile, the United States is getting prepared to meet the Bishop of Rome in a series of events aimed to increase Benedict’s pastoral presence to all Catholics in the United States.

Almost on an hourly basis, releases are hitting the news services. Topics include the newly manufactured stoles for the bishops, priests and deacons participating in the Papal events to a report on the brisk sales of memorabilia at the National Shrine and at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. The Vatican as well helped participate in the news frenzy, naming new bishops to serve the various dioceses in the United States.

An aspect of interest for the events when the Holy Father arrives next week should of course focus on the spiritual message proclaimed by Benedict XVI. However, this author finds it quite interesting that a professional media company was hired to “market” the papal trip and oversee all of the events. Very interesting that perhaps the most photographed personality on the planet would need a PR firm in order to let us know he was coming! Of course, Pope Benedict is not the rock star personality that John-Paul II presented to the crowds all over the globe when he was pope. However, no one should count out Benedict XVI as a strong magnetic personality that will capture the hearts and most importantly the minds of American Catholic during this papal excursion. Benedict’s personality seems quite refreshingly different from JPII. The Holy Father is quite the academic and thinker when it comes to weighty topics and subjects on Church doctrine and theology. He is an accomplished pianist. He enjoys Mozart and reportedly had a feline companion before he was elected Pope. What is there not to love and appreciate about the “Grossvater” image that is uniquely and genuinely the persona of Benedict XVI.

Personally, this author is looking forward to Benedict’s unique approach to the media attention. It would not be any surprise if the charisma of Benedict XVI opened the door to a renewed interest by all faiths into understanding the divine message our scholarly Holy Father brings to his flock. Observers have indicated it will be an opportunity for the populace of the United States to meet Benedict XVI. At the same time, this trip is extremely important because it provides an occasion for Benedict XVI to meet the people of the United States. As part of the Catholic Church’s global flock, the ministry and message Benedict XVI brings to the American Church will most likely focus on messages of Catholic educational renewal, conformity to the traditional values of Catholic morality and an acknowledgement of the great pain the clergy sex abuse scandal has imposed on the Church in the United States. Of course, the perspectives of ecumenical dialogue and our ongoing relationships with Islam and Judaism will all enter into the apostolic messages and the activities. However, we can expect Benedict XVI to not only show the United States his pastoral zeal but also his diplomatic capabilities as the global leader of over a billion Catholics.

The events that coincide with the papal visit include the American primary elections for the White House, the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, the growing religious intolerance of China towards Tibet, a decline of American Catholic participation in the Sacraments and a global decline in the number of clergy to serve the Catholic Church. With these points in mind, Pope Benedict is bringing his message of continued hope for the redemption of the world through the Gospel message as the primary reason for his visit.
The notion of the Holy Father’s visit even needing a PR company to herald his coming is redundant. Benedict XVI by the nature of the office he holds is the biggest draw for any gathering of peoples wherever he goes in the world. Additionally, Benedict XVI clearly is aware of the prominence the Holy See maintains through its spiritual, temporal and diplomatic channels on the planet. We should expect quite an appearance from the stately, grey-haired Pontiff as he takes the United States by pastoral storm, building new bridges of religious tolerance and understanding for the Catholic Church globally to adapt.

With the visit, Benedict XVI surely will illustrate the responsibilities of the Church as she grapples with issues such as the sex scandal, priestly celibacy, and growing apathetic attitudes towards Catholic sacramental participation. What we can expect from Benedict is a grand celebration of the reemerging Catholic global identity as it attempts to implement the directives of the Second Vatican Council, restore lost confidences, mend religious fences and establish a new era of Catholic evangelization to the entire world. This author has said it before and continues to say…we are watching the emergence of a new form of Catholicism and the principle architect of the revived movement is Benedict XVI.
John Paul paved the way for Benedict’s new global call to conversion. Now…Benedict is taking the message in a different and more paternal manner to the peoples of the Church and the world.

Hugh McNichol is a Catholic author that writes on Catholic religious topics and subjects. His articles can be found at www.catholicnewsagency.com  and www.verbumcarofactumest.blogspot.com , and www.pewsitter.com  

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