Well the day is finally here and the best thing I can say to everyone that reads my materials…the Pope is coming. Traditionally in the United States today is the day when the dreaded IRS get to balance out all of the scales when it comes to yearly taxes. However, it is very appropriate that Benedict XVI arrives on the same day, because his message is one that even the doldrums of income taxes and itemized returns cannot diminish. The spiritual leader of the worlds over 1 billion Catholics arrives today at Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington, D.C. Catholics have been waiting for this event for months, and Benedict will have the chance to introduce himself to the American Catholic flock.

Many reported events are scheduled for the Holy Father. In addition to the celebration of the Eucharist on multiple occasions, the Pope will deliver speeches, meet various groups of diplomats and faithful Catholics and even celebrate his 81st birthday. During this time, the faithful of the United States have a great opportunity to pray with and join in the spiritual renewal of the Catholic Church in the United States.

While the events are celebratory in nature, there will most likely be a few times when various groups of dissenters will try to get their message across to the Pope as well. That is the remarkable beauty of our American republic, everyone gets a chance to voice their opinions, correct or incorrect, with or against, Catholic verses non-Catholic and so on. When the dissenting opinions and comments are raised this week, everyone needs to keep in mind that the Catholic Church in its bureaucratic majesty does not always react quickly and in a direction, we often would like to hear. This week, the painful topics of clergy sex abuse, diminishing Catholic participation at Mass, declining vocations and so forth are large matters that need immediate attention and response from the Vicar of Christ. We need to keep everything in the proper perspective and realize that Benedict XVI is the temporal caretaker of the Church and his abilities are limited by the confines of his own human limitations and the limitations of a Church that is growing in faith and knowledge. Catholicism has progressed quite a bit in the past 50 years or so. Additionally, we have had a lot of turmoil and difficulty in the progression as well. Pope Benedict XVI offers an opportunity for the Catholic Church to recognize all of the shortcomings it has and at the same time grow into a revived spiritual powerhouse for the message of Jesus Christ in the 21st century.

While there will be crowds of jubilant followers, the various groups that are disgruntled with Church policy will be there as well. Their feelings are welcome. They have the right to dissent as part of our American social culture. However, just realize that the Catholic Church is not a democratic institution that reacts quickly or without prayerful consideration of the issues at hand. Benedict XVI in his Petrine ministry is attempting to construct a new Catholic Church that is a bridge building messenger of Jesus Christ’s message to a troubled and divided global environment. The process will take some time and great commitment of labors on the part of Popes and faithful to implement the vision of Benedict’s spiritually recharged Church. Let us pray and work towards a fulfillment of God’s kingdom through the actions of the Church, the Body of Christ. Finally, let us work to heal our divisions as we consider the great faith and Eucharist that unites all of us.
Welcome to the United States Holy Father. You are most welcome!

Hugh McNichol is a Catholic author that writes on Catholic topics and issues. He writes daily at Catholic News Agency http://catholicnewsagency.com

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