The Pope is safely back in Rome and all of the American Catholic hierarchy are most likely back in their respective Sees. What have we learned from the visit of Benedict XVI last week in Washington, D.C. & New York City? I hope that as a Catholic Church we have learned many things especially that our faith is constantly growing and developing as we the People of God progress towards the New Jerusalem. While covering the events of the past week, I am uniquely touched by the gentle but firm proclamations issued by Benedict XVI at each event over which he presided. The Pope was in town, not only to teach and maintain the traditions of the Catholic Church in America, he was here also to celebrate our uniquely American identity and flavor of Catholicism.

Many observers have indicated that Benedict is fascinated by the political and social structures that constitute the United States. This past wee, he had the opportunity to meet with President Bush and experience the Executive branch of the Federal Government. In his role as Head of Vatican City State the Pope was welcomed with all of the appropriate dignities accorded to him as a head of state. However, he also had a chance to experience the American plurality through the many diverse audiences held in Washington, D.C. and in New York City. Clearly, the American Church, celebrating the bicentennial of the foundation of the Primal See of Baltimore and the establishment of the Sees of Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Louisville (formerly Bardstown) is a unique melting pot of cultural and social diversity. The celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist in both of the cities on the Papal tour indicated just how much the American Catholic Church has to offer its members in terms of sanctification and evangelization. The celebrations were indeed strong barometers of the American Catholic Church’s desire for faithful and expressive celebrations of our Catholic faith that integrate our multicultural, but yet one Catholic identity.

Apparently, the Pope’s message was aimed at the instigation of a new fire of Pentecost in the American Church. He clearly spoke about the great injustices and improprieties of the clerical abuse scandal and has strongly denounced the unfortunate role of clergy in the scandal. However most importantly, Benedict XVI is clearly asking the Church in America to transcend this scandal and forgive all of the parties involved so we can continue to build up the Body of Christ in the American Church. The victims of the abuse have had the ultimate juridical source in the Church hear their pleas. Benedict XVI has assured the victims, their families and the American Catholic hierarchy of his unwavering support to solve and bring closure to this issue. In light of his commitment of Church’s resources, American Catholics now need to accept the healing power of God’s Holy Spirit and pray for forgiveness, healing and new Catholic growth. Many steps have already been implemented to ensure this sexual abuse does not happen again. Together all Catholics, clergy, laity, bishops and religious now need to continue exercising the complete transparency of truth and understanding called for by Benedict and the Gospels in order for us to evolve past this part of our American Catholic history.

Benedict’s visit to the United States clearly indicated to this author that the desire for religious understanding and faith is strong among all members of the American Church…from the young to the old, the clergy, the laity and everyone else. Now as a community of faith, let us get to work and start being faithful, Catholics that celebrate the mysteries of Christ’s love through our faithful adherence to the teachings of the Church and the Gospel. Benedict’s message clearly shows us that faith in the Gospel message and following Jesus Christ is not just a vocational call reserved for Sunday mornings. A lifestyle and personal vocation requires a constant conversion to the faith of the Church and adherence to the Church’s consistent teaching.

The joyful celebration of the youth present for the papal visit clearly shows the hope of the Church in the future is strong. We just need to continue to focus on the eschatological message of Christ our Hope as one that calls all believers to a new manifestation of the Holy Spirit in our American Church and work diligently to bring about the precepts of Christian faith, hope and love in our own hearts and along to others in the world.

The Holy Father in the address to the United Nations also shows us as faithful Catholics that our faith transcends international boundaries and nations. As Catholic faithful, we are citizens of the world and need to spread the Good News to all corners of the Earth as mandated to the Apostles. Critically, our Catholic faith is indeed a bridge of theological, social, and diplomatic transcendence that offers Christ our Hope to all faiths locally and globally. The imbedded message of Benedict XVI commands Catholics to be aware of the global implications of religious tolerance and development of a new Catholic Pentecost that will spread to the entire Catholic Church.

Benedict’s visit is the spark the American Catholic Church needs to ignite a new Pentecost that will restore fervor to the faith.

Hugh McNichol is a Catholic author and journalist that writes on Catholic topics and issues. He writes a daily column, “Nothing Left Unsaid!” for Catholic News Agency @  http://catholicnewsagency.com and a column http://verbumcarofactumest.blogspot.com . Hugh is also a regular contributor to http://pewsitter.com

Comments are welcome at hugh.mcnichol@trinettc.com

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