When Pope Benedict XVI arrives in the United States next week his message will most likely include some positive paternal encouragement for American Catholics. During the Holy Father’s visit he will participate in multi events that are intended to address the entire cross section of American Catholics and pastorally motivate Catholics to stand firm in their Catholic beliefs. One of the subjects most likely to come up is the continued presence of the United States in Iraq. Ever since the American lead coalition that overthrew Saddam Hussein, the Vatican has consistently voiced it’s displeasure against the morality of a preemptive war. It seems, now in the first of Benedict’s visits to the United States as the Catholic Church’s chief bridge builder, the responsibility of negotiating new international bridges towards global peace will be a central focus of his message.

Pope Benedict’s primary reason for this American visit is to pastorally visit the American Catholics that adhere to the Catholic faith. Additionally, the visit presents an opportunity for the Pontiff to develop new efforts of American catechetical development within the United States, and to instill a revived sense of Catholic identity to a American Church drastically different from the Church of the 19th and 20th centuries. At the same time, Benedict needs to foster exceptionally strong relations with the American government as a means of helping the Catholic Church achieve its diplomatic and evangelical goals in a shifting world order.

Pope Benedict XVI will find a Church in America that is drastically different from the Church visited by John-Paul II. There are of course shrinking attendance by Catholics in the United States at Mass, a decline in vocations on all levels, financially driven consolidations by dioceses and parishes, and the constant appeal of Christian evangelical groups that are taking Catholic believers from the pews. Additionally, there is a massive influx in the United States of Hispanic Catholics, and the growing influence of Islamic infiltration are all component matters the Pope needs to solve in his brief visit. According to the surveys however, Benedict XVI is favored by the American popular opinion and they see him as an influential religious leader in terms of a global perspective.

As previously mentioned, it is critical for Benedict XVI to function in the ancient role of, “Pontifex Maximus !” (Chief Bridge Builder) when he visits the United States next week. There are many bridges that need to be developed or repaired by the Pope. The main task of bridge repair for Benedict is to reach out to the American Catholic populace and clearly reaffirm all of the traditional views of Catholic morality and ethical behaviors, without seeming to be overbearing. In that same manner, he needs to reaffirm the purpose of the Catholic educational process as part of the overall process of the entire Catholic lifestyle and not merely as an educational system that completely synthesizes the Church’s educational goals and embraces them 100%.

We can expect Pope Benedict to present American Catholics with a new global understanding of Catholicism, embracing the best ideals of American society, while clearly warning Americans against secular excesses. In all, American Catholics should expect papal encouragement for the revival of a new spiritual rebirth in America that accentuates not only the precepts of American lifestyles, but advocates a global commitment of faith and resources to the rest of the world.

In the capacity of bridge builder to the world, Pope Benedict XVI clearly shows the great opportunity presenting itself to American Catholics in the message of the Gospel. At the same time, the Holy Father is clearly showing to the world the need to share global resources, heal religious wounds and build new bridges of international cooperation through faith and humanitarian activities.

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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