Pope Benedict in New York


That one word could inspire a generation of people.

In Hebrew, the word Shalom has three meanings. It means hello. It also means goodbye. Lastly, it means peace.

Pope Benedict XVI became the first ever Pope to visit an American Synagogue. He visited the Park East Synagogue in Manhattan, embraced warmly with Rabbi Arthur Schneir, and offered shalom.

The headline in the New York Post simply read “Shalom.”

The fact that this Pope is German makes the event especially meaningful. The bottom line is that beneath every powerful person is mere flesh and blood, and when the robes are stripped away, this pope is a man. Yet upon looking into his soul, I am convinced that he is a good man.

Not only did he become the first Pope to visit a Jewish place of worship, but he also attended a Mormon Church as well, that being St. Joseph’s.

New York City was on lockdown, with a security detail usually on reserved for the President. Even Edward Cardinal Egan was asked to show identification. The head of the New York Archdiosces was wearing his full Cardinal outfit, and yet had to clear security as any other private citizen. Secret Service agents doubled as food tasters, as all food was tested before the Pope ate it. All airplanes were diverted away from Manhattan, and ships were not allowed to enter the United Nations side of the East River. One of the security choppers had technology that enabled it to read the label on a shirt from a mile away. One resident living in the area tried to take pictures from his window, at which point the police quickly ordered him to close his window.

At virtually every stop he made, he loudly condemned the pedophile priest scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church.

Make no mistake about it. Pope Benedict made clear that he was not going to sugarcoat issues in his own house. For one thing, religion is a business, and recruitment is way down. The age of priests skews older, and young people today are simply not becoming priests. The pope seesa lack of people entering the cloth as threatening as any other world problem.

This man wants to confront evil in our time and defeat it. Yes, he wants to eradicate poverty, and wants richer nations to carry a larger share of the burden. Yet he also wants to confront the evils such as the Holocaust, which remained largely ignored until Pope Benedict’s predecessor, the late John Paul.

What was absent from this Pope’s remarks was overt criticism of America in general, and the Bush administration in particular. The War in Iraq is a controversial topic to say the least, and the Pope refused to upbraid those that took down mass murderer and torturer Saddam Hussein.

The pope also refused to condemn homosexuals or supporters of abortion rights. This does not mean that the official positions of the Church have changed. However, it does seem that an age of tolerance and acceptance of human beings that are different from the Church are slowly being recognized as legitimate.

In fact, the Pope and the President seemed to get along very well, which on a deeper level could also signal a warmer relationship between the Catholic Church and Evangelical Protestantism.

President Bush had the following two statements to make regarding the Pope:

“His Holiness believes that freedom is the Almighty’s gift to every man, woman, and child on Earth.”

“In a world where some no longer believe that we can distinguish between right and wrong, we need your message to reject this ‘dictatorship of relativism.'”

“Dictatorship of relativism” is a staple of previous addresses by the Pope.

While the Pope and the President have different means on several issues, there is a clear synthesis on the major issues.

The pope said, “America’s quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator.”

In fact, the Pope even offered a thinly veiled justification for unilateralism, although not explicitly for the exact situations that justifed the Iraq War.

In speaking about nations that allow “grave and sustained violations of human right,” the Pope equivocated that “the international community must intervene.” This is certainly not the viewpoint of an isolationist.

Rabbi Schneir offered a window into the Holocaust, which shaped the life of the Pope, as well as of Jews everywhere.

“When you go through the ravages of war that Joseph Ratzinger (The Pope’s biological name) went through, and you encounter hunger, pain, suffering, and death, you resolve and you can go through anything to make sure that another human tragedy like this doesn’t occur.”

I have to confess that I was incredibly leery of a German individual becoming Pope. Others, such as homosexuals, might be leery of any Pope, given Church doctrine.

Yet this Pope seems to have struck a perfect balance. He has not revised Church doctrine, but he was respectful in tone with all the creatures of God. He stood with Jews and Mormons, and condemned hatred and evil deeds everywhere. Again, this included subordinates in his own Papacy.

The Pontiff is only one man, but one man can make the world a better place.

Being a good man is a good start, and Pope Benedict seems to be a thoroughly decent and righteous man. I hope his words are matched by deeds by all who heard his message.



3 Responses to “Pope Benedict in New York”

  1. Jersey McJones says:

    One little correction – he was the first Pope to vist an American synagogue, not the first to ever visit a synagogue anywhere.


  2. Tim B. says:

    He slammed the pro-abortion rights folks, several times.

    One of the biggest cheers at Yankee Stadium followed this line: “They are the truths which 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. ”

    Your beleif and faith are not suppossed to stop at the door of the church when you leave on Sunday” – “It also means rejecting a false dichotomy between faith and political life, since, as the Second Vatican Council put it, “there is no human activity – even in secular affairs – which can be withdrawn from God’s dominion” (Lumen Gentium, 36). “

  3. Eagle 6 says:

    I have strong personal views about abortion, but my personal views are irrelevant. I have to chuckle at a government who will charge a person with homicide if he kills a woman who is leaving an abortion clinic after “dropping her baby off”, but charge that same person with double homicide if he kills the same woman who is with child on her way to the abortion clinic…

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.