Pope's Washington visit was 'beautifully pastoral' - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Pope’s Washington visit was ‘beautifully pastoral’

You have no doubt been in touch with a wide range of media reports about the visit of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, to Washington, D.C. What follows is not another formal report. Rather, I share with you some of the impressions and memories I carry with me from the Washington experience.

1) I came away much impressed by Pope Benedict. In my opinion, he was beautifully pastoral during his stay — both in his manner and in his words.

He was encouraging, honest, challenging and supportive. I had the impression that he came to us as father, as brother, as friend.

I was not surprised by the way in which he carried himself. I have been present at two of his public audiences in Rome since he was elected and found him to be exactly the same way. He has gifts of expression and language that allow him to touch the heart in a direct and fruitful way.

2) I also was much impressed by his energy. While in Washington the pope celebrated his 81st birthday. I marveled at the pace he kept and at the ability he showed truly to be present to people through it all. That required a good deal of energy, especially given the groups with whom he met were so diverse, and the matters with which they dealt were so diverse. If I live to be 81 years of age, I hope that I will have some measure of his energy.

3) At Nationals Park the weather was perfect. The assembly was in great spirit. The richness of the church of Washington and our country shone forth in radiant fashion. There was a moving variety of music before, during and after the liturgy, which raised the spirit and added a rich dimension to the prayer of the day. An unexpected highlight for me was a rendition of “Panis Angelicus” offered by Placido Domingo at the Communion Rite of the Mass. It was an electric moment which brought that vast assembly to absolute and prayerful silence.

4) On the way to New York, I heard news from Washington that Pope Benedict met with several victims of sexual abuse by clergy. I was happy to hear that news. In his talk to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and in his homily at Nationals Park the pope called us to a continuing commitment to healing and reconciliation of this very painful matter; and, for efforts to do everything possible to ensure that it would never happen again. His words had their own merit. But, I hope that what he did will be a sign that all of us are committed both to the healing of the past and to insuring a healthier and safer future for our children.

5) I felt very good about the way our Holy Father represented to our nation some of the values that are so important in Catholic tradition. I think of such things as the dignity of all human life; the obligation we have to the poor, the vulnerable, the alien, the orphan; our commitment to respectful dialogue with ecumenical and interfaith partners, and with the culture in which we find ourselves.

At the same time, Pope Benedict noted some of the wonderful qualities of the American people of our nation — generosity, diversity, ability to welcome and include others and the spirit of optimism.

6) We are in New York City now and I look forward to the events of the next few days. I will be in touch with you about them soon.

Peace to all.

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