NY Times: Vatican Sees Pope’s Visit as Chance to Soften Image

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When Pope Benedict XVI makes his first papal trip to the United States in April, he will be guided by a seasoned Vatican ambassador who sees the visit as an opportunity to introduce a little-known pope to a complex set of audiences: American Catholics, Americans in general and global opinion leaders.

“The image of Benedict XVI is not only not well known, but it is badly known,” said Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who, as apostolic nuncio, is the Vatican’s top diplomat in the United States.

“He is known as an intransigent man, almost an inhuman man,” the archbishop said of Pope Benedict in an interview at the Vatican Embassy in Washington. “It will be enough to listen to him to change completely the idea of this tough, this inhuman person.”

The pope’s visit, from April 15 to 20, will draw Catholics from around the country for Masses at Nationals Park in Washington and Yankee Stadium in New York. He will meet President Bush at the White House and talk to Catholic educators at Catholic University of America in Washington, pray at ground zero in Lower Manhattan and address the United Nations.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVI

6 Comments
Posted March 31, 2008 at 5:09 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Pope Benedict XVI has been in office long enough now that his public image has already softened significantly.  I don’t remember who first said it, but it is as apt as ever.  When this pope was chosen, he was often thought to be a sort of Rotweiler or Pit Bull; but it turns out he’s a German Shepherd.

As the most published pope in history, it remains to be seen how long he will live and how many encyclicals he’ll write.  But if he lives long enough, I’m sure he will produce some outstanding documents to supplement his many books.  John Paul the Great had a lot more charisma and certainly had a flair for the dramatic gesture, as this article in the New York Times notes, but Benedict is indeed a more balanced and widely read theologian.  In his lucid prose and his faithful, courageous defense of orthodoxy he makes ++Rowan Williams look pathetic in comparison.  Like readers of T19 who were present at the so-called Plano event in Dallas in the fall of 2003, I will never forget the stunning impact of hearing his letter of encouragement read aloud to us.  Of course, he was still just Cardinal Ratzinger then, but everyone knew he was the Pope’s right hand man, the #2 in the Roman hierarchy, and his warm words of firm support for us were immensely heartening.  God bless him.

David Handy+

March 31, 6:22 pm | [comment link]
2. veritas2007 wrote:

*sigh*  I wish *we* had someone like that.

March 31, 6:42 pm | [comment link]
3. ElaineF. wrote:

Interesting…the Holy Father has always seemed courageous in promulgating the Truth but he always delivers his message in a thoughtful and civil manner.

March 31, 7:49 pm | [comment link]
4. Words Matter wrote:

Here’s an excellent article on by Peter Steinfels, also from the NYT. While the Goodstein article isn’t that cliched, the Steinfels is fun and relevant to reporting on the pope’s visit.  A sample:

Breathlessness is always a problem with papal visits. The trouble with melodrama is that it displaces genuine drama. Caricature replaces character.  There are at least five dramas built into this papal voyage.


There’s a good work-over on Get Religion of this article, and several other posts to meet your papal visit needs. grin

March 31, 8:41 pm | [comment link]
5. Ed the Roman wrote:

NYT Fears Pope’s Image Will Be Softened Regardless

April 1, 12:48 am | [comment link]
6. Augsburg wrote:

I have great admiration for Pope Benedict.  He’s both patoral and intellectual, traditional but engaged with the real world.  I agree that we on this side of the Tiber need someone of his stature.  Although my theology and ecclesiology are thoroughly Lutheran (if not, I’d make the swim),  I often lament the fact that Protestants seem to think that deep matters of faith and doctrine can be decided by a vote.  What happened to consensus fidelum?

April 1, 9:03 am | [comment link]
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