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Benedict In The U.S.

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Analyzing the pope’s visit before he speaks or even before he arrives leads to amusing articles, like this one in the Washington Post:

To be sure, there are tangible goals: Ramp up frank interfaith dialogue. Return Catholics to regular, traditional worship that reminds them of their long history. But his biggest aspiration for his six-day trip is to encourage Christians to believe in Jesus — to really believe in him, not as a metaphor but as a real miracle meant to deliver human beings from misery and war. The challenge, experts say, is trying to sell this message in a culture dominated more by reason than faith.

It’s no easier for him in Europe, where churches are relatively empty compared to those in the United States. Italians have just held national elections, and attention on Benedict’s upcoming journey has been nonexistent. Thousands came to hear him give his brief weekly address at St. Peter’s massive piazza Sunday, but most apparently were tourists — the whooping and clapping kicked in only when he began speaking in languages other than Italian.

“I think he’s the first person to recognize that his skills are not those of what the world expects from a pope. But I think he feels very deeply that the world needs simplicity and some kind of very basic talk about what it is that Christians believe,” said Delia Gallagher, a longtime Vatican correspondent.

Benedict feels that Western, secular societies don’t take profound, supernatural religious faith seriously, a condition that he believes leads to rampant consumerism and nonchalance about such things as poverty. Religion-inspired terrorism shows, he believes, the opposite phenomenon: faith unhinged from reason.

The correspondent, Michelle Boorstein, is just doing her job, and she’s not alone in trying to fill column inches with predictions about what the pontiff will say and what it will mean.

It would be a much better approach to report on the details of preparations and then on the specifics of Benedict’s remarks and travels. The sweeping, “this-is-what-it-all-means” pieces are almost certain to miss quiet pope’s message and his purpose.

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