With this pope, the United States is no longer held up for scolding by the Vatican authorities.The general judgment on the United States has shifted to the positive.
ROMA (Chiesa) – When, in mid-April, Benedict XVI lands at the military airport of Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, the United States will take the lead in the list of the countries most visited by the popes, tying Poland for the number of visits, with nine, and Turkey for the number of popes who have visited, with three, following his predecessors Paul Vi and John Paul II.
The latter, a ceaseless traveler, made the rounds all over the United States. During his first visit, in 1979, he visited seven cities in six days, delivering 63 speeches. The more sedate Joseph Ratzinger, who also makes a visit of seven days, will instead stop in only two places: Washington – where he will meet George W. Bush at the White House on April 16 – and New York.
He will deliver just 11 speeches. But the mere announcement of at least two of these are already causing jitters, after the current pope showed the world in Regensburg to what daredevil extremes he is willing to go. These will be the speech on April 17, in Washington, to representatives of Judaism, Islam, and other religions, and the one on April 18, in New York, to the general assembly of the United Nations.
In Regensburg, Benedict XVI denounced as the chief errors of today's world its separation of faith from reason, of which he accused Islamism, and the loss of faith and reason, which he instead imputed to the dominant culture in Europe and America.
It's a good bet that he will go even farther at the podium of the UN, and will offer the world a primer on peace founded upon natural law, on the inviolable rights engraved in the conscience of each person, but also written in the "universal declaration" that marks its 60th birthday in 2008.
This is an easy forecast to make, if one only looks at what the pope said last February 29, while receiving the new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Mary Ann Glendon. For Benedict XVI the United States is a model to be imitated by all. It is the country born and founded "on the self-evident truth that the Creator has endowed each human being with certain inalienable rights," among the first of which is liberty.
With this pope, the United States is no longer held up for scolding by the Vatican authorities. Until a few decades ago, it was tasked with being the temple of Calvinist capitalism, of social Darwinism, of the electric chair, with a hair trigger in every corner of the world.
Today these paradigms seem to have been set aside to a great extent. The Church of Rome vigorously contested the military attack on the Iraq of Saddam Hussein, even Benedict XVI. But it is not now pressing for the withdrawal of the soldiers. It wants them to remain there "on a peacekeeping mission," including the defense of the Christian minorities.
In any case, the general judgment on the United States has shifted to the positive, to the same extent that judgments on Europe have become more pessimistic. To ambassador Glendon, Benedict XVI said that he admires "the American people's historic appreciation of the role of religion in shaping public discourse," a role that in other places – read, Europe – is "contested in the name of a straitened understanding of political life."
With the consequences that stem from this on the points that are most crucial to the Church, like "legal protection for God's gift of life from conception to natural death," marriage, the family.
The Church of Rome has more often found itself in harmony with the Republican presidents, from Reagan to Bush Sr. and Jr., than it has with the Democrat Clinton, precisely because of the greater dedication of the former to safeguarding life and promoting religious freedom in the world.
In Cairo in 1994, and in Beijing in 1995, at the two international conferences convened by the United Nations on the demographic question and on women, both held during the Clinton presidency, the delegation of the Holy See fought tenaciously against the United States and Europe, which wanted to incentivize abortion in order to reduce births in poor countries.
And who led the Vatican team in Beijing? Mary Ann Glendon, a former feminist, a law professor at Harvard University later appointed by John Paul II as president of the pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, and today a United States ambassador.
Her speech in Beijing fell like a sharp sword: "Does the conference want to combat the violence suffered by women? Very well. Then let's take note of this. Among these forms of violence are mandatory birth control programs, forced sterilizations, pressure to abort, sex selection and the consequent destruction of female fetuses."
In a collection of her essays just released in Italy, published by Rubbettino, Mary Ann Glendon again criticizes what happened in Beijing and in the following years. She accuses rich countries of cutting off financial ...
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