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It is said that the Holy Father sees in America a possible model for his efforts at countering the forces of secularism in Europe.

MALIBU (Catholic Online) - The Holy Father clearly has good reason to like the Church in America.

From its parishes to its elementary and secondary schools and universities to the charitable outreach of Catholic hospitals to social services and shelters, the Church is alive with the faith and in service to it.

At a time when America itself is yearning for a return to first principles based upon the truth and dignity of the human person, the American Catholic Church, through its ecclesiastical and lay leadership, more often than not is supplying pivotal direction for the country as a whole.

Among the Catholic people, the pontiff will find openness, warmth and a common touch. While there is still a need to heal the scourge of sin that affected a small percentage of the clergy within the church, Pope Benedict XVI will find the candor about the ugliness of that scar exceeded only by a spirit of forgiveness that has left liturgical commitment and parish community undiminished.

Within the body of Christ, there is an optimistic and diverse population. Catholics of every political persuasion sit side-by-side united by Creed and the magisterial and the encyclical teaching of the Church.

The social teaching of the Church, including the unalloyed respect for human life is taught plain and true, and there is healthy debate as to the best means to reduce the incidence of abortion and avoid the manipulations of cloning and embryonic stem cell research.

In conversation after conversation, the Holy Father will sense a desire to understand, not obstruct.

Understandably, American Catholic education at every level is a source of pride and attention for the Holy Father's visit. Catholic elementary schools continue to operate with a vocational sense of calling that leads year after year to educational achievement that often outdistances far better financed public institutions.

Catholic high schools continue to inspire the confidence of parents looking for an education of the whole person including the formation of conscience and the inspiration to habits of virtue.

It was not at all surprising that Pope Benedict XVI chose The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC (CUA) to be the locus of his meetings with the American bishops and with the leaders of Catholic universities throughout the land.

CUA is by formal designation the national University of the Catholic Church in America. But it's more than the charter that makes the Holy Father's school in America a fine one.

Often in the background during the Holy Father's visit will be CUA's president, the Most Reverend David O'Connell, C.M. Father O'Connell is a scholar president not afraid to take orthodox positions even inside the beltway where standing up for traditional values is not always applauded.

O'Connell has staffed the ranks of the major schools and departments with Catholic intellectuals whose reputations are often international in scope. For example, Father Kurt Pritzl, O.P. crosses the street each day from the Dominican House to guide the highly accomplished school of philosophy that is well grounded in the tradition of the natural law that goes back generations building on the seminal work of Dr. Jude Dougherty.

Father O'Connell has been so effective at recruiting that he even snatched personnel from the Vatican, itself. It is perhaps only out of a gesture of reciprocity, Father O'Connell recently allowed Monsignor Brian Ferme to return to Italy to be President of the Institute for Canon Law following his service as Dean of CUA's canon law school.

Not surprisingly, with its ideal location in the nation's capital, CUA is attracting an ever wider national base of students, especially those interested in a career in public service. Matters of social justice are a common discussion at CUA, including everything from immigration reform to reducing man's impact upon fragile environmental resources

In coming to America, the Holy Father will be able to see past the media caricature of the United States that is sometimes the result of European misunderstanding, but is often a reflection of the exaggerations found in our own exported entertainment products.

It is said that the Holy Father sees in America a possible model for his efforts at countering the forces of secularism in Europe.

Unlike the charters of the European Union which exclude all reference to the Divine, our beginnings proclaim the self-evident truth of a Creator and a constitutional commitment to religious freedom.

Coerced religious establishment in Europe has meant empty churches. Religious freedom in the United States has filled the pews, and this is true, even when the Holy Father isn't looking in on us.

This is not to say there is not work to be done.

There is, and the Holy Father can be counted upon to give us good counsel. Over 40 years ago, immediately following Vatican II, a young Joseph Ratzinger seemed to his colleagues somewhat pessimistic. Yes, he said, "the Council did make us joyful and grateful, but we must always be alert to triumphalism." "So long as the Church is in pilgrimage on the earth, she has no ground to boast of her own works. The place of the Church on earth can only be near the cross."

Many feel right this moment, with an unjust and profoundly mistaken war being fought in Iraq, that America has lost her way. Pope Benedict XVI will not likely recriminate loudly in public about an American president who chose to ignore the pleadings of the Church not to indulge the notion of preemptive war.

Instead, it is more likely that the Holy Father will remind us that while our faith affirms that the "powers of darkness" will not prevail over the Church and the outcome in the end will be positive, "we do not know through which circumstances and reverses we shall arrive at that great finale."

Benedict XVI has spent a lifetime defending the deposit of faith as neither conservative nor progressive, but missionary. Pope Benedict will find the missionary spirit alive in America.

Professor Kmiec is the Chair & Professor of Constitutional Law, Pepperdine University; former Dean and St. Thomas More Professor of Law, The Catholic University of America

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Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2014
Peace:
That the Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence.
World Mission Day: That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world.

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