Parsing the politics in comments on Benedict’s visit

April 15, 2008

Pope Benedict leaves Rome for the United States, 15 April 2008/Dario PignatelliEven before Pope Benedict arrives in Washington, there is plenty of speculation about the effect of his visit on U.S. politics. A lot of this is just filling airtime and column space in the media because we don’t even know yet exactly what he will say. Anyway, for those who like to parse every statement for its political implications, below are a few issued on Tuesday before the pope arrived.

Do they seem balanced to you? Or too obviously aimed at recruiting the pope for one view or the other? Leave your comments below.

The White House

Asked whether Bush and the pope were likely to discuss the child sex abuse scandal, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters:

I won’t rule it out but I don’t think it’s necessarily on the president’s top priorities for his agenda for talking to the pope. They’ll talk about … their shared values of human rights and the importance of fighting extremism and also promoting religious tolerance.

Stage for papal Mass is prepared at Nationals Park in Washington, 14 April 2008/Jonathan ErnstThe pope has expressed, as we did, our concern about the Catholics and Christians who are being targeted in Iraq among other innocent people. So I think they’ll talk about that.

Asked whether they would discuss the war in Iraq, she said:

Obviously there were differences years back, but I do think that they share an agreement that in order to stabilize the region and promote human rights and justice that having our troops there has been helpful …. but I’ll let the pope make those comments if he wants to.”

“They have established a good relationship, a strong bond, so they can have very frank and open discussions with one another. But I think their shared values are stronger than any disagreements on policy they might have.”

Senator Hillary Clinton

We are blessed to receive a visit from His Holiness, Pope Benedict, to the United States this week. Not only is he the spiritual leader of America’s great Catholic community, he is a strong and effective voice for the cause of peace, freedom, and justice as well as the Bumper stickers in the gift shop of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, 13 April 2008/Jonathan Ernstfight against poverty and disease. His visit to the United States this week should be a very
impactful one. I particularly appreciate his going to Ground Zero with some of the families who lost loved ones there. I hope that his message about economic justice and global
development will get an appropriate hearing both in our country and in the government. I also applaud Pope Benedict’s example and leadership on addressing global warming, making the Vatican a model in conservation for all to emulate. His apostolic journey
is built on the theme of Christian hope, and, as he has said, the Gospel message is ’deeply rooted’ in our country. We all pray that he will have a safe and successful visit to America, and that everyone will find inspiration in his presence and his words.

Senator Barack Obama

Church souvenir stores sells US and Vatican flags and cutout of Pope Benedict, 13 April 2008/Jonathan ErnstOn behalf of our family, Michelle and I want to extend our warmest welcome to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI as he arrives for his historic apostolic journey to the United States. As committed Christians, we join millions of Americans — Catholics and members of all faith communities — in offering our prayers for the success of the Holy Father’s visit. At a time when American families face rising costs at home and a range of worries abroad, the theme of Pope Benedict’s journey, “Christ Our Hope,” offers comfort and grace as well as a challenge to all faith communities to put our faith into action for the common good. It will not only be Catholics who are listening to the Holy Father’s message of hope and peace; all Americans will be listening with open hearts and minds.”

UPDATE: Senator John McCain weighed in later in the day with his statement:

“Pope Benedict’s lifelong dedication to virtue and the  authenticity of his principles serve as a guiding example to  people throughout the world. When His Holiness travels to
America, his visits are historic in scope and remind us of the profound contributions to America’s cultural values that he and the Church he leads have made. He is the most influential  advocate for peace and faith in the lives of millions of  Americans, and for millions more the Holy Father is a calming, spiritual presence to be welcomed and respected.”

Our report on his comments on board his Alitalia flight, “Shepherd One,” over the Atlantic is posted here . The National Catholic Reporter‘s John Allen has an analysis pouring some cold water on the more heated speculation– see Behind the Scenes: Watch for political fallout from pope’s visit

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