U.S. President George W. Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair often saw eye to eye politically. Are they about to see eye to eye religiously?
Remember ping-pong diplomacy, the exchange of ping-pong players between the United States and communist China in the 1970s that was one of the first steps that led to a thaw in relations between the two countries? If the Vatican had a ping-pong team, perhaps China would have considered sending their squad to the walled city in Rome for a match.
A papal visit, with its weeks of build-up and intense media coverage, often seems to end with an afterglow — but very little news — once the pope and his party fly back to the Eternal City. Not so with Pope Benedict’s recent U.S. visit where, more than a week after it ended, the volatile issue of public figures, the abortion & Communion issue is making headlines.
It seems that we’ve been writing for the past three years that Pope Benedict is different from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The fact there is a kinder, gentler person there than the worn-out “God’s Rottweiler” tag suggests doesn’t seem to be news anymore. But it apparently still is. When I sat down to write a summary of the pope’s trip to the United States, what struck me most was how many people were surprised by how favourably impressed they were. There were comments that he’d “changed his image” or “softened the edges” on this trip. In fact, he changed his image three years ago. What happened on the trip was that these people changed their view of him.
There was some speculation before his visit that Pope Benedict was going to read the riot act to Catholic educators for not keeping their universities and schools sufficiently Catholic. That was never really on the cards, because Benedict doesn’t like to come and berate people like that.
Pope Benedict made so many positive comments about the positive role of faith in U.S. public life before and at the beginning of his U.S. visit that it was inevitable he would get around to a deeper analysis at some point. That point came in his meeting with American bishops in Washington on Wednesday. It was the kind of analysis we’ve come to expect from him — clearly expressed, intellectually ambitious and focused on his trademark issue of relativism.
The Washington Post carries an interesting story today examining how American Catholics are split when it comes to music — many older parishioners are partial to folk-style songs written in the 1970s, while many younger members want Gregorian chant and other older forms of music.
Now here’s something new for us — a story that began with a post on FaithWorld last week, prompted a slew of comments and now features in an interview for the wire. Ed Stoddard’s post “Mormons have ‘fundamental’ PR problem” highlighted the confusion caused by the case of a breakaway sect whose Texas compound was raided this month. The post has over 130 comments so far. As the debate raged, Ed interviewed Quentin Cook, a spiritual elder with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to get the official view: