Normally the news is dominated by stories of man's inhumanity to man, politicians squabbling with one another while avoiding penetrating discussion of real issues, and the misadventures of celebrities. It's usually pretty depressing.
This past week, however, was different. In the United States, a major story was the papal visit. In the Washington area, the visit of Pope Benedict XVI almost totally dominated the news for the three days he was here.
The news featured a major world figure who talks seriously in his gentle voice about things of eternal significance, and about social issues from a Christian perspective. Not fitting either a liberal or conservative stereotype, he dealt with such root causes as "an increasingly secular and materialistic culture." He showed special concern for the poor and the outcast, and took time to listen to those who had been abused by priests while expressing deep apologies for how the Church failed them. He spoke about issues of social justice and peace without any partisan rancor, but rather from a perspective of one seeking to be faithful to the Gospel message.
Another aspect of the story is the crowds joyfully celebrating the pastoral visit of the world's pre-eminent religious leader. It was good to see masses being joyful about matters of faith, knowing that for many of them it also represented an opportunity to examine and deepen their faith. And the visit had a positive impact on many who are not Catholic never even saw the Pope in person. Several people I know who have been wary of the Roman Catholic faith and doubtful of this particular pontiff were given hope when they heard and/or read of his words and how he conducted himself.
I am not a Catholic, and I don't agree with Pope Benedict on everything. But I thank him for the tremendous positive impact he made while in my country, and wish him the best as he continues to seek to be faithful to the tremendous responsiblity he has accepted.