Sunday, April 13, 2008


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    • Next up for Pope Benedict XVI, a welcoming nation that wants to get to know him.

    • Benedict will deliver an unwavering message that society needs religious values, but this intellectual pontiff will do it in the most positive way possible. After making relatively little headway in his efforts to re-ignite the faith in Europe, America's roughly 65 million Catholics seem anxious to hear him.

    • A March poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found nearly three-quarters of U.S. Catholics viewed Benedict positively. Among the U.S. public at large, 52 percent viewed the pope favorably, but about one-third said they didn't know enough about him to answer.

    • Catholic leaders say any perception of Benedict as a mirthless scold is unfair - a hangover from his long tenure as head of the Vatican office that enforces orthodoxy. Bishops and others describe him as a shy, humble man with a keen sense of humor and a love of teaching. Long before he went to the Vatican, Benedict, a theologian, was a university professor.

    • Benedict has struggled against the tide of secularism, but may see the United States - which he visited five times as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger - as a chance to gain ground.

    • In recently receiving the new U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon, Benedict welcomed what he called the American people's "historic" appreciation of the role of religion in shaping public policy.

      He used the occasion to condemn abortion, euthanasia and gay marriage, praising "the efforts of so many of your fellow citizens and government leaders to ensure legal protection for God's gift of life from conception to natural death."

    • The pope also will turn 81 while in the United States, and all American cardinals have been invited to a birthday lunch Wednesday at the Vatican embassy in Washington. Vatican aides say the pope is in good shape.

      "I was struck, the Holy Father just seemed very much energized," Archbishop Wuerl said after meeting with Benedict in Rome before the trip. "His walk, his gait is impressive. You would never guess his age."

      Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told reporters last Tuesday that Benedict has no plans to meet with any of the candidates. However, a host of politicians from both major parties may be on hand Wednesday when he visits the White House.

    • Benedict has warned Catholic politicians who must decide on such issues as abortion, euthanasia and marriage that the faith's values are "not negotiable."

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