National Catholic Register

Opinion

Benedict and Brazil

It’s has become almost a cliché of papal visits. At first, headlines report that the Pope will get a frosty reception because of widespread opposition to the faith.

BY Father Owen Kearns

Publisher

May 20-26, 2007 Issue | Posted 5/15/07 at 10:00 AM

 

It’s has become almost a cliché of papal visits. At first, headlines report that the Pope will get a frosty reception because of widespread opposition to the faith. Then the Pope comes and attracts enormous cheering crowds. Seeing that the people clearly love the Pope and that he clearly loves them, media commentators start speaking of the “surprisingly enthusiastic reception” the Pope has received, when no one was surprised but them.

One reason this always happens is that the media applies a political formula to papal visits that just does not fit. Many reporters do not understand expressions of faith and are made uncomfortable by religious fervor. So they identify the issues they can cover, instead.

Issues loom large to reporters, and so Catholic groups that are identified with particular issues loom large, as well. But Catholic groups that target small political issues often turn out to be fringe organizations in the Church.

The media focuses on these groups and so focuses on what programs the Church is supporting or failing to support. And they miss the whole point.

In the case of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Brazil, they will find a few programs. But mostly, they will be disappointed. The Holy Father’s message is that without God, programs are hollow, fruitless and ultimately disappointing.

And by God, he means, “not a God who is merely imagined or hypothetical, but God with a human face; he is God-with-us, the God who loves even to the Cross.”

This Christ-centered vision of the Pope is why the media will always miss the point — because they don’t see the central importance of Christ in history.

And it is also, incidentally, the very reason for the Register.

As Pope Benedict told the bishops of Brazil, “we must not limit ourselves solely to homilies, lectures, Bible courses or theology courses, but we must have recourse also to the communications media: press, radio and television, websites, forums and many other methods for effectively communicating the message of Christ to a large number of people.”