Pope Benedict XVI reaches out to diverse followers

Recent actions by Pope Benedict XVI have shown that the Catholic Church has the ability to branch out from the staunch Roman walls of the Vatican.

Pope Benedict XVI made his first visit as pope to the U.S. this past week, landing in Washington, D.C. and spending time at the White House. On his incoming flight, the pope was asked by the Vatican Press Corps about the child abuse scandal in the U.S., to which he presented an important distinction. While in the past the Church hasn’t necessarily distinguished between homosexuality and pedophilia, the pope noted that these are two different things and that the root of the child abuse scandal lies with the latter. He is the first pope to make a differentiation with regard to such a scandal.

The pope continued his visit in New York City, where he was the third pope to visit Yankee Stadium and speak at the United Nations. He was the first pope in history to visit a synagogue and hold mass in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, as he visited the synagogue just before Passover and hosted mass in Saint Patrick’s before an incredibly packed crowd.

The Archdiocese of New York presented the pope with an official papal skateboard, the product of a state-wide competition between children at archdiocese schools to design the pope’s official wheels. The bright purple board adorned with a graffiti-like cross, now in the posession of Pope Benedict XVI himself, forges a connection between the pope, the Catholic Church, and the younger generation, a group often alienated by the Church’s traditional values.

So, while the pope may be a holy roller only literally, he leads the Church through a difficult time in its history.

The pope’s visit to the U.S. included reaching out to populations of smaller followings, like the waning interest in the priesthood or the traditionally less interested youth generation, which we commend. On Sunday, for example, the pope visited Saint Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, N.Y., where this year’s graduating class of priests numbers only three. Interest in the priesthood, as well as numbers of parishioners, has been steadily decreasing in recent years.

In this increasingly difficult time for the Catholic Church, it is good to see a pope that is frank yet eloquent and unafraid to confront the painful issues, as well as reach out to all of his constituents. We hope to see more cultural leaders expand the scope of their messages in such a way.