WASHINGTON (CNS): When Pope Benedict XVI left New York on April 20 after his six-day visit to the United States, Catholics were catching their breath from the whirlwind tour and many were trying to figure out what kind of impact the visit would leave in its wake.
The trip – anticipated since last November – prompted a fair amount of guesswork about what the pontiff would and wouldn’t say.
Pope Benedict, not swayed by hearsay, frequently reiterated that the theme of the visit was “Christ Our Hope” and stressed his optimism that the visit would prompt “a time of spiritual renewal for all Americans”.
Whether he was addressing international or inter-religious leaders, educators, priests and religious, bishops, youths or baseball stadiums full of Catholics, the Pope stuck with that message of hope in Christ throughout his various stops.
Overall reviews of the papal visit were positive.
“In general, the visit was a terrific success. He hit a home run every time he went up to bat,” senior fellow at Woodstock Theological Centre in Washington, Jesuit Father Thomas Reese said.
Pre-trip speculation about whether Pope Benedict would address the clergy sex abuse crisis was put aside from the start when the Pope spoke on the plane ride to Washington of being “deeply ashamed” about the scandal.
He followed those comments with several other references to the abuse scandal and then a personal meeting with abuse victims.
Director of the Institute of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry at Boston College Thomas Groome called the Pope’s visit a “resounding success”, where he “did and said all the right things”.
The Pope also reached out to young people, making reference to them in homilies and meeting with them on the grounds of St Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, New York, on April 19.
Pope Benedict left behind an improved image of himself among US Catholics. Just two weeks before his arrival, only 18 per cent of the general public and 37 per cent of Catholics said they knew a lot about Pope Benedict.