May 16, 2008


Pope Benedict XVI blesses, and challenges, America

“As I begin my visit to the United States, I express once more my gratitude for your invitation, my joy to be in your midst, and my fervent prayers that almighty God will confirm this nation and its people in the ways of justice, prosperity and peace. God bless America!”
- Pope Benedict XVI, Official Welcome Ceremony, the White House, on April 16

Pope Benedict XVI began his first official visit to the United States with a heartfelt benediction: God bless America!

He continued to bless us throughout his six-day visit with words of gratitude, affirmation, encouragement, appreciation and hope.

As Cardinal Francis George noted in his welcoming remarks at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., on April 16, Americans are “people who take joy in being generous and, in that characteristic, imitate the Lord himself and make God’s image strong in our society.”

On numerous occasions during his visit, Pope Benedict praised and thanked the Church in America for its generosity—using Americans’ responses to the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, as well as Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami of December 2004 as obvious examples.

But the Holy Father also challenged us to be good stewards of our many gifts and blessings, and to share generously with those who are poor and vulnerable. He asked us to be consistent in our practice of our faith, protect the dignity of all human persons, safeguard marriage and family life, witness to the Gospel, and work tirelessly for authentic peace and social justice here in America and throughout the world.

Most of all, the Holy Father said, the Church in America should provide opportunities to lead all people to “an encounter with the living God, the source of that life-transforming hope of which the Gospel speaks.”

Pope Benedict warned us that good stewardship of our nation’s many blessings will not be easy.

“For an affluent society, a further obstacle to an encounter with the living God lies in the subtle influence of materialism, which can all too easily focus the attention on the hundredfold, which God promises now in this time, at the expense of the eternal life which he promises in the age to come.”

We are called to be stewards of the bounty we have received from God here and now. But we dare not lose sight of the even greater blessings that are yet to come—when we will be united with God and one another in our heavenly home.

“People today need to be reminded of the ultimate purpose of their lives,” the pope said. “They need to recognize that implanted within them is a deep thirst for God. They need to be given opportunities to drink from the wells of his infinite love.”

Responsible stewardship of America’s many blessings means providing the people of our day with genuine opportunities to encounter Christ.

This means that Catholics in the United States must be faithful to the precious inheritance we have received from our ancestors in the faith, open to constant conversion and spiritual renewal, and willing to share generously all our spiritual and material gifts.

“The fidelity and courage with which the Church in this country will respond to the challenges raised by an increasingly secular and materialistic culture,” the pope said, “will depend in large part upon your own fidelity in handing on the treasure of our Catholic faith.”

The pastoral visit of Pope Benedict to the United States, with its theme of “Christ Our Hope,” was itself a blessing that challenged us to greater responsibility and accountability.

On numerous occasions during his visit, the Holy Father expressed his deep sorrow over the horrors of clergy sexual abuse. He challenged us to respond to all who have suffered—directly or indirectly—from this unspeakable evil with the compassion and healing power of Christ.

And he called us to continue and strengthen our efforts to protect our children and provide for them the safe haven that can only come from authentic family life and from a culture that cherishes and defends a truly healthy understanding of the mystery of human sexuality.

“The Church expects much from you,” Pope Benedict told us. “Do not fail it in your generosity.”

God bless America, and may God bless Pope Benedict XVI!

—Dan Conway

Local site Links: