The pope comes to us as a preeminent teacher of the faith. His first encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) reminds us that “the Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her threefold responsibility, of proclaiming the Word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia), and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia). These duties presuppose each other and are inseparable” (25).
As we welcome our Holy Father, we reflect with him on who we are as members of the Church and disciples of the Lord. In his post- synodal apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (Sacrament of Love), Benedict teaches us that “the Eucharist makes us discover that Christ, risen from the dead, is our contemporary in the mystery of the Church, his body” (97). These deeply spiritual reflections on the Church and the Eucharist find beautiful resonance in Benedict’s most recent encyclical, Spe Salvi (On Christian Hope).
In the course of his visit, we will look to the Holy Father for guidance and encouragement: for families that face the challenges of a culture that lends little support to faithful married love; for young people, many of whom God is calling to religious life or the priesthood; and for Catholic schools, religious education programs and Catholic institutions of higher learning. Benedict’s message will help sustain our efforts to build a good and just society grounded in genuine moral values.
The pope’s itinerary brings him to the seat of our nation’s government (including a visit with President George W. Bush) and to meetings with my brother bishops, with educators and with leaders in interfaith dialogue. In New York, the pope will share with the United Nations his message of peace and experience, and will gather prayerfully with young people, priests, religious and seminarians. In both Washington and New York, Benedict will celebrate huge open-air Masses during which he will clearly echo the words of Christ’s Gospel of life and salvation.