Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pope Praises U.S., Warns of Secular Challenges

From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — Pope Benedict XVI visited the White House on Wednesday, his 81st birthday, and praised America as a nation where strong religious belief can coexist with secular society.

But he later warned that this secular tradition often prevented Americans from living their beliefs fully, accepting divorce, abortion and cohabitation outside of marriage.

“Perhaps America’s brand of secularism poses a particular problem,” he told American bishops here. “It allows for professing belief in God and respects the public role of religion and the churches, but at the same time can subtly reduce religious belief to a lowest common denominator.

“The result is a growing separation of faith from life.”

Still, he found fertile ground for his conservative brand of faith in President Bush, who has made his Christian faith a central tenet of his life as a politician. Christian conservatives — and, increasingly, Catholics — are a crucial component of the president’s political base, and the White House has made aggressive efforts to attract them.

The crowd burst into applause when Mr. Bush told the pope that Americans “need your message that all life is sacred,” a reference to the two men’s shared opposition to abortion rights.

More obscure, but still significant, the president adopted a phrase of the pope’s when he said the nation needed the pontiff’s “message to reject this dictatorship of relativism.”

The term is considered the defining phrase of the papal election in 2005, in which Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, on the day that his fellow cardinals went into the conclave that elected him Pope Benedict XVI, decried the idea that all belief is equally true.

“Here in America you’ll find a nation that welcomes the role of faith in the public square,” Mr. Bush said. “When our founders declared our nation’s independence, they rested their case on an appeal to the ‘laws of nature and of nature’s God.’ We believe in religious liberty. We also believe that a love for freedom and a common moral law are written into every human heart, and that these constitute the firm foundation on which any successful free society must be built.”

Dressed in his traditional white cassock and skullcap, the pontiff delivered a message celebrating the greatness of American democracy, as well as the nation’s embrace of religion.

(emphasis added)

Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Pope at White House: "God Bless America"

When the Pope Meets The President

Pope Benedict's Appreciation for America's Religious Liberty

"The America of Benedict XVI, a Model for Catholic Europe"

George Weigel: Pope Unlikely to Denounce "Great Satan Bush"

Pope Encourages Americans to Defend Life, Traditional Marriage and Family

"The Pope vs. The President: Two Right-Wing Powers Collide"

National Catholic Register: "A Pro-Life President"

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