Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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May 11, 2007

Benedict XVI Arrives in Brazil

On Wednesday, May 9 the Pope arrived in Sao Paulo. He addressed the welcoming party by praising the long loyalty of Brazilians to basic Christian values and to the Holy Father. He indicated that he had come to preside at the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American bishops. He referred to his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, and declared that the Catholic Church primarily was to be a witness to the love of the Father. The conference was to reinforce this identity of the Church through the promotion of respect for life from conception to death and through stressing the moral values "in each situation" and forming the consciences of the people.

At a news conference on his flight, he was questioned about the abortion debates in Brazil. He proceeded to expound on this and said that he agreed with the Mexican bishops who had declared excommunication on those who supported abortion. Actually, the Archbishop of Mexico City had declared that he would never directly impose an excommunication, but that the
abortion supporters excommunicated themselves. The matter was clarified on the plane with the conclusion that such supporters should not present themselves for communion.

Unfortunately, the reporter's introduction of the notions of abortion and excommunication created an infelicitous cloud of negativity over Benedict's arrival instead of the bright message of God's love, which Benedict had clearly intended. The pope, with his scholarly and reclusive temperament, failed to diffuse the question and somehow establish Jesus and God's love as the primary concerns of his mission. Imagine diplomats or politicians being interviewed by the media being faced with a question that would turn the discussion in a negative or unpleasant direction. The interviewee would have carefully planned beforehand the various points he wished to make, would quickly respond to the question, and immediately move on to his own agenda. It is to be regretted that our Church can have its identity distorted, even unwittingly by its own members and officials, and come to be perceived as primarily "the Church against abortion everready to excommunicate". We are much more than that; we are the Church of Jesus the Savior, come to bring a more abundant life!


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