Though the parallel shouldn't be pushed too far, in some ways Christian/Muslim relations today might be compared to where things stood with personal computers back in the early 1980s. Everybody knew PCs were the future, but they wouldn't change the world until a simple, appealing, and reasonably standard way of making them work emerged.
All Things Catholic
Ever since his famous warning about a “dictatorship of relativism” shortly before his election three years ago, Pope Benedict XVI has been trying to kick-start a global conversation about truth. In particular, Benedict yearns for a new look at truth within the Western secular academy, that exotic region where Jacques Derrida’s relativist maxim “there is nothing outside the text” has, ironically, achieved the status of a near-absolute.
On Wednesday I spoke at the annual World Communications Day luncheon of the Diocese of Brooklyn, hosted by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio. For this group of media professionals in the New York area, as well as local Catholics, I was asked to ruminate on lessons to be learned from the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States.
Mary Ann Glendon is the eighth Ambassador of the United States to the Holy See, and by most measures she's probably the nominee least in need of on-the-job training. Glendon is a veteran Vatican insider, having represented the Holy See at the 1995 Beijing conference of the United Nations on women, and having served as president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences -- the first woman to head a pontifical academy. A professor at the Harvard Law School, she's also an expert on international legal theory.
Prior to Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United States, some handlers worried that the American media would impose the sexual abuse crisis as the trip's dominant storyline. As it turns out, those fears were misplaced -- the media didn't impose the crisis upon the pope, he imposed it on us.
As Pope Benedict XVI's arrival in the United States approaches, the media is chock full of pieces outlining the challenges the pope faces in America, and trying to anticipate what he might do or say to address them. Perhaps it's fitting that the last word before the curtain goes up, however, should belong to Benedict himself.
Editor's Note: Just as today's column was being posted, John Allen filed the following report on his daily news journal: Vatican fence-mending campaign with Jews picks up steam.
Rarely does an Easter Vigil Mass become a news event, but this year's edition in St. Peter's Basilica certainly got the world's attention. The reason: One of seven new Catholics personally baptized by Pope Benedict XVI happens to be an Egyptian-born Italian journalist and convert from Islam, widely regarded as the successor to Oriana Fallaci in terms of visceral protest against Muslim extremism.
This week's column is intended as a "one-stop-shopping" guide to the April 15-20 visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States. There's a lot of material, and it may be best read in chunks rather than at one sitting. I hope it proves a useful overview not just of the highlights of the pope's schedule, but also the trip's background and context.