Pope Benedict XVI, head of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church, capped a six-day visit to the United States, his first as pontiff, with a public mass at New York’s Yankee Stadium in which he declared the need for U.S. Catholics to be obedient to church authority.
While the visit, from April 15 to 20, is likely to be remembered for the Pope’s public declarations of shame about the sexual abuse scandals that rocked the Catholic church in the United States, the trip also provided him an opportunity to meet a range of U.S. Christian leaders.
At an April 18 service in New York, attended by 250 leaders representing Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, evangelical and Pentecostal traditions, Pope Benedict voiced concern about what he described as “fundamental Christian beliefs and practices” being altered on the basis of interpretations “not always consonant” with Christian tradition and biblical teaching.
“Communities consequently give up the attempt to act as a unified body,” said the Pope, in remarks seen by some as a rebuke to the U.S. Episcopal Church that in 2003 consecrated an openly gay bishop.
However, Mark S. Sisk, the Episcopal bishop of New York and an Episcopal Church representative at the April 18 event, demurred. He said reporters were “reading too much into” the Pope’s remarks, as well as the fact that the denomination’s presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, did not attend the service and gathering because of a prior commitment.
Meanwhile, the Pope met with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, at the Vatican in May. “It was a friendly and informal meeting in which we discussed a number of ecumenical issues, some of the Pope’s impressions from his American visit and common issues in Christian-Muslim dialogue,” said Archbishop Williams.