Newsflash: Benedict isn’t the angry, aloof pope we keep insisting he is.

Deacon Greg linked to an article in the Vancouver Sun this morning that wrapped up the pope’s UK visit, and I’m exasperated just from the title:

Pope sheds ‘Vatican Rottweiler’ image on Britain trip

Really? Are we still acting surprised when, once again, Pope Benedict turns out to be nothing like the angry caricature so often painted of him? It goes on:

British media Monday hailed Pope Benedict XVI for shedding his distant and authoritarian image on his historic state visit, but cautioned the Catholic Church still faced challenges in the nation.

The pontiff succeeded in presenting himself as a lovable, elderly figure — a far cry from the “Rottweiler” image, they said.

“What the visit accomplished above all was to unify Catholics and humanise a pope who has so often been perceived as cold, aloof and authoritarian,” wrote Catherine Pepinster, editor of The Tablet newspaper, a British Catholic weekly.

“The fabled Vatican ‘Rottweiler’ turned out to be a shy, warm and frail 83-year-old who perked up every time his security detail allowed him to greet people, especially youngsters and his own generation.”

I’m curious to know how many state visits it will take — how many meetings with abuse victims, how many World Youth Days, how many photo ops like this — before people stop trotting out the Rottweiler line, as if he has suddenly undergone some radical transformation, and state the obvious: Pope Benedict is a “shy,” “warm,” “lovable, elderly figure.” It’s not some act he’s putting on to win over crowds; anyone who has been paying attention would know that — as the massive crowds who turned out for his visit can attest.

Yes, Benedict had a reputation (unfair even then) as the Church’s watchdog — ten years ago. He’s now been pope for five. It’s not like he’s been hiding under a rock all that time, and this is some shocking new character development. Can we please come up with some new headlines?

Margaret Cabaniss

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Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at SlowMama.com.

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