What to expect from the papal visit

Over at Catholic Culture, Phil Lawler offers five things we can expect from Benedict’s trip to the UK (which begins tomorrow). Among things like the “nasty rhetoric” and criticism of the organizers that we’ve already seen, one item stood out — and gave me hope for the visit:

4. Expect the unexpected 

Pope Benedict has established a track record. He never fails to produce headlines, particularly during his trips abroad. But his most provocative statements do not always come when they are expected, and he rarely says exactly what he is expected to say. Vatican-watchers unanimously expect the Pope’s sermon at Cardinal Newman’s beatification to be the most important papal message of the trip.  But do not dismiss the possibility that the Pope will make his most newsworthy statement in some other venue: during his flight to Britain, or his meeting with the Queen, or even his talk with the British bishops on the last day of his visit.

If in fact the beatification homily is the centerpiece of the Pope’s visit (as I think it will be), expect the Holy Father to press the argument in an unexpected direction. Given the ferocity of the attacks on Catholicism, the media will expect the Pope to defend the Church, to answer those attacks. But this Pope doesn’t allow himself to be pinned down on defense. He will, I am sure, seize the offensive and press forward with his argument. In what direction? We can only wait and see.

This is a good point, I think, and one that is often overlooked. Benedict can be full of surprises — the Regensburg lecture, anyone? — and isn’t often led by other people’s expectations, especially from detractors. The impact of his visit may be all the more profound because it has been prefaced with such doom and gloom. It’s a good reminder (to me, anyway) to be excited for the possibilities ahead, rather than just nervous about the potential problems.

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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