Many Black Catholics and Christians alike can remember the kind and gentle spirit of the last Pope John Paul II. Black Americans recall his strong connection to Black America and the compassion that he had for all people.
Pope Benedict XVI, however, Pope John Paul II’s successor, is not revered as having those same charismatic qualities. It is said that DC Catholics should not expect the “Rocky” theme song to be played by a high school band like they did for Pope John Paul II. At most they should expect the very organized and politically correct speeches during his visit.
The tightly scheduled papal visit will begin on April 15 when Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Washington, D.C. The plans are for the Pope to attend official meetings, and multiple liturgies, one of which will be held in DC’s new Nationals baseball stadium.
There is not much time scheduled for meeting or interacting with people.
“I am a Black Catholic in DC and I am not going out of the way to get to the super crowded meetings, the only thing that is really open to the public is the Mass and I don’t see why I would need to go. Even though I respect his position, I don’t think he cares much about the black Catholics in America. Which is why we need to fight hard to get black leaders in the Catholic Church,” says Shana Howard, a member of the National Black Catholic Congress.
In a recent interview with the Religion News Service (RNS) , a Vatican ambassador to the U.S. insisted that Pope Benedict XVI is truly human and represents the national Catholic community.
“There are people who consider him a man of very solid principles, extremely rigid and inflexible. But it will be enough to see him and to listen to him to discover a man of great human sensibility…of great capacity to feel the difficulty of another,” Archbishop Pietro Sambi told the RNS.Even though the Pope is scheduled to tour DC April 16th, travelling along Pennsylvania Avenue and Rock Creek Parkway in the new bulletproof “Pope Mobile,” allowing the public to view him from the sidewalks, many residents feel that he is detached.
“All of the interactions and speeches will be one-sided. I hope he takes the time to speak to Black Catholics in DC and find out what we think, how we feel and what changes should be made,” says Ryan Melonson, a Seattle native but regular attendee of local DC Catholic churches.