May 27, 2006

He wants us to change, and that is always hard to hear.

Funny enough, when browsing through accounts of Pope Benedict's visit to Poland, TIMESONLINE's was the one I found, in all its brevity, most telling:
Cardinals and the congregation waited in the rain to hear the Pope. He told them not to dilute the teachings of the Church to suit modern ideas.


You have a special place in Catholic renewal, Pope tells multitude
From Roger Boyes in Warsaw

RAIN streaked the faces of 300,000 Polish Catholics yesterday as they gathered in central Warsaw to hear Pope Benedict XVI call them to order: “Do not dilute your faith!” he told them. “Do not pick and mix from the Holy Scriptures!”

The pilgrims cheered the Pope’s attempt to speak Polish and applauded his references to John Paul II, his Polish predecessor, who in 1979 had preached against communism in the same place, a barren parade ground hemmed in by hotels and army headquarters.

There was none of the carnival atmosphere that marked John Paul’s eight pilgrimages to his homeland, no playfulness. The Pope’s four-day trip, only his second significant pilgrimage since he took over the papacy, is about discipline.

On Thursday, he called on Polish priests, in finely chiselled words, to stay out of politics and concentrate on pastoral work. Yesterday he said that being a Catholic meant staying true to the doctrine.

“Even today there are people in groups who want to falsify the words of Christ and steal the truth from the New Testament because they claim it is too uncomfortable for modern people,” he said in his homily before dispensing Communion.

The message was a global one. The Pope wants to strengthen the faith in the Catholic heartland of Europe — his next pilgrimage will be to Spain — so that it can become a more effective voice in the dialogue with Islam.

Like John Paul II, he appears to see a special role for the Poles in this mission. About 90 per cent of Poles claim to be Catholic believers; it is the European country that exports the most missionaries.

Yet The Da Vinci Code, condemned by the Vatican, tops the Polish bestseller list; a book on John Paul II’s miracles is fifth; a biography of Pope Benedict 15th. That more or less sets out the country’s priorities.

The Polish Church is weakly led — it was indirectly steered from Rome by the Pope — and the moral tone is being set instead by a strident, maverick Catholic broadcaster and an ultranationalist government.

The result, says a Polish adviser to the Vatican, is that the church is losing authority in Poland. The new Pope is now demanding more from the Poles. It will be a sentimental journey, he admitted yesterday, and he will visit the birthplace of John Paul II, even sleeping in his bedroom. He also made claim, though, that he wants to go beyond sentiment, that he wants Poland to be in the vanguard of a Catholic renewal.

“He smiles as gently as a saint,” said Kasia Grabowska, a 19-year-old student with rain still trickling from her anorak. “But there is not much softness about him. He wants us to change, and that is always hard to hear.”
Not one to shun difficult and unpleasant duties, nor one not to meet them head-on, that pope, eh? Like a Rottweiler, really!

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