Pope Benedict XVI holds his first press op
Even though I didn't manage to get up early enough to watch it live, TIVO to the rescue enabled me to watch Pope Benedict's first press conference, or more properly, his first Papal audience with the press.
He took the stage before a huge auditorium filled with journalists (and reportedly not a few members of journalists' families) to thunderous applause and prolonged cheers.
This is such a happy and humble Pope. He has charisma galore, of a very sweet nature, which seems to make him extremely approachable. One feels that one would be instantly comforted and cheered to be in his beaming and gentle presence.
After some introductory words by one of the Cardinals, the Pope read a statement in Italian, English, French and German. He could well have included Spanish, which he also speaks fluently, but confined himself to the first four. He thanked all the assembled journalists for their hard work under difficult conditions, and commended them for enabling the world to participate in all the momentous events that have taken place in the past few weeks. He stressed the importance of the media in reaching humanity across the globe with a powerful message. He was interrupted several times with cheers and applause, to which he reacted with a sense of genuine surprise and gratitude.
At the conclusion of the audience, he led the assembled crowd in reciting the Lord's Prayer -- many in the audience were seen to be saying the words with him.
It seems that this Pope has decided to make abundant use of the mass media as his means of communication, a fact he stressed over and over. I think this Pope will surprise us, and I think that in his own gentle and spiritually humble way he will have a powerful effect on the world, just as his predecessor did in his own way. He is comfortable talking to journalists, and has repeatedly over the years happily engaged in extended question and answer sessions with reporters. He obviously plans to make this a vital part of his ministry. Perhaps since he is not as young as Pope John Paul II was when he took over the office, he will reach out in this way rather than subjecting himself to the rigors and stresses of frequent overseas travel. In many ways, he will reach more people this way, as even when he travels, there are only so many people that are able to turn out to see him at a distance.
I am amazed, as a non-Catholic, but still as a Christian, how profoundly these events of the last few weeks have moved all of us. The world is in genuine need of spiritual renewal -- we need figures such as the Pope to inspire and to lead us back to the light, back to the realization that life without faith is an empty proposition. The world is obviously hungry for the message. And this humble "toiler in the vineyards of the Lord" may be just what the doctor ordered. God speed Pope Benedict, and protect his health.
Interested parties may want to set their VCRs or TIVOs or simply get up early tomorrow morning to watch the Pope's official installation ceremony, which will be aired at approximately 5 a.m. EDT. Check your local listings, folks.