Pope Benedict XVI on the World Stage: What He Said at the U.N.

Pope Benedict XVI on the World Stage: What He Said at the U.N.

The visit to the United States earlier this month of Pope Benedict XVI, the spiritual leader of more than 60 million Americans, was a whirlwind affair. In between meetings with President Bush, a stopover at the Pope John Paul II cultural center, a meeting with a Jewish community group in New York and a visit to ground zero, Benedict also managed to slip in three masses and a handful of addresses to various ecumenical bodies. While the trip lasted just four days, precious little was left undone.

Judging by his schedule, American domestic issues were clearly high atop the Pope's to-do list. Some events were rather conciliatory -- addressing the priest abuse scandal was an uncomfortable but necessary step -- while others were more forceful, with Benedict issuing his customary attack on cultural decline and the nefarious rise of moral relativism. All told, the visit was something of a moral checkup, a taking stock of Catholicism's role in the rubric of American political and social life and its connection to the greater Roman Catholic community.

For all the pomp and circumstance, however, and for all of the meetings with dignitaries, political leaders, and the like, Benedict's most important moment was not focused on America, per se, but rather the entire community of nations, as he addressed the United Nations General Assembly for the first time since his elevation to the papacy.

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