01-05-2009 - Traces, n. 5

press review

Something Beyond
All the Analysis

Excerpts from press coverage of Benedict XVI’s visit to the Holy Land.

“The Pope did what he does: He looked at us poor children of Eve and pointed us towards God. His emotional reticence keeps the spotlight pointed away from himself, not only because he is shy, but because the Pope believes his job is to shine the light on God in a world in danger of forgetting Him. At Yad Vashem, like Auschwitz-Birkenau, you can smell the evil, the radical absence of God. To point us to God in such a place is no small gift and no small ministry.”
(Michael Sean Winters, “Benedict at Yad Vashem,” America Magazine)

“It was not the fiery charisma of his predecessor, nor was it even the burning intensity of the custodian of Catholic orthodoxy. And that gentleness, that sense of human caring, became the prism through which to view both this man in general and his journey to the Holy Land in particular. This was not a trip about who is right and who is wrong, about what was done to whom by which people, when. So, all of that analysis becomes somewhat strange.
In fact, this was a trip by a man who simply wants us all to treat each other a little better; especially in a land we call Holy. I know it sounds a little ‘Rodney King,’ and we all like to mock that plea. But I wonder if we mock its simplicity because of the implicit hard work required to make it a reality. That is the hard work to which each of us in the room was gently called by the Pope.”
(Brad Hirschfield, “Meeting the Pope in the Holy Land,” Washington Post/Newsweek, “On Faith” Blog )

“But whatever the failings in symbolism, his trip was in many ways a success in substance.
His complex itinerary through Jordan and Israel could have gone wrong at every turn, and at every turn the region’s opposing players tried to use his presence to make their own political points: the Palestinians spoke of Israeli oppression in his presence; the new Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, urged him to denounce Iran.
Yet Benedict managed to avoid missteps of the kind that previously outraged Muslims and Jews. His trip to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and endorsement of a Palestinian state while visiting the West Bank went a long way toward smoothing relations with the Muslim world.
In fact, the endorsement, delivered before a towering concrete-and-barbed-wire separation barrier, appeared to be one instance in which he effectively used the symbolism that the landscape offered. But that success had the side effect of magnifying the perception of his clumsiness toward Jewish symbols and history.”
(Rachel Donadio, “Modest Successes and Missed Chances in Pope’s Trip,” New York Times)