Benedict’s April trip to the United States was marked by quiet discourses, a meeting with the victims of sexual abuse, some modernist music, and hope for the future.
During a press conference on the plane en route to the US, Pope Benedict emphasized his commitment to dealing with the controversial sexual abuse scandal.
“It is a great suffering for the Church in the United States and for the Church in general, for me personally, that this could happen… We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry. Only a sound person can be admitted to the priesthood,” said the Holy Father, responding to the questions of journalists.
- Benedict XVI celebrated Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and at Nationals Stadium in Washington, D.C. (April 17), in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York (April 19) and in New York’s Yankee Stadium (April 20).
- He also met interreligious leaders and spoke to the UN General Assembly (April 18). Neither government nor religion has a right to change or limit human rights, because those rights flow from the dignity of each person created in God’s image, Benedict XVI said in his speech to the UN General Assembly. But he also said the role of religions is not to dictate government policy, but to help their members strive to find the truth, including the truth about the dignity of all people even if their religious views are different.
- Benedict XVI knelt alone at Ground Zero in New York and offered a silent prayer and comforted survivors. Twenty-four people stood around a candle, a plot of earth and a tiny pond as the Pope knelt in prayer; there were the survivors, the family members of the dead, and representatives of the New York Port Authority, police and fire departments — the first responders (April 20).
- Benedict XVI preached the Gospel in highly secularized Australia (July 12-21),leaving a witness of faith. The Holy Father, accompanied by his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, his private secretary, Msgr. Georg Gänswein, and master of liturgical ceremonies, Msgr. Guido Marini, presided over the celebration of the 23rd World Youth Day in Australia.
- The Holy Father inaugurated the Pauline Year during an evening prayer service in the Rome Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls (June 28). Accompanied by Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and representatives of Orthodox and Anglican Churches, the Pope lit the first candle from a large lamp that will burn in the basilica’s portico throughout the whole year.
- During a memorial Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, Benedict XVI said “courage and patience” and a constant striving for holiness marked the pontificate and life of Pope Pius XII, who died October 9, 1958. The Pope also prayed that the sainthood cause of Pope Pius XII, whose pontificate spanned the “tumultuous years” during and after World War II, would proceed smoothly.
- Arriving in France (September 12-15) for a four-day visit, Pope Benedict called for a new chapter of Church-state cooperation, saying modern society greatly needs the inspiration of the Gospel. The Pope appealed in particular on behalf of struggling youths, the suffering poor, and the polluted planet. It was Benedict XVI’s first visit to France as Pope, and the trip represented a test for one of the primary goals of his pontificate: to reinvigorate the Christian roots of Europe.