The Catholic Church has made the headlines this week, first with the closing and merging of many churches in the Archdiocese of New Orleans and now with the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI in Washington.
The church closings have upset many people who were regular participants in their services. But a church is not just a building. It is a spiritual community that joins together in prayer and promotes a way of life that benefits the world at large.
Hopefully, the changes will be accepted by all, if not immediately but in time. This will provide larger parishes which, in a way, may be more beneficial. More services can be provided and more active congregations could result.
Several decades ago when people in the cities began moving to the suburbs, new churches were built to serve them in their new locations and some of the older churches lost much of their congregations. Some of them were closed and some continued with reduced congregations. Reorganization of parishes has been an ongoing operation in the church.
The situation certainly calls for some serious contemplation by church officials as to how this reorganization should take place. Starting off in a new church may not be so bad to a traveller who has attended masses hither ‘n’ yon in London, Athens, Apalachicola, etc., etc. One great benefit in the Catholics’ favor is that the church is universal. The method of worship is somewhat the same everywhere.
We’ll harbor a guess that after a few weeks, most of the people affected by the church closings will feel at home again. And the parishes with their new congregations can reorganize in a way that will benefit them in the future.
Meanwhile, Benedict XVI is making his first visit to the United States as Pope. He is more than just the leader of a religious organization. His role embraces people in more countries of the world than any other leader.
The Pope is in a position to influence unity among people of the world moreso than anyone else. Look at the attention that George W. Bush, a protestant who is President of a country that at one time would not elect a Catholic president, has paid to his visit. Bush will pay heed to everything the Pope says and, whether he agrees with him or not, he will not publicly dispute him. And the Pope could go from country to country with similar effect. Even Fidel Castro dared not take issue with the Pope on his visit to Cuba.
So the Pope, moreso than anyone else, can use his leadership to help bring unity to a discordant world. And it appears that Benedict XVI is beginning to do that.