Contrary to what some in the news media might think, the Holy Father is not trying to win a popularity contest.
While movie stars, sports idols and politicians rush to view their press clips each morning, the Pope prays, meditates and offers Mass. While others worry about what the world thinks, he tries to make sure he is aligned with the will of God.
I make this clarification in response to last week’s headline in The Sunday Times (London): “Crowds shrink for ‘bland’ Benedict, the Pope who only ever says no.”
In the less-than- insightful article that runs under the headline the author explains, more or less, that Pope Benedict XVI just isn’t very exciting. Not only that, but he doesn’t cave on moral issues when the truth of the Catholic faith fails to line up with popular opinion.
You get the impression that if the Holy Father was a better hip hop dancer and would approve of woman’s ordination, birth control and homosexuality he would prove what a fun guy he is, overcome his blandness and be more universally adored.
The evidence for the Pope’s “blandness” is that attendance at his weekly audiences fell from 2.8 million in 2007 to 2.2 million in 2008.
Of course, there are lots of reasons that attendance could have fallen. Maybe the weather was worse in Rome during 2008. Maybe the lousy world economy cut down on tourism. Maybe the people taking attendance during the past year miscounted.
In any event, more than 2 million people showed up to hear what the Holy Father had to say. And I have a feeling they were more concerned with what he had to say and the faith he represents than the production values of the “show.”
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