Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sambi on the Papal Visit and The Best Dressed Bear

Looking for more Papal Visit info, including ticket information? click here.

It seems that lately I have been blogging all Papal Visit all the time. Maybe it's because 90% of my hits have been by people looking for info on the papal visit, maybe it's because I still can't believe I have a ticket reserved for me, maybe it's because test related insanity has set in. Anyway, please forgive me for yet another Papal Visit related post.

From USA Today:

Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the veteran Vatican diplomat who serves as the Holy See's U.S. ambassador, knows exactly why the world will see — but not hear — Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the bedrock at Ground Zero during the pope's first visit to the USA.
The silence is Sambi's idea.

"This will be a moment of solidarity with those who died and their families. He will walk alone to indicate the loneliness of those who went to their deaths and the loneliness of the survivors. He will light a lamp. He will pray silently and make a public prayer (the only portion to be broadcast) for the remembrance of those who died, and for peace.

"There must be only silence and prayer here because not a single word will be enough to be convincing. Nothing will be adequate to touch the loneliness of those who died there and those who lost someone. Silence and prayer are what is required."

It is Sambi's job to know what is required, spiritual or political or trivial, to make a success of the shy, scholarly pope's visit. When Benedict comes to Washington and New York April 15-20, he will be reaching out to all Americans, not only Catholics.

Sambi, 69, is a model of Italian charm who engages visitors with warm hazel eyes and expressive hands emphasizing his conversation. He has a 40-year résumé of serving in world hot spots: Jerusalem, Cuba, Indonesia and more.


Now, the nuncio wants to correct many people's image of Benedict, drawn from when the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, enforcing John Paul II's strict vision of Catholic teachings.

'Simple man, human and warm'

"Anyone who lives by first impressions will simply see very quickly they were wrong about this Pope Benedict," Sambi says. (I will attest to that!)

"The great surprise for people will be that the professor is a very simple man, human and warm in the ways in which he expresses himself. He came down from the chair of the teacher and accepted the role of preacher."

Indeed, Vatican watchers calculate that Benedict is outdrawing the immensely popular John Paul II when he speaks to the faithful in St. Peter's Square during Wednesday general audiences and his noon prayer and reflections on Sundays.


"Hope is the transcendent theme. A person or a people without hope is already dead," Sambi says. "In his humble, simple, kind way, this pope is bringing us this clear message: that the way to happiness is to know that God loves you, and because God loves you, you love your neighbor."


Sambi also is engaged in the fine points of making Benedict, who will turn 81 while in Washington, welcome and comfortable.

The shining black Yamaha baby grand piano is tuned in case the pianist pope wants to relax playing Mozart. It stands in one of the upstairs reception rooms at the nunciature, the Vatican Embassy's home and offices, across busy Massachusetts Avenue from the vice president's residence.

If Benedict wants to take one of his twice-daily walks, Sambi has mapped out a sylvan route where birds will drown out urban clamor.

But there are no plans for the German-born pope to have Bavarian pastries for his birthday luncheon. This will be an Italian meal, Sambi says, catered by Cafe Milano, a trendy Georgetown restaurant.

It's one more taste of American life for Benedict, who keeps an astute eye on popular culture.

Young people are drawn to the pope's message of "obedience to God as the way to happiness" and away from the self-centeredness of modern life, Sambi says.

"If you stop believing that you are God, it will be easy to believe in Him." (Awesome quote. I am saving that one)

Catholics believe the pope is infallible in questions of faith and morals, but "he very rarely makes infallibility an issue. There is so much absolutism, so much infallibility in each of us, the pope uses it very little by comparison."

Sambi, eyes twinkling, repeats, "People will be surprised."

I have no doubt that the hearts of many people will be changed by this visit.

On a related note, the souveniers are already making an appearance:
Six Washington, D.C.-area Build-A-Bear Workshop stores will be selling souvenier teddy bear T-shirts. The shirt costs $6, and a portion of the shirt sales will help pay for the pope's trip.

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