Wednesday at the White House, speak at the United Nations on Friday and visit the site of the 2001 terror attacks at the World Trade Center on Saturday. He will celebrate Mass in two baseball stadiums, the Washington Nationals Park on Thursday and Yankee Stadium on Saturday.
More than 20 percent of Americans are Catholic (65 million of 300 million), but only four of every 100 South Carolina residents, or 4.2 percent, belong to the church. But even in this predominantly Baptist state, the pope’s visit could have tremendous implications.
“You better believe it,” said the Rev. Kendall Harmon, canon theologian for the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. “I think you’re looking at one of the two most influential Christian figures in the world today, the other being Billy Graham. … He’s more than a figurehead. He’s a very thoughtful person with a global perspective.”
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, has always been known as a deep thinker, striving to reconcile modern thought with orthodox Christian doctrine.
“I think what Benedict brings is a profound understanding of the relationship between faith and reason that our culture has lost; that faith is reasonable,” said Stephen Gajdosik, the media relations officer for the Catholic Diocese of Charleston. He planned to see the pope on the White House lawn. “I think our culture wants to posit a lot of false dichotomies, black or white. If we applied reason to the whole political maelstrom right now, we would find our way to solutions much more quickly.”
Monsignor Martin Laughlin, diocese administrator, also praised the pope’s ability to bridge the gap between secular and religious.