Benedict XVI's arrival in Washington last night heralds a series of events intended to show solidarity with President Bush at a time of anxiety about Islamic fundamentalism, which threatens both America and the Catholic Church, and the president's pursuit of the war on terror.
On Sunday, in a display of defiance against Islamic extremism, the pope, who turns 81 today, will commemorate the lives of those who died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, by kneeling on the bedrock of ground zero and offering a silent prayer to the victims of Islamist terrorism.
Accompanied by Edward Cardinal Egan, he will offer personal condolences to a group of about 20 New Yorkers representing the victims, first responders, and survivors of the attacks.
The Vatican's ambassador to America, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, said the pope wants to display to the rest of the world his "solidarity with those who have died, with their families, and with all those who wish an end of violence and in the search of peace." The pontiff intends his visit to signify "a time of spiritual renewal for all Americans."
While Benedict will meet with Islamic leaders, in particular those who take part in the series of interfaith talks between Muslims and Catholics that began in the early 1990s, some mullahs have chosen to snub him. The pope will not visit a mosque during his six-day visit. He will meet Jewish, Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu leaders tomorrow. . .
"Unfortunately, some of the pope's past statements and actions have led to tensions between Muslims and Catholics," a co-founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Nihad Awad, wrote in a press release. "It is perhaps best not to dwell on these past events but instead to use them as a springboard to help deepen interfaith dialogue based on mutual understanding and acceptance of differences." (MORE)