David Crabtree on Assignment

The Pope's Visit: What's the Big Deal?

Posted April 16, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI is on American soil …”What’s the big deal?”

I’ve heard that question asked by several of my friends and acquaintances, none who are Roman Catholic.

I understand their question. If totally honest, I have to admit that up until 15 years ago, I might have had the same question. Much has changed in my life since then.

In August 1993, I was working for KCNC-TV in Denver, Col. World Youth Day was coming to the Mile High City, and 100,000 young people from around the world were coming to celebrate their Catholicism with each other and with Pope John Paul II.

Denver was buzzing excitement that is normally reserved for the Broncos. What would we experience? Where might the Pope travel? Would we see him? Might we get a glance of the Pope mobile? Would he hike the Rocky Mountains?

As it turned out, he did all that and more. Much more.

It was a summer of violence in Denver. Thirteen drive-by killings. The crime rate was through the roof. But for those eight days in August 1993, the crime rate dropped dramatically. No murders. There was a peace that passed understanding.

“What’s the big deal?”

I’m not saying peace will find its way to Washington D.C. or Manhattan. What I am saying is THIS Pope will probably not make anymore trips to the United States. He turns 81 Wednesday. He’s not the showman of his predecessor. John Paul made us laugh, maybe even shed a tear. Benedict makes us think — all of us.

My youth was spent attending the Southern Baptist church almost every time the doors were opened. After college rebellion, I found the Episcopal church and never left. Four years ago, I was blessed with ordination as a vocational deacon in the Episcopal church.

We have no “holy father,” but we understand apostolic succession. We don’t answer to Rome, not even to Canterbury, but we understand it.

I met John Paul II following a mass in his private chapel. He looked me in the eye…”Americano … journalist … be generous … be generous …”

That was October 1999. Still today, words fail me. That moment is embedded on my emotional and spiritual hard drive.

The big deal? This man leads a flock of billions. Most agree with him, but many of the flock do not. There will be protests, there will be anger, and there will be tears. Some of sorrow and many of great joy. There will be apologies (some say long overdue) for egregious acts of sexual abuse.

There will be all this and more.

It is a big deal.

I am honored to witness another papal event.


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  • cesar2 Apr 18, 2008

    Why do we say that is the first thing He taught. He did so when He was a child lost in the temple. How do we know what we believe is true? How do we know that we understand what the bible says? We go to a bible study. How do we know that a bible study is not the blind leading the blind? where is the truth? how do we find it. These are the questions that should be in the minds of the Christians.

  • cesar2 Apr 18, 2008

    What was the first thing the Jesus taught? The truth is absolute, objective and divine. and it is not subject to the dignity of he who preaches it. But it is subject to the dignity of its source which is God. Therefore there is absolute truth regardless of who says it. If I teach you the theft is wrong as I walk inside a bank and steal money. The truth of my teaching is still true regardless of my own dignity.

  • Through a glass darkly Apr 16, 2008

    The pope visiting the US is a good thing. I just wish he would direct address the problem with clergy and pedophilia and what the church is doing to clean out the bad eggs.

    It would also have been nice if Bush had made such a big deal out of the visit by the Dali Lama or Thich Nhat Hahnh. All such great teachers of humanity should be honored.

  • merrywidow Apr 16, 2008

    mojo and msbaine, I concur..

  • Wolfy1 Apr 16, 2008

    The Fox - don't blame the whole organization or blame all baptists...but was just arguing against your "hearsay" comment. Catholic Bashing by baptists is not uncommon.

  • threewakecountyboys Apr 16, 2008

    The Fox wrote: "Heresay. This Baptist has not heard bashing in the many churches I've attended. The stongest expression uttered is that our approach to worship is different."

    Regrettably, I do have first hand experience, both in large primarily Baptist assemblies and one-on-one with individuals. And I have heard some of my fellow Catholics bash other Christians. Both of these types of situations are unfortunate.

    Again, all Christians have so much more in common - that Jesus came to save us from our sins so that we may enter heaven - than we do differences. I wish we could all be more united because of that basic belief.

  • The Fox Apr 16, 2008

    Well, that pastor was way out of line. Don't blame the whole organization, as each church is autonimous. Anyway, great story and experience, Mr. Crabtree.

  • 2headstrong Apr 16, 2008

    Food for thought:

    Nowhere in the Bible (KJV, not the 'easy reader' paraphrased versions) does it say that the fruit of the tree of life that Eve gave Adam was an apple. Yet many have been taught that in Sunday school. Makes one wonder what else has been embellished along the way.

  • momeeee Apr 16, 2008

    The Pope is an inspiration to many people. The Catholic religion focuses on love, peace and justice for all people - not just Catholics - everyone! Please try to understand why we are excited about him coming to the US.

  • ifcdirector Apr 16, 2008

    Well I am not Catholic but I do recognize the importance of the Pope as the head of state for the Vatican which is its own country technically too. I think it's fine on that basis. What I don't like is the mingling of religious views on political questions here with our national leaders who should be putting their jobs first along with separation of church and state.




About this Blog:

WRAL anchor David Crabtree reports from around the world.