Msgr. Tim O'Connor, pastor at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Cary, shares his thoughts about the pope's visit.
Shortly after the election of Pope Benedict XVI, I was asked by people who knew that I had followed Pope John Paul II closely over the years, what the difference between the two popes is.
After some reflection, I was able to answer the question with these words: People came to see Pope John Paul II, and people come to hear Pope Benedict XVI.
That is not to say that Pope John Paul II did not teach us anything. God knows the volumes we now own of his writings and his homilies.
But with thousands of others of all faiths, I came to Washington to both see and hear Pope Benedict XVI. So, what did I see, and what did I hear?
I saw a very humble and compassionate man – who before his election was considered by some as anything but compassionate – stand amidst reporters on his plane to America to tell us he was ashamed of the sexual scandal and how it was not handled well.
I read of his impromtu decision to meet with several victims of the abuse scandal and tell them he was sorry and wanted to help. Yes, all roads do lead to Rome, and Rome has responded.
I watched 50,000 people come together of all ages and backgrounds to celebrate the Eucharist with our pope. I heard one man say, "Isn't it great to know that there was an event that gathered so many thousands, and it wasn't a rock concert"
I listened with intensity to the pope's homily at the Mass. It offered hope not only to our church but to our nation.
I listened as our pope spoke to our bishops and challenged them with compassion to be strong leaders of the faith and to correct the errors that surrounded the sexual abuse scandal.
I both watched and heard our pope tell Catholic educators of the strong obligation they have to not only teach well but authentically.
I was greatly moved as our Holy Father reached out to leaders of other faiths desiring to work together to bring peace to the most troubled parts of the world.
All of this gives me renewed hope as I continue my ministry in God's vineyard, and I continue to pray for those I encountered who did not share these hopes and visions.
Msgr. Tim O'Connor has served as a papal consultant for WRAL News for nearly 10 years, including the 1999 documentary "Upon This Rock," and Pope John Paul II's funeral in 2005.