Pope Benedict XVI - Essays and Reflections on His Papacy

A Father with His Children

A Father with His Children

Cardinal Francis George, OMI • Archbishop of Chicago

During Pope Benedict’s visit to the United States, every moment was programmed, every event scheduled, every person instructed so that everything came together as planned and as necessary. Watching the visit unfold hour by hour within the net of security and the prescriptions of the Pope’s staff was fascinating; but even more fascinating was watching the Pope as he broke out, at odd moments, to respond to those who had come to see him.

He responded with unexpected spontaneity to the seminarians and young religious at Dunwoodie Seminary in New York. He responded with quiet tenderness to the disabled children and their parents and caregivers in the seminary chapel, taking time to be personally present to each person in ways that he or she might be able to grasp. Early on in his visit, he responded with good humor to the children who had come to greet him as he left the Apostolic Nunciature to begin the day’s program.

Children from the Catholic schools of the Archdiocese of Washington had gathered outside the Nunciature to greet the Pope as he began his visit. He would not have time to come to any school, so they came to him. It was his birthday, and they sang “Happy Birthday” in German! The Pope stopped as he came down the stairs and looked at the children, mostly African American and Hispanic. Then he went to them and greeted them, telling them how exact their German pronunciation was. He left his entourage waiting until he had greeted them all, a father with his children, each going out of his or her way to honor the other.


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“By the bridges he is working to build between faiths, by his engagement in a global dialogue of mutual respect, His Holiness has won tremendous appreciation.”

King Abdullah of Jordan