THE visit to Sydney of Pope Benedict XVI is a deeply ambiguous event - it is a test of the standing and spirit of the Catholic Church in Australia while offering a certain judgment on the tolerance of a secular Australian nation towards religion.It's worth reading in full. Australia is a far more secular country than the United States, and WYD is one of the most public displays of religiosity the country has seen in ages.
Does former cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, have anything to offer Australia? He comes, above all, for an event that enshrines the role of religion in the public square. Australia is about 65 per cent Christian. But it is a long time since Australian society saw Christianity celebrated in so spectacular a moment, with the city's landmarks for recreation and commerce given over to worship of God.And Catholic blogger John Heard has this piece in the Sunday Telegraph: Decisive Benedict the Pope the world needs.
This is an affirmation of the true and mature secular state. Yet it is resisted by many who seek a radical change in the status quo. They represent an aggressive "new secularism", a philosophy much discussed by Benedict, that aspires to deny religion by shrinking it to a strictly private affair. In terms of governance, such advocates want not a traditional secular state to enshrine religious freedom, but the creation of atheism as the de facto established religion to drive real religion from the public domain.
This constitutes one of the most radical and intolerant projects in Australian political history.
But even non-Catholics have something to learn from him.Catholic coverage at NCR(egister)'s Pope 2008 blog. And this post by Amy ought to be bookmarked: her collection of sites covering WYD.
Benedict regularly describes, for instance, how the secular West can overcome some of the more alienating aspects of modern living, and he is not afraid to engage the Church's critics.
In his papal writings, then, Benedict has quoted atheist thinkers such as Nietzsche and Marx, and used their criticisms of false belief and an unjust society to show how Christian love and hope can transform contemporary lives.