I'm drafting this message in flight on American 384, non-stop service from DFW to JFK, on my way for my Papal weekend. This morning was the public Mass at National's Stadium in Washington, DC, yesterday included a ceremony at the White House (complete with the Battle Hymn of the Republic and Happy Birthday for the pontiff's 81st birthday) and a celebration of Vespers (Evening Prayer) with all of the bishops of the United States (last I heard, not one sent their regrents).
Last night, I was interviewed by KEYE CBS 42 for a set of pieces they're putting together about the Papal visit; the first one with me was aired last night at 10 pm. I've seen myself in HD—somewhat scary, but I digress. In that interview, I mentioned that one of the aspects of Pope Benedict that makes him unique is his status as Pope of the Internet.
Pope John Paul II, of happy memory, was considered the Pope of TV. Anyone who saw any images—stills or video—were inspired by him. Whether it was the picture of him standing in front of a teepee in Native American-styled vestments or with sunglasses on or holding his cane upside down acting like it was a hockey stick, you felt a connection to him. He wrote many profound things, and by all means, they should be read and examined. His Theology of the Body and texts examining the role of Mary were groundbreaking in many ways, but he is remembered by the way he captured people.
Pope Benedict XVI is different. He's cute and hearing him with his German accent is great, but he is much more reserved than John Paul II. I can't imagine Pope Benedict ever using his cane as a hockey stick, for example. His gifts, however, lie with the written word. You may hear, or not, the Pope speak, but you want to go online and download the text. His gift isn't in the presentation of Truth, but in his explanation of the Truth. By training, he is a teacher, serving as a professor in Germany before being called up to the Major Leagues (in reverent terms, the fullness of priesthood as a bishop and then to Rome to serve in the Curia) and his natural gift for teaching is obvious.
He teaches when he speaks—from his weekly General Audiences to his Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist to the Moto Proprio allowing for the more widespread use of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite to, of course, his encyclicals, God is Love and Saved by Hope. Now three years after he was called to the Chair of Peter, Pope Benedict still has more people attend his General Audiences than our rock star John Paul II did. Why? Because they learn from this teacher. This is not to say anything negative about John Paul II, not at all, but only that the timid, quiet German who many consider quite dry has a mystical attraction that people are drawn toward through his catechesis.
The Internet is Pope Benedict XVI's biggest aid in his efforts. In the days after any text of his is released, people from around the world are reading it, discussing it, sharing it, wrestling with it and ultimately, finding a greater understanding of the Catholic faith.
I haven't had the chance to read the full-text yet, but apparently, what he had to say to the United States' bishops last night is worth the read.