04/01/2008 - Pope Benedict XVI’s first visit to the U.S. as pontiff comes amid a turbulent election year. He has planned stops at the White House, the U.N. and the Sept. 11 “Ground Zero” site. How should we assess the first three years of Pope Benedict’s papacy? How has the global role and influence of the papacy changed under this pope? How has the Vatican’s relationship with the U.S. Catholic Church changed over the years, and what is its current state? What are the political implications of this trip?
To discuss these issues, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life invited John Allen, Vatican correspondent at National Catholic Reporter and Vatican analyst for CNN and NPR, and George Weigel, distinguished senior fellow with expertise in Vatican issues at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and Vatican analyst for NBC News.
Luis Lugo: Well, good afternoon to all of you, and thank you for joining us today. I’m Luis Lugo, the director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, which is a project of the Pew Research Center. The center is a nonpartisan organization and does not take positions on issues or policy debates.
This luncheon is part of an ongoing Forum series that brings together journalists and policy leaders to discuss timely topics at the intersection of religion and public affairs. I am pleased to welcome you today to a discussion on Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming visit to the United States.
If the interest you folks have shown in this is any indication, then the pope’s visit is sure to attract considerable attention. Now in this roundtable, we want to discuss where things stand with Pope Benedict three years into his pontificate, as well of course as what his visit might mean for Catholics and other Americans. To help us explore these issues, we are delighted to have with us two very distinguished experts. You have a copy of their bios in front of you, so I will not take too much time with the introductions.
George Weigel is a distinguished senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center here in Washington, D.C., in fact just a couple of blocks away, where he serves as the chair of the center’s Catholic Studies Project. George is also a Vatican analyst for NBC News and a regular contributor to Newsweek.
John Allen is a senior correspondent for National Catholic Reporter and a Vatican analyst for CNN and NPR. He is the author of Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican’s Enforcer of the Faith, about the future pope’s years as a cardinal.
Read the complete transcript The Pope Comes to America on the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Web site.