Florida, Maryland politicians reflect on papal inauguration Mass
by Catholic News Service
Pope Benedict XVI blesses a child as he leaves a prayer service in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.
(CNS photo from Catholic Press Photo)
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Politicians from Florida and Maryland who represented the United States at the April 24 Mass inaugurating Pope Benedict XVI's papal ministry said they were impressed with the pageantry of the ceremony and with the new pope's views.
"It was a stunning moment for any Catholic to confront your faith like that and see the majesty of it and see the power the faith has over you," said Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele of Maryland in an interview with The Catholic Review, Baltimore archdiocesan newspaper. "You really do feel a part of the universal Church."
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who headed the five-member delegation, said in an e-mail interview with The Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Orlando Diocese, that he was "impressed with the rich tradition, pageantry, beauty and symbolism of the inaugural Mass."
"I was also moved by how thousands of faithful came from all across the globe to join the pope as he began his journey," added Bush, who became a Catholic in 1996.
Bush was selected by his brother, President George W. Bush, to lead the official U.S. delegation. Other members were Steele, a former Augustinian seminarian; Carl A. Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus; Helen Alvare, associate professor of law at The Catholic University of America in Washington; and Frank Hanley, president emeritus of the International Union of Operating Engineers.
"We went to represent all Americans, particularly those of the Roman Catholic faith," said Bush, who had an opportunity to meet the new pontiff in a receiving line of dignitaries.
The Republican governor also said he believes the College of Cardinals made a good choice in selecting Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the new pope, calling Benedict XVI "a true theologian (who) offers moral clarity in an era of ambivalence."
Steele, also a Republican, said he believes Pope Benedict will be a "teaching pope" who will challenge Catholics and non-Catholics alike to resist the "dictatorship of relativism."
"John Paul II wrapped his arms around us and said, 'Be not afraid,'" he said. "Cardinal Ratzinger takes us by the hand and says, 'Learn, listen, understand.' It's what parents do every day, particularly when their children fall and hurt themselves."
Steele said the new pope would "help us understand what our faith means to us" by calling Catholics to the "classroom of our faith."
The lieutenant governor said he was impressed with the way then-Cardinal Ratzinger responded to criticisms several years ago from those who pushed for the Church to "keep up with the times" by relaxing its teachings on such issues as contraception and abortion.
"Cardinal Ratzinger told us to look at the Churches that have done that," Steele said. "Where are they today? They continue to struggle."
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Contributing to this story were Christopher Gunty in Orlando and George P. Matysek Jr. in Baltimore.

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