Pave Benedikt mer populær etter USA-besøket

John Allen skriver i sin ukentlige spalte at amerikaneres holding til pave Benedikt ble 10% mer positiv etter hans besøk der i midten av april:
The Marist poll asked Americans to rate Benedict as a «spiritual leader» and a «world leader» before and after the trip, and on both measures his scores went up ten points – 62 percent of Americans now describe him as «excellent» or «good» on the former, and 51 percent say the same about the latter. The Pew Forum found that Benedict’s overall approval rating in the United States went up nine points, from 52 percent to 61, and among Catholics it went from 74 to 83 percent.

As I noted in Brooklyn, getting 83 percent of American Catholics to agree on virtually anything is a minor miracle, let alone what they think of the job the pope is doing.

Perhaps most tellingly, the Marist survey found that 52 percent of Americans said the trip gave them a «more positive» impression of the Catholic church, while only 12 percent said «less positive.» Cumulatively, the data lead to one inexorable conclusion: from a communications point of view, the trip was a home run for the Holy Father.

Allen skriver også hva som gjorde størst inntrykk på amerikanerne – og litt om hvordan Kirken ofte ikke er så flinke med massemedia (se selve artikkelen for dette siste).

Why was the pope’s trip able to make such a positive splash, in spite of these challenges?

In part, I would suggest, because it fell into the category of «big event» which the American press handles very well. CNN, to take the example I know best, broadcast three Masses during the trip more or less from start to finish — Nationals Park, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and Yankees Stadium. Such saturation coverage obviously gave the pope an opportunity to cast himself and his message in a positive light.

The lion’s share of the credit, however, has to go to the pope himself. My suspicion is that the average American took away two basic images of Benedict XVI: kindness and candor. They saw a spiritual leader who came off as warm, humble, and compassionate, and who did not flinch from addressing the pain left behind by the sexual abuse crisis.

Perhaps the most telling bit of data from the Marist College poll was this: By a more than two-to-one margin, Americans identified Benedict XVI’s April 17 meeting with five victims of sexual abuse as the «most meaningful» moment of the trip. The next most popular response was the April 20 visit to Ground Zero.

It’s striking that these events had the smallest crowds, and neither featured a papal speech. The meeting with victims wasn’t even broadcast. Yet these two moments left the deepest impression, because on both occasions the pope was reaching out to suffering people — victims of sexual abuse in Washington, and first responders, survivors, and family members of the victims at Ground Zero.

The lesson to be learned is that spiritual leaders don’t need elaborate choreography, adoring multitudes, or high-octane rhetoric in order to stir hearts. All they have to do is show the world a pastoral face, and the rest will usually follow.

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