16-April-2008 -- ZENIT.org News Agency |

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Papal Visit Expected to Boost Religious, Cultural Dialogue

By Miriam Díez i Bosch and Kathleen Naab

ROME, APRIL 15, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI's trip to the United States will be a chance to heal past wounds and to address current issues, says a professor from the Pontifical Gregorian University.

Ohio-native Donna Orsuto is a spirituality professor at the Gregorian. She is also the director of the Lay Center in Rome, an international residence for students enrolled in a pontifical university.

She told ZENIT that she hopes the Pope's journey to the United States will be a chance to show the Church's commitment to interreligious and intercultural dialogue.

Orsuto explained: "Both the experience of teaching at the Gregorian University where students come from more than 120 different countries and living in an international community here at the Lay Center with students from 10 diverse nationalities and from different religious backgrounds has helped me to realize the gift and challenge of building bridges among people of diverse cultural and religious backgrounds.

"I am hopeful that his various engagements will demonstrate first of all the continued commitment of the Catholic Church to dialogue and will be a source of encouragement for the Church in the United States in its efforts at dialogue.

"I also think that with his vast theological and intellectual background, Benedict XVI, will communicate to the Church in the United States a thoughtful reflection on how local concerns in the U.S.A. are related to broader global issues."

Closed issue

Orsuto further told ZENIT that the Pontiff can contribute to healing wounds from the sex scandal that erupted within the Church in the United States a few years ago.

She said that "the Church in the United States has suffered a serious crisis and it will probably take many years to heal wounds and to engender trust and reconciliation. This crisis has touched not only those who were sexually abused, but also it has caused suffering and confusion for all Catholics -- priests and laity alike. Many of our good priests particularly have borne the brunt of this painful scourge."

"Without underestimating the gravity of this situation, it is also important to remember that a time of 'serious crisis' can also be a turning point," Orsuto continued. "I read recently that in its modern use, the word 'crisis' actually comes 'from a 16th-century medical term which describes the point in the progress of a disease when an important development takes place which is decisive of recovery or death.' I believe that many of the positive steps that Church leaders have taken in recent years have put us on the path of recovery."

Orsuto acknowledged that "it is unrealistic to expect that recovery will be instantaneous."

"Thus, in a sense, it is not a closed issue," she said.

However, the professor affirmed, "I am optimistic that the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the U.S.A., with his message of hope in Christ, will contribute to this healing process. Especially his meeting with priests will be important because they need to hear his words of trust and hope."

Benedict XVI en route to the United States today told journalists that the scandal is "a great suffering for the Church in the United States and for the Church in general and for me personally that this could happen.

"It is difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betray in this way their mission ... to these children," he said from the plane. "I am deeply ashamed and we will do what is possible so this cannot happen again in the future."

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