The Editors
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Pope and President

The recent meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and President Barack Obama had all the markings of an encounter between two well-acquainted statesmen; it was almost hard to believe that this was their first face-to-face engagement. Some of their unexpected familiarity is due to the diligent work of Vatican diplomats, who in recent years have done much behind the scenes to engage American officials and to establish dialogue between American public figures and their Vatican counterparts.

The relationship between pope and president has not always been thus. Woodrow Wilson was the first president to meet a pope, Benedict XV, after the close of World War I in 1919. Four decades would pass before another such meeting, when Dwight D. Eisenhower met John XXIII at the Vatican in 1959. All told, popes and presidents have only met a total of 26 times; 17 of those meetings took place in the Vatican, and the vast majority during the long reign of John Paul II.

The political relationship between the United States and the Holy See has until recent years been an uneasy one. Formal diplomatic relations have existed for only a quarter-century, and there was no official contact at all from 1870 (the loss of the Papal States) until 1939, when Franklin Roosevelt made Myron Taylor his personal representative to the Vatican. For that reason, the sight of an American president happily and respectfully greeting the pope is an occasion for celebration on more than one level.

Healthier Already

Whatever the shape of the final health care reform bill, which is expected to be worked out by both houses of Congress and sent to the president this fall, two measures have already been achieved by the Obama administration that will significantly improve the nation’s health. The first concerns insurance for children in low-income families; the second addresses smoking, particularly tobacco products and ads designed to attract teens.

President Obama signed an extension of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program in February, after months of stalling by the Bush administration. The extension enables states to cover the health and dentistry needs of more than four million children by 2013. The program assists children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to afford private insurance. The extension also allows states to cover legal immigrants, particularly pregnant women and children under age 21. Previous policy barred legal immigrants from receiving both Medicaid and S-chip until they had lived in the United States for at least five years.

More than 400,000 Americans die each year from tobacco-related products. In June, Mr. Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gives the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate nicotine levels in tobacco, to ban candy and fruit flavorings, to prevent cigarette advertising aimed toward children and teens and to bar ads near schools and playgrounds.

The two bills advance major goals of health care reform: expanded coverage and preventive medicine; they are also “deficit neutral” and, in the second case, ingeniously just: The costs of the S-chip expansion are to be offset by an increase in the tobacco tax.

Mere Pious Legend?

“This seems to confirm the unanimous and uncontested tradition that they are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul,” said Pope Benedict XVI at the beginning of July. The pope was referring to findings of the first-ever scientific tests on a recently unearthed sarcophagus, which was located under the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome, traditionally considered the final resting place of the saint. Atop the tomb, which dates from at least A.D. 390, was a marble slab inscribed with the words “Paul Apostle Martyr” in Latin. Inside the sarcophagus, in addition to the bone fragments, were grains of incense and a piece of purple linen with gold ornamentation.

Skeptics sometimes scoff at “traditional” sites associated with the lives of the saints and the life of Christ, dismissing them as “pious legends.” About some relics and artifacts there will always be uncertainty. Yet modern archeological tools (like carbon-dating) have shown that many such traditions may have some basis in fact. In the 1950s, for example, excavations under the Basilica of St. Peter uncovered the remains of a man in his 60s or 70s near a shrine dating from the first or second century. Scripture scholars also note that members of Jesus’ extended family would have likely remained in Galilee after his earthly ministry and could have easily directed early pilgrims to important sites in Jesus’ life. The followers of Christ, and admirers of the saints, would have revered such places and would have naturally passed on their locations to later generations. Pious legends, then, are sometimes more than just pious, and more than simply legendary.

Comments

Faithful Orthodox Catholic | 7/26/2009 - 5:00pm
A big shout out to Carol (#3).  I completely agree that universal health care is nothing more than COMMUNISM.  Our American system is the finest in the world.  Royalty somes here for medical care because we are the best.  ILLEGAL ALIENS are the only ones who can't afford health insurance. Don't buy into the big lie spread by the LIBERAL MEDIA (like this magazine!!!) that Real Americans can't afford it.  Our Lord would tell them to work harder so they CAN afford it and he would tell the ILLEGAL ALIENS to go back where they came from. That's the American way and Our Lord's way too.  Don't expect TAXPAYERS to bail you out.  Obama inherited a country in fine shape and he's quickly trashing it, turning toward communism, hedonism and racism. He loves ABORTION and has hatched a secret plan with NARAL to make ABORTIONS mandatory after a one child per family limit-just like in COMMUNIST CHINA.  WAKE UP AMERICA BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!!!
Billy C. Beal | 7/24/2009 - 5:54pm
I was disapponted in your article "Mere Pious Legend?"  You make reference to remains found under the Basilica of St Peters in the 1950's. You do not make the point that these remains are thought to be those of St. Peter and that they were found hidden in one of the collums of what tradition says is the mausolem built for Peters remains by Constantine. One hears this story on the Scavi tour( forgive my murdering of Italian or Latin) underneath the main altar of St. Peters, down below the Main altar and underneath Michelangelo's dome. Part of the reason these remains are thought to be Peter's are because they like those found in St. Paul Outside the Walls were wrapped in purple cloth.  We now take purple cloth forgranted but in ancient times the color was reserved to the Emperor of Rome. It being derived from tiny drops taken form a variety of shell fish.  The empress Helena would have had access to imperial cloth found in both burial sights.
It is reasonable to accept the tradtion that St. Hellena, the emperor's mother was the driving force behind the public internment of Saints reamains which had heretofore been hidden from a government intent on destroying the Christian sect.  In elevating an protecting Christian remains in Rome as well and Jeruasalem, being a devout Christian who suposedly moved all the dirt on Calvary to Rome spreading on the floor of the early Christian Basslica, Santa Croce, which is attached to what history records as an imperial residence, where St. Helena lived.  It wouldn't have been unreasonalble that she would have used her powere and clout with her son to secure  and for the first time publicize the known burial sights of the two men who fostered the growth of the church in Rome. to make short story long, adding this information to the Pious legend would have added some depth of meaningto the ssory about Par's reamains.  Otherwise the article doesn't make much sense!
Carol Peterson | 7/21/2009 - 4:07pm
I am glad that you have such a positive idea of what health care could mean to America - but I fear that again in this case it is only part of a larger agenda - that is to move to socialism, communism or any other ism as done with in a political process.  That is not true 'humanitarianism' as Christ would have us do unto others.  Obama's plan wants to fix something that is not broken.  His agenda is far from the Popes.  A Kennedy clan member thinks Obama is more Catholic than the Pope. How far do we go to turn the other cheek to this contempt of life in America.
America is a great country, capable of many organizational ideas  - better than what government can do 'for the social good of  all'.  It is a wonderful thing to give health care to children that would other wise be without - but this does not mean that we need health care for 'every American' provided for by the Government (who by the way gets it from the wages those same people - earn).  In fact, we could do without insurance save for catatrosphic care.  It is being done today by some physicans that refuse to get into the insurance scheme of things.  Sniffles, and every day care, is being done at a fraction of the cost normally charged through 'insurance'.  No, we can do better than through another corporate scheme designed to take over our lives.  Learn from Sweden, Canada, Ireland, England - involved in 'social' programs.  They all become inhumane!  Let us do what God would want of us - do unto others as we would do unto our selves.  Use our free wills as God intended - and not for tyranny.
 
MICHAEL WALSH REV | 7/17/2009 - 4:40pm
It was President Ronald Reagan who formalized US-Vatican relations despite opposition from the Democrats in Congress.  Reagan and John Paul II enjoyed a good relationship over the years. 
j verc | 7/15/2009 - 7:43pm
THE USA HEALTH MEDICAL INDUSTRY HAS BEEN THE LARGEST NON GOVERNMENT COMMERICIAL ACTIVITY SINCE 1974.THIS INDUSTRY HAS GARNERED ENOURMOUS REVENUES AND MOST ESPECIALLY IAFFTER THE END OF GULF WARN.THE REVENUES IN TOTAL ARE IN THE TENS OF TRILLIONS NOT BILLIONS BUT TRILLIONS..THE HEALTH MEDICAL BUSINESS IS THE LONGEST  DEREGULATED AND UNREGULATED INDUSTRY BEGINING IN 1975.IT HAS BEEN HEAVILY SUBSIDIZED CONCURRENT WITH ITS CARTE BLANCHE FROM GOVT REGULATION AND INSPECTION..IT ALSO IS VERY ANTI ROMAN CATHOLIC AS SOON AS ITS STARTED MASS PRODUCTION OF ABORTIONS IN 1973..THE YEAR THAT ABORTION WAS NOT DEEMED ILLEGAL IN 1973 THE USA HEALTH MEDICAL INDUSTRIAL ET AL HAD THE LOGISTICS AND PERSONNEL OT PERFFORM OVER 1.2MILLION ABORTION IN THE FIRST YEAR AFTER ROE V WADE.INDICATIVE OF EUGENICS...THE HIPPOCRATIC OATH  SWORN BY PHYSICIANS FOR 100S OF YEARS CLEARLY STATE DOCTOR SHOULD NOT ABORT..ANYWAY WHY SHOULD THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH HAVE ANY FAITH IN THE USA HEALTH MEDICAL INDUSTRY AND ITS SPONSOR THE USA GOVT IS BEWILDERING.THE USA HAS ALSO HAD VIA THE FINANCIAL,POLITICAL AND LEGAL  CARTE BLANCHE HEALTH MEDICAL INDUSTRY HAS CHNAGED AMERICA FROM THE LARGEST CREDITOR TO THE LARGEST DEBTOR AND STILL BORROWING TO TOTAL FORIEGN OWNERHSIP OF AMERICAN COMMERCE IN THE NEAR FUTURE.ALTHOUGH THE USA FINANCIAL IDUSTRIES ARE CULPABLE IN THIS FIANNCIAL REVERSAL IT IS EQUAL OR SLIGHLTY LESS RESPONSIBLE THAN THE US health medical industries et al.WHEN I PRACTICED MY PHARMACY PROFESSION IN THE LATE 60S AND 1970S THE USA WAS 16TH IN LIFE EXPECTANCY IN THE WORLD AND WAS COMPETITIVE IN INFANT MORTALITY,MORTALITY AND LIFE EXPECTANCY WITHOUT DISABILITY,AS THE REVENUES EXPLODED IN MASSIVE INCREASES AND THE IMPLEMENTAION OF ABORTION ON DEMAND THE NATIONS POPULATION DROPPED IN RANK BY OVER 250PER CENT IN VITAL HEALTH STATISITCS TO THE GROWING NUMBER OF MODERN NATIONS..TENS OF TRILLIONS IN REVENUES FOR THE ANTI ROMAN CATHOLIC US AHEALTH MEDICAL INDUSTRIES ET AL AND DEGRADING PUBLIC HEALTH,,THE BABY BOOM OF 1946 THRU 1965 STILL HAS THE HIGHEST BIRTH AND FERTILITY RATES WITH THE USA HEALTH MEDICAL INDUSTRY NOT EVEN CLOSE TO BE THE LARGEST COMMERCIAL ACTIVITY IN THE AMERICAN ECONOMY,THE BABY BOOM WAS COMPOSED OF A DOUBLING OF AMERICAN CATHOLIC BIRTHS AND FERTILITY TO ANY OTHER RELIGION OR RACE.THE ROE V WADE LEGALIZED ABORTION WAS IMPLEMENTED  IN PART TO MAKE SURE THAT NO OTHER AMERICAN BABY BOOM WOULD EVER HAPPEN AGAIN WITH A HETEROSEXUAL MARRIAGES. 
Christopher Mulcahy | 7/15/2009 - 2:53pm
In the matter of health care, given the increased clarity we now experience in terms of dangers and costs, should not more attention be given by Church and churchpersons to the morality of smoking and drug-taking?  I know of one bishop, who will remain nameless, who believes in his heart McDonald's is engaged in immoral behavior by selling fatty hamburgers.  I disagree with him.  Clearly, however, it seems to me we can now say tobacco addiction falls in the immoral category,  to say nothing of the use of marijuana and other hard drugs.  In the latter case, anyone with a smattering of interest in or knowledge of matters Mexican knows that participation in the drug culture contributes directly to extremes of death and violence in that country and elsewhere.  How can the moral dimension of that scandal be ignored as it seems to be by the Church?  Or are liberal Churchmen (Churchpersons) to be suspected of taking a toke in the rectory or residence from time to time?  Or of just remembering fondly their youthful indiscretions in the Sixties?  At the very least it should be said that if one chooses to admire Humphrey Bogart and his cigarette,  the health consequences of his actions should not be borne by the rest of us.
Edison Woods | 7/14/2009 - 8:50pm
Traditions are always based in Fact, the fact of Faith. Our Lord said more than once and in more than one way "I am the God of the living." This means that Jesus Christ the only son of God did in fact live on this earth and fulfill His mission as did His apostles Peter and Paul. Therefore, the idenification of the earthly remains of these Saints is not merely pious wishful thinking of the ignorant but instead an acknowledgement of simple fact on the part of the Faithful.

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