Adoring US flock ready for the Pope - but not his views

DAVID USBORNE

New York

The Pope landed in New Jersey yesterday to begin a four-day visit to the United States, the country he likes to call "God's playground" but with which he has an increasingly complex and strained relationship.

On arrival, he proclaimed himself "a pilgrim of peace", reminding the crowd that his speech today to the United Nations, his first in 16 years, would come exactly 30 years after Pope Paul VI delivered the injunction: "No more war, war never again!"

Hundreds of thousands of the faithful will greet Pope John Paul at outdoor Masses in New Jersey, New York's Central Park and Baltimore. But behind the cheering and the moments of shared worship will be the background noise of deepening dissent among America's 56 million Catholics - if not with the leadership offered by the Pope himself, whom they adore, then with his strict positions on issues of reproduction, gender and sexuality.

The devotion among American Catholics for the pontiff seems virtually unaffected by the debate on his actual teachings. Whatever they think of the message, they apparently still favour the messenger. An opinion poll published yesterday by ABC TV and the Washington Post indicated an 82 per cent approval rating for the Pope and his stewardship of the Church.

But when it comes to particulars of the message, they flee him in droves. According to the same poll, 93 per cent of American Catholics believe practising birth control is acceptable, 85 per cent think divorced people can still be good Catholics and 69 per cent said women who have abortions could also be good Catholics. Other polls have shown majority support for women priests and a married priesthood.

Most sensitive among all these issues, because it crosses so completely into American political debate, is abortion. It was expected to be raised during a brief meeting yesterday between the Pope and President Bill Clinton, who greeted him at Newark International Airport. The President is in favour of free choice on abortion; the pontiff, by contrast, has urged a world- wide campaign by Catholics to oppose it.

In turn, the Pope is known to have mixed feelings about the US. "God's playground" it may be, and without question its Catholic Church, with its considerable wealth and huge following, is one of the most vibrant. But he also sees the US as a place in moral decay. In recent weeks he has warned of the new enemies of hedonism, greed and consumerism - phenomena not unknown in America. In a recent address, he noted that the "light of Christ" came from the East and that the "West has need of this light".

At the UN today, the Pope is expected to urge greater work on protecting human rights and ending strife in Bosnia and Africa. On his flight yesterday, he spoke of the need also to shore up the UN. "One speaks much about the crisis of the United Nations but even if it is in crisis it must be safeguarded, because it is worth having this ... family of nations."

The "pilgrim Pope", meanwhile, will spend his days in New York cocooned in unprecedented security. As far as possible, he will be transported by helicopter or in a "Popemobile" fitted with a double dome of bullet- proof glass. It will be much different from the last time he was in the Big Apple, in 1979, when he rode the streets in an open limousine.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project