VATICAN CITY — It is not unusual for Pope Benedict XVI to end his weekly general audience by telling his thousands of visitors that he has a special appeal to make — normally for peace in some troubled part of the world.
But today’s audience was totally out of the ordinary, and not just because the pope watched some jugglers and petted a lion cub from a circus.
“I still have three things to communicate,” he said when the performance was over and the bouncy music had ended.
First, he expressed his pleasure over yesterday’s election of Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad as the new Russian Orthodox patriarch of Moscow.
Next, he explained why he lifted the excommunication of the four traditionalist bishops ordained without papal permission in 1988 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.
And, third — without mentioning traditionalist Bishop Richard Williamson, who has denied that the Nazis used gas chambers to kill millions of Jews — Pope Benedict highlighted the importance of yesterday’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day and expressed his solidarity with the Jewish people, the people with whom God first chose to establish a covenant.
It really felt like the pope was doing some juggling of his own.