Pope Benedict XVI spent his 81st birthday in our nation’s capital yesterday. He received lots of warm wishes from the faithful who gathered to see and hear him.
I wish him well on his mission of peace and hope.
Such papal visits always remind me, however, of how differently Roman Catholics and Baptists view church authority and polity.
I’ve known some Baptist leaders over the years who thought they were infallible in matters of faith and morals — but such was not formally bestowed on them. And Southern Baptist Convention leaders keep sticking their noses into the businesses of local congregations. But local church autonomy is a long-held Baptist principle.
My hope is that we Baptists, along with all other Americans, make the pope feel welcome. And as a “quote collector,” his visit has given me some fodder from our nation’s top two leaders.
Yesterday, President Bush responded in his Texas drawl to the pontiff with: “Thank you, your Holiness, awesome speech.”
Then Vice President Dick Cheney told the Washington Radio and Television correspondents last night: “I spent the morning with one infallible authority; now I get to spend evening with a thousand of them.”
Yep, the truth is all of us need reminders of our human fallibility and a large dose of the corresponding humility.

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