By Shaun Pierce

There was a time when Catholicism was abhorred by Protestants all over the world. The horrors of the medieval church and its sales of indulgences caused an uprising to counter act these abuses. For some the answer was was to break free from Catholicism and pursue a new form of religion.

Those that remained within the Catholic church have always been looked upon with suspicion. John F. Kennedy when running for president of the United States had many wondering about his intentions. Would he take his marching orders from Rome? That answer turned out to be no, as he won the election and the people’s fears of Catholicism abated. We had taken a step forward. There was still a long way to go.

In 1966, Pope Pius VI spoke at the United Nations, President Lyndon Johnson visited the pontiff at his hotel. Had the pope come to the White House, there would have been an uproar. Still, the president met with the pope. Another step forward. In 1979, Pope John Paul II became the first pope to visit the White House.

It seems those early small steps have now become a giant leap as President Bush not only hosted the pope at the White House, he picked him up at the airport! The words of President Bush said it all: "The best way to honor Pope…, truly one of the great men, is to take his teaching seriously; is to listen to his words and put his words and teachings into action here in America. This is a challenge we must accept." .

How the times have changed from Luther to Pope Benedict. While some will always choose to preserve the separation between Catholics and other Christians, that mentality is finally fading. It does not make sense anymore to continue distrust of Catholicism when the acts of kindness through school and hospital networks make Catholics and the fruit of such labor a powerhouse for good in this world.

Today, the very meaning of Christianity is under attack as issues of homosexuality, same sex marriage and what role God has in society, trade traditional Biblical teaching for a more politically correct language of tolerance and acceptance. Radical Islam has become a global threat to all Christians. We have seen the damage that is possible as evidenced by the changes in Europe. This is not the time for Christians to be divided. We need each other if we hope to face the challenges before us. Christ wanted us to be one. That time has come.

I believe the recent visit of the pope was much more then that. It was a presentation of Christianity to the nation. In that moment of opportunity, Pope Benedict XVI showed a faith that is compassionate and accepting. He showed a faith that stands firm on beliefs that have not changed in 2000 years and will not wavier with the changing whims of culture. He showed a faith that remains available to all, even those that have been hurt by the church. In essence he showed Christ to a nation that often can no longer recognize what Christianity is about. It poetic irony that the one who was once shunned has brought the message of salvation to all.