Answer: anyone who paid attention, gave the man a chance, and actually read some of his several significant pre-pontificate essays and addresses on ecumenism (and inter-religious dialogue).
Remember all of those many years ago (two? three?) when the really smart people who don’t like Catholicism—many of them Catholics, oddly enough—said that Pope Benedict XVI’s approach to ecumenical relations with the fast unraveling novelty called the Anglican Community was disastrous, stupid, and even downright meanspirited? Sandro Magister writes:
ROME, March 14, 2012 – Among the many criticisms aimed at Benedict XVI, there is one that no longer holds up, after his celebration of vespers together with the archbishop of Canterbury and primate of the Anglican Communion, Rowan Williams, on the evening of March 10 in the Roman monastery of San Gregorio al Celio.
With the Anglican Communion, the rapprochement that has been seen since Joseph Ratzinger became pope is simply astonishing.
Strictly according to logic, one would have expected the opposite. In the autumn of 2009, Benedict XVI promulgated an apostolic constitution, “Anglicanorum Cœtibus,” to normalize the entrance into the Catholic Church of entire communities of faithful coming from Anglicanism, with their bishops and priests.
The initiative was immediately condemned – on the part of some progressive Catholic currents – as a gravely anti-ecumenical act: that is, as a restoration of the ideology of the “great return” and as the intention of the Catholic Church to “expand its empire” by ripping away portions of rival Churches.
But in the Anglican camp, the initiative did not provoke any rejection.
There are probably many reasons, some more complicated than others, for that fact. One of them, I’m guessing, is that people on sinking ships tend to look with favor, even gratitude, upon lifeboats and the promise of a stable sail to dry land. Or perhaps Anglicans are just exceedingly mild, polite folks who are reluctant to bash the Pope, unlike so many Catholic elites, gripers, and snipers. Be that as it may, here is Magister’s entire report.
[This post was slightly edited and shortened from its original posting.]