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Archive for April 6th, 2005

John Paul the Great

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Right now a lot of ink is being spilled (or pixels, if you prefer) on the subject of the Pope’s passing. As I write this, he lies in state while potentially millions of people file past him.

I learned yesterday that a friend of mine on a business trip to Paris, had gone to Rome over the weekend and was among those who stood vigil below the Papal apartments. A remarkable experience I’m sure she’ll never forget.

I’ve already posted my own recollection of such a moment, but I’ve been thinking more over the last several days of what this Pontificate has meant. It is hard to imagine any other Pope, much less remember one (although I am old enough to remember Paul VI and John Paul I). I’m reminded of the evangelical minister who said to a Catholic friend, — You guys have a Pope who really knows how to pope.” We did indeed.

The handicapping has already begun, and I imagine I’ll weigh in on that myself as the conclave nears. I’ve long been a fan of Francis Cardinal Arinze and believe he would make a superb Pope, and non-Catholic friends have been asking lots of questions about the process for selecting a new Pope, something no one has seen in a generation. That’s a startling thing when one stops to think about it – John Paul II was the second longest serving Pope in the history of the Papacy, third if one counts St. Peter. Only Pius IX (1846-1878) served longer, although we’ve had quite a few long pontificates recently: Leo XIII (1878-1903), Pius XI (1922-1939), Pius XII (1938-1958). This latest one may seem extraordinary because we’ve lived through it, and most of us are apt to be a bit conceited in that regard, however benignly.

Yet, for all of it, there is the sense of having witnessed something extraordinary indeed. Superlatives abound with this Pope: most traveled, most saints canonized, most media-savvy, but such things come from both the times and the years. It is commonplace to say that Pope John Paul II was the most traveled ever, but it has only been in the last fifty or so years that such a thing was truly possible. This was a modern Pope who made use of modern tools. We know that he had more than a little to do with toppling the Soviet Empire, we know that he was the authentic interpreter of Vatican II (not only because he was Pope but also through much of his Pontificate he was one of the handful of bishops who had participated who was still alive), we know that he reigned in dissident theologians, we know he issued the first new catechism since the Council of Trent (1545-1563), we know he wrote encyclicals that have had enormous impact on moral theology, we know he has personally reached out to countless people on his travels, we know he has made ecumenism part of the warp and woof of the Church, we know that he has not only denounced anti-semitism but witnessed against it. These are just a handful of the things we know about this Pope.

What we don’t know is what this will mean in the years to come, though we can guess. There are those who have been asking the question, — John Paul the Great?” for a number of years now, and while that may seem quaintly medieval it demonstrates an awareness that something larger was going on. This Pope’s legacy has just begun. This Pope will not be sliding obscurely into the mists of history and generations to come will be impacted by these 26 years in ways we can only dimly see now. The institution of the Catholic Church is a conservative beast – more than four centuries between catechisms is but one example.

Successors of Peter to come will invoke the authority of John Paul II as precedent. In time, I have no doubt, he will be canonized and probably made a Doctor of the Church. He has filled the shoes of the fisherman to such a degree, that some of him will remain for a very long time. We are better for having him these past years, and the future of the Church will be better for this Pope. Be not afraid!

Other Voices:

Richard John Neuhaus

Charles Krauthammer

Jaroslav Pelikan

Fred Barnes

Michelle Malkin

Hugh Hewitt

Daniel Lapin

Arthur Chrenkoff

Uwe Siemon-Netto

Mark Steyn

Timothy Garton Ash

William Kristol

Mark Sides

Snippets of others at Dean’s World.

Written by martinipundit

April 6, 2005 at 8:41 am

Posted in Church

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