Friday, April 15, 2005

John Paul II: articles and funeral homily

The first world leader
The greatest political actor of our time leaves us the challenge of moral globalisation

Timothy Garton Ash

Guardian April 4, 2005

The world lived this death. It was a global Calvary. People from every corner of the earth gathered in St Peter's Square, peering up at those two windows of the papal apartment, illuminated against the night sky. Across five continents, Christians, Jews and Muslims joined them through television. Marcello, from Rio de Janeiro, emailed CNN: "We are watching the agony of the greatest man of our time." Mohamed, from Birmingham, emailed the BBC: "He will be missed by Catholics and non-Catholics alike."
What does this tell us? It tells us that Pope John Paul II was the first world leader. We talk of Bush, Blair or Hu Jintao as "world leaders", but they are merely national leaders who have a world impact. That's true even of Nelson Mandela, his closest contender for Marcello's title of "greatest man of our time".
Pope John Paul II uniquely combined three elements. He was the head of the world's largest supranational organisation of individual human beings. (The UN is an organisation of states; the Islamic umma is not an organisation.) He believed withunshakeable conviction that his message was universal, applying equally to every man, woman and child - Catholics and non-Catholics alike. And he seized the technological opportunity of bringing that message personally to almost every country on earth, thanks to jet aeroplanes and television. In short, he made the world his parish. No one had ever done this before. No one could.
As an agnostic liberal, I don't feel qualified to judge what he meant for the Catholic church. But I think I can judge what he meant for the world. John Paul II was, quite simply, the greatest political actor of the last quarter-century. I use the word "actor" in a double sense. Theatre was the second passion of the young Karol Wojtyla, even in Nazi-occupied Poland, and he was a talented stage performer. Before the onset of Parkinson's disease, he had a lovely voice. The actor John Gielgud described his delivery as "perfect". He had this extraordinary ability to speak to a crowd of a million people so that each and every one felt he was talking to them individually. He spoke in images as well as words (look at that photo of him in a sombrero carrying a Mexican child) and his personal warmth came across on television.
We also use the words "political actor" to mean a person who makes things happen in the world, as in the portentous American phase "a global player". I watched at close quarters John Paul II's impact on the Soviet bloc, from his election in 1978 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. No one can prove conclusively that he was a primary cause of the end of communism. However, the major figures on all sides - not just Lech Walesa, the Polish Solidarity leader, but also Solidarity's arch-opponent, General Wojciech Jaruzelski; not just the former American president George Bush Senior but also the former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev - now agree that he was. I would argue the historical case in three steps: without the Polish Pope, no Solidarity revolution in Poland in 1980; without Solidarity, no dramatic change in Soviet policy towards eastern Europe under Gorbachev; without that change, no velvet revolutions in 1989.
Karol Wojtyla's political vision included the reunification of Europe. So long as he still had breath enough to speak, he talked of eastern and western Europe as the continent's two lungs. He lived to see this vision realised, as eight central and east European states, including his beloved Poland, joined the European Union last May.
Yet his largest legacy may lie not in the first world (of democratic capitalism), which he inhabited and enlarged, or the second world (of communism), which he destroyed, but in what we used to call the third world. John Paul II was a consistent spokesman for the half of humankind who live on less than $2 a day. This is also the part of the world where most Catholics are now to be found. He preached, tirelessly, every person's right to a minimum of human dignity. "I speak," he said, "in the name of those who have no voice." It was not just in communist-ruled eastern Europe that he spoke up for freedom. Opening an old file of newspaper cuttings, the first one I find is headlined "Pope takes issue with Stroessner on freedom". It records him reading the Paraguayan military dictator a fierce lesson about the importance of human rights and of free speech.
The familiar claim that he was "socially conservative" is a gross oversimplification. He consistently admonished third world dictators and western capitalists about the need for social justice. In a small Polish-speaking group I once heard him say, very plainly, that he deplored unbridled capitalism as much as communism. He was also utterly consistent in his advocacy of peace, from criticising the impending Falklands war when he came to Britain in 1982 to opposing the Iraq war in 2003. In Japan, he cried: "Never again Hiroshima! Never again Auschwitz!"
One of his policies did great damage in the developing world. Maintaining and reinforcing Pope Paul VI's ban on artificial means of contraception, he caused unwanted children to be born into poverty and, increasingly, with HIV/Aids. Challenged by a friend, he said: "I can't change what I've been teaching all my life." We must hope that his successor will reverse this policy.
Some say he was lost in the post-9/11 world. Actually, no one has done more to avert a "clash of civilisations". He reached out to Jews and Muslims, as well as to Christians of other churches, in a way no pope had ever done before. And the message got through - witness that email from Mohamed in Birmingham.
"What will survive of us is love," wrote the poet Philip Larkin. John Paul II will survive in the memories of millions who loved him. But even for those who did not love him, including many western secular liberals, protestants and liberal Catholics, the legacy of this first world leader is a challenge.
At the beginning of the third millennium, we have economic globalisation. We have the globalisation of information, represented by the internet and CNN. We should have international institutions and laws to match. But that in turn requires what has been called moral globalisation. Whether or not we share John Paul II's motivating beliefs, we can acknowledge that his was the most impressive attempt so far made by any single human being to spell out what moral globalisation might mean, starting with a lived practice of universal sympathy. After he preached at Auschwitz in 1979, a nun, kneeling before him, whispered: "I am a Polish nun. But I am also a Russian Jew." In 2005, we need to say: "I am a prosperous westerner. But I am also a woman of Darfur." And then to act accordingly.
Now we must do this on our own.
· Timothy Garton Ash is the author of The Polish Revolution: Solidarity and, most recently, Free World


The Tablet 09/04/2005

THE WORLD has been immensely moved by the death of Pope John Paul II in a manner that is as significant an event in the history of his papacy as any during his lifetime. He is said to have met and addressed more people face to face in Rome and abroad in his 26-year reign than any human being in history, and many of them reacted as if the encounter established a personal bond. Television magnified that effect many times, and he seemed to instinctively understand its demands even on his deathbed.
What explains this spontaneous, overwhelming reaction? Partly it was his character, for he had a natural ability to communicate warmly with every member of a vast crowd. Partly it was his humanity, honed in prayer and burnished in intense and prolonged suffering, which seemed to make visible in his person, as it were, his profound teaching about the dignity of every human being. Young people who flocked to him en masse saw the real heart of the man. He made them feel better about themselves. He gave Catholic Christianity a human face.
This character was also key to his impact on world events. The people of Eastern Europe, his native Poland in particular, resented living under Communist rule, but were also resigned to it. He knew from his experience as a Polish cardinal that changing this mood to one of courage and hope might be enough to destabilise the entire regime. He understood the profound contradiction at the heart of Marxist philosophy which claimed to liberate the workers but had instead oppressed them. The message that later made him so attractive to young people in the West was the message he brought to the striking members of Solidarity, the free Polish trade union: that each one of them had infinite value in the sight of God, therefore they should not be afraid. It was from these reflections that Pope John Paul II developed what will be one of his most important legacies, the updating of Catholic social teaching so that it could offer a relevant and realistic ethical judgement on the modern global economy.

His most important legacies

Thus did his roots in Poland shape his papacy from the start. The same is true of his reconciliation with the Jews. As a Pole he, unusually, had Jewish boyhood friends. John Paul II’s deep sorrow and shame at the way Christians had treated the Jews throughout history revolutionised the Catholic theological perception of Judaism for ever. But this also taught him how religious conflict could have devastating consequences for human life, an insight which impelled him to begin to build bridges with the Muslim world. By his efforts, the dangerously self-fulfilling scenario of a "clash of civilisations" between the Christian West and the Islamic world has largely been neutralised. Muslims knew that the Pope supported neither of the wars against Iraq, and was their true friend.
All these effects and influences of his papacy can be admired as much from outside the Catholic Church as from within. These are what those who wish to attach the rare appellation "Great" to his name have in mind. But greatness in Popes is more usually associated with reform than with reaction, and there was undoubtedly a reactionary side to his papacy. The Vatican under his leadership increased its central control of the local Church to the extent that loosening the ties may well be a priority among the cardinals who will begin meeting in conclave to elect his successor on 18 April. While air travel and the media made him the world’s most famous public figure, modern technology and his sheer longevity introduced an inevitable distortion in the balance between centre and periphery.
His prolific intellectual output left little room for disagreement; and on a series of issues, notably the ordination of women, debate was prematurely curtailed. He wanted a Church of one mind, his mind. It was not a good time to be a theologian.
A negative response to liberation theologyUnder his leadership, and exploiting his immense prestige, the Vatican frequently overruled pastoral judgements made by bishops in their own dioceses, especially in Germany over the issues of abortion counselling clinics, and over the admission of divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion. The German cardinal-archbishops will now be looking to reassert the rights of the local Church against the universal, an issue over which there is ongoing public disagreement between two of the curia’s most influential figures, both German papabili, Cardinals Ratzinger and Kasper. This mood will be shared by many others, including English-speaking cardinals who have not appreciated insensitive Vatican interference over reform of the English liturgy; and they will find allies not least in Latin America, where the Vatican under this Pope has tried consistently, but contrary to the local Church’s instinct, to disengage it from difficult issues of social justice.
The Pope’s negative response to liberation theology, above all his failure to help Archbishop Oscar Romero before he was assassinated, was one of the calamities of his papacy. It was as if he were determined to apply to his task in other countries and indeed continents all that he had learned in Poland, but only what he had learned in Poland, including a conviction that it was the destiny of his native country, crucified and resurrected, to act as "Christ among the nations". And that included a refusal to heed any of the signs of the times in the profound changes over the last half-century in interpersonal or sexual relations, especially in the West. He saw no need to replace the sexual mores of the conservative Polish culture in which he grew up with anything new.

The task of the conclave

That had been, above all, a world without Aids. Of all the judgements made by the Vatican under this papacy, that concerning the prohibition of the use of condoms in the fight against this disastrous epidemic in Africa was rightly the most notorious. It symbolised a commitment to dogmatism in the face of appalling human suffering. It is one of the great mysteries of the last 26 years why this pope of immense humanity failed to respond adequately to the Calvary that Aids has become. It is Africa that is being crucified today, not Poland.
History should be given time to reach a fair and balanced judgement. That is why calls for instant canonisation are inappropriate, sometimes motivated by a desire to bathe all positions and policies in the glow of sanctity and thus to bind his successors. The task of the conclave of cardinals will be to distinguish the man from the message, and not to let their immense admiration for the former, commit them uncritically to the latter. It needs to pray, but also to think.

His Church, His State Crowds in Rome, yes. But in Poland, too.


Wall Street Journal April 8, 2005

On the evening of Oct. 16, 1978, no doubt well past bedtime for the six-year-old that I was, the telephone rang and rang in our Warsaw house. Hello? "Habemus Papam!" answered the voice in Latin, a great uncle from Paris, exiled in the free world and eager to share the stunning, wondrous news. We have a pope. We Catholics, we the world, but really, he meant, we the Poles.
A first light of hope, like someone opening the window in a fetid room, is how my father remembers it. Early images: Karol Wojtyla, the new pope from Krakow, kneeling contrary to protocol to kiss the hand of a mentor, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, the head of the Polish church. Early impressions: A few weeks into his pontificate, people start to notice that this pope never seems to utter the words "Eastern Europe," ever so subtly but clearly refusing to recognize the artificial, unjust division of Europe.
Another memory: In June of 1979, my grandfather Antoni, a cavalry officer and entrepreneur before the war, got a prized invitation to sit up front at a Papal Mass in Warsaw's St. Anne's church. "He had this wonderful voice, this wonderful diction," says Wanda, my grandmother, who had attended the Mass too. "Everyone there was smitten by him." In his homilies, John Paul II never spoke a word against communism--and yet every word uttered was anticommunist. He looked strong and told the nation, "Do not be afraid." Suddenly "they," the rulers, seemed small and weak.
Starting in those early days, the stories about this pope have touched on his love for Poland's mountains and his humanism, which grew out of his formative years in Krakow, a cradle of cultural and intellectual life. His sense of humor was especially appreciated in a country longing for relief. During a Polish airlines flight on that first trip home from the Vatican, a stewardess offered the pope a cognac. He declined, pointing mischievously upward: "Too close to the boss."
In the months that followed, the mood shifted in a way that even a child could pick up. The clandestine news bulletins from Radio Free Europe spoke about restless workers at a tractor factory near Warsaw, something going on in Gdansk. Poland rumbled and came together, in solidarity and then Solidarity. While 1980 and 1981 were the beginning of the end, it took a long decade for the end to come.
The formal death of communism in Poland was fittingly celebrated at a Mass. On Aug. 20, 1989, Tadeusz Mazowiecki came up to St. Brygida's Church in Gdansk, a day after becoming Poland's first postcommunist prime minister. St. Brygida's was and is Lech Walesa's church. Between the speeches, people sang the national anthem and raised their hands in a victory sign. The Mass was a political rally, and no one saw any contradiction in that.
It is often said that in Poland the church is as much a national institution as a religious one. During the partitions of the 18th and 19th centuries, the church kept alive a national idea when the state no longer existed. During communism, as Adam Michnik once noted, the church taught Poles to bow only before God. It gave believers and nonbelievers shelter and comfort from "them."
That day at St. Brygida's marked the beginning of the freedom that brought run-of-the-mill political divisions. Some clerics unwisely pushed into politics in a democratic Poland and got burned. People close to the pope said that he hoped Poland would lead a revival of Catholicism in Europe and was disappointed to see the country turn more secular. Perhaps. As elsewhere, Poles adored their "Holy Father" without agreeing with everything he preached. But when it mattered, the pope stayed faithful to a vision of a unified Europe--as when he nudged skeptical church conservatives to support Poland's bid for European Union membership.
I saw Karol Wojtyla for the first time in 1979, as I perched on my father's shoulders and the pope's motorcade made its way through Warsaw's streets. I saw him a second time in September 1993 in Vilnius, the capital of a then young and fragile independent Lithuania. I ran with a crowd through the city's narrow cobbled streets to catch a glimpse. The man ushered into the Gates of Dawn Chapel was stooped and, even then, evidently ailing. He was in Vilnius to support a free Lithuania and in his own understated way bring about a reconciliation with Poland, a historical rival. As with so many of his plans, this one bore fruit.
Our Pope: So many people around the world, even non-Catholics, have made that claim in mourning. For millions of Poles, his death brought back memories that had receded in the past 15 years of "normal" life. The thousands gathered again in Warsaw and Krakow this past week can, for a last time, give thanks for a national hero who, in his homeland at least, left this world with his life's work done.
Mr. Kaminski is deputy editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe

Reflection on a Polish Catholic Pope

By Rev. Gerald Zandstra

Tulsa Today 7 April 2005

I am an ordained Protestant of the Reformed or Dutch Calvinist persuasion. My experience with Catholics, specifically Polish Catholics, began in the neighborhood in which I was raised. Most on my block were either Dutch Reformed or Polish Catholics. The line between us was bright and clear. Each attended their own church and school (non-public) and each kept to their own kind.
A marriage between children would be a scandal for both families. Nothing in my childhood challenged this reality. Little in my college or various seminary experiences countered what I learned in my youth. Catholicism, especially the papacy, was discussed primarily in courses focusing on the early church or the Middle Ages. Having served several churches for a period of 12 years, I joined the Acton Institute in January of 2001. This would be my first significant experience working with Catholics as the co-founders of the Institute were a Catholic priest and a Catholic economist. Roughly half our staff is Catholic. The other half is made up of Protestants of various stripes. As I became friends with my co-workers, levels of trust grew. I was able to ask all the questions I had occasionally wondered about but had never had the opportunity to ask a real, breathing Catholic. I discovered much. Some of the theological differences were significant and remain so. Some of what I thought were theological differences were merely caricatures on my part. Mostly, I began to develop a strong interest in this Polish freedom fighter who became the pope.
Several biographies later and a deeper understanding of recent history led from an interest to a profound appreciation for Pope John Paul II. John Paul II was the pope of human liberty and human dignity. His upbringing in Poland under the rule of various forms of totalitarianism taught him a lesson via negativa that he would never forget, even in his death. Human life, no matter what a particular person's abilities or inabilities, is precious and must be protected. When I first heard his comparison between "culture of life" and the "culture of death," I was struck by the power of the two concepts. The culture of life is that which upholds the dignity of life in the context of freedom. All human institutions are judged from the standpoint of their contribution to this culture of life and the context of freedom. The culture of death is ominous, utilitarian, destructive, and treats life as a commodity or worse. The individual person's dignity is subsumed by the needs of the state or society or some other greater good or evil
In John Paul's vision of society holds things in tension. He was about neither complete freedom nor enforced virtue. Freedom and virtue are intertwined. They are dependent on one another. Liberty is the context within which people make virtuous choices. Liberty, for Pope John Paul II, was not some ethereal concept. The 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus was a call to Catholics and, indeed, to all Christians, to take freedom seriously, especially in the realm of economics. It is not an endorsement of a particular economic structure. His condemnation of communism was matched by his fear that those emerging from totalitarianism would immerse themselves in consumerism. The pope's vision and perspective was always broader than particular issues in a given political or economic situation. What is remarkable is its vision of liberty and morality. Christians in business are not participating in necessary evil. Rather, they are called to elevate their thinking so that their work became their vocation and one of the prime means by which they serve God.
Pope John Paul II knew that pervasive welfare states could never match the salvific power of private charity for both the wealthy and the poor. Liberation theology, with its bizarre mixture of Marxism and Christian thought, could only lead to greater oppression and poverty. Communism would fall because at its root, it was morally and economically bankrupt which matched bad anthropology with faulty economics. It was only a matter of time. In many ways, despite theological differences, I found in the life and thought of John Paul II an ally and a well-formed defense of a society that is both free and virtuous. I have two regrets upon hearing of his decline and death. The first is that I did not have an opportunity to meet him. The second is that I did not learn more of him earlier in my academic career. Protestants, in the coming weeks and months, will have an opportunity to meet him and know him through numerous articles and books. I hope that they take the opportunity to do so. About the Author: Rev. Gerald Zandstra is an ordained pastor of the Christian Reformed Church and director of programs at the Acton Institute ( in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The Power of Faith

By Charles Krauthammer

Washington Post April 4, 2005

It was Stalin who gave us the most famous formulation of that cynical (and today quite fashionable) philosophy known as "realism" -- the idea that all that ultimately matters in the relations among nations is power: "The pope? How many divisions does he have?"
Stalin could have said that only because he never met John Paul II. We have just lost the man whose life was the ultimate refutation of "realism." Within 10 years of his elevation to the papacy, John Paul II had given his answer to Stalin and to the ages: More than you have. More than you can imagine.

History will remember many of the achievements of John Paul II, particularly his zealous guarding of the church's traditional belief in the sanctity of life, not permitting it to be unmoored by the fashionable currents of thought about abortion, euthanasia and "quality of life." But above all, he will be remembered for having sparked, tended and fanned the flames of freedom in Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe, leading ultimately and astonishingly to the total collapse of the Soviet empire.
I am not much of a believer, but I find it hard not to suspect some providential hand at play when the white smoke went up at the Vatican 27 years ago and the Polish cardinal was chosen to lead the Catholic Church. Precisely at the moment that the West most desperately needed it, we were sent a champion. It is hard to remember now how dark those days were. The 15 months following the pope's elevation marked the high tide of Soviet communism and the nadir of the free world's post-Vietnam collapse.
It was a time of one defeat after another. Vietnam invaded Cambodia, consolidating Soviet hegemony over all of Indochina. The Khomeini revolution swept away America's strategic anchor in the Middle East. Nicaragua fell to the Sandinistas, the first Soviet-allied regime on the mainland of the Western Hemisphere. (As an unnoticed but ironic coda, Marxists came to power in Grenada too.) Then, finally, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan.
And yet precisely at the time of this free-world retreat and disarray, a miracle happens. The Catholic Church, breaking nearly 500 years of tradition, puts itself in the hands of an obscure non-Italian -- a Pole who, deeply understanding the East European predicament, rose to become, along with Roosevelt, Churchill and Reagan, one of the great liberators of the 20th century.
John Paul II's first great mission was to reclaim his native Eastern Europe for civilization. It began with his visit to Poland in 1979, symbolizing and embodying a spiritual humanism that was the antithesis of the soulless materialism and decay of late Marxist-Leninism. As millions gathered to hear him and worship with him, they began to feel their own power and to find the institutional structure -- the vibrant Polish church -- around which to mobilize.
And mobilize they did. It is no accident that Solidarity, the leading edge of the East European revolution, was born just a year after the pope's first visit. Deploying a brilliantly subtle diplomacy that never openly challenged the Soviet system but nurtured and justified every oppositional trend, often within the bosom of the local church, John Paul II became the pivotal figure of the people power revolutions of Eastern Europe.
While the success of these popular movements demonstrated the power of ideas and proved realism wrong, let us have no idealist illusions either: People power can succeed only against oppression that has lost confidence in itself. When Soviet communism still had enough sense of its own historical inevitability to send tanks against people in the street -- Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968 -- people power was useless.
By the 1980s, however, the Soviet sphere was both large and decadent. And a new pope brought not only hope but political cunning to the captive nations yearning to be free. He demonstrated what Europe had forgotten and Stalin never knew: the power of faith as an instrument of political mobilization.
Under the benign and deeply humane vision of this pope, the power of faith led to the liberation of half a continent. Under the barbaric and nihilistic vision of Islam's jihadists, the power of faith has produced terror and chaos. That contrast alone, which has dawned upon us unmistakably ever since Sept. 11, should be reason enough to be grateful for John Paul II. But we mourn him for more than that. We mourn him for restoring strength to the Western idea of the free human spirit at a moment of deepest doubt and despair. And for seeing us through to today's great moment of possibility for both faith and freedom.

Pope John Paul II

Washington Post Editorial April 3, 2005

"I REMEMBER raising my head,'' recalls a priest who was at the Vatican II council 40 years ago, "and thinking, 'Who is that prophet?' " The speaker who had caught his attention was a Polish prelate named Karol Wojtyla, and his subject was a proposed declaration renouncing the ancient accusation of enduring Jewish guilt for the death of Jesus. "Wojtyla spoke of the church's obligation to change its teaching on the Jews with a passion that could only have come from personal experience," the priest said. "For an unknown bishop from Poland it was amazing. Wojtyla made the difference."
This incident, related in James Carroll's book "Constantine's Sword" -- a study of the church's tortured dealings over the centuries with the Jewish people -- was a precursor to what Mr. Carroll regards as "the most momentous act" of the papacy of John Paul II: the day when the pontiff formerly known as Wojtyla stood before the Western Wall in Jerusalem "to offer a prayer that did not invoke the name of Jesus . . . to leave a sorrowful kvitel, a written prayer, in a crevice of the wall." The speech at Vatican II was also a sign that this was a man with considerable ability to lead and inspire -- charisma, as it's been called since long before politicians discovered the term.
He came on the world scene in 1978 as a refreshing new personality: Possessed of a sunny smile, athletic bearing and a friendly manner, he was a media dream. His willingness -- eagerness, really -- to be out among the people extended his appeal well beyond the church, as did his courageous survival of and recovery from an assassination attempt. But John Paul II made it clear early on that he was no public-relations pope, seeking to accommodate the church to modernity. A man of considerable depth and learning -- more so perhaps than the public understood at the time of his election -- he acted and spoke boldly and confidently over his quarter-century as pope, often in ways that were neither popular nor politic.
He could be -- and was -- called conservative in matters of Catholic doctrine, in his determination to maintain such institutions as the male celibate clergy and in his strict adherence to the church's positions on birth control and abortion. He provoked debate and dissent within the church with his stands in these areas, as well as opposition from outside, including from these pages, for policies that affect the temporal realm, especially in matters of population control. The sexual abuse scandal in the American church that troubled his last years as pope was attributed by many, at least in part, to his adherence to the hierarchical chain of command and to a lack of democracy in the church.
But this pope might equally well have been called liberal -- even radical -- in such areas as workers' rights, capital punishment, disarmament and human freedom, and in the message of hope that he carried literally across the globe. He was indisputably a visionary in seeking to lead the church out into the greater world -- traveling, evangelizing and preaching the unity of humankind in places that no pope before him could have hoped to reach.
And certainly no pope ever made a trip like John Paul's journey back to Poland in 1979 -- the most joyous conquest in the long and tragic history of his country. How many divisions has the pope? For John Paul they were many and powerful, all seemingly armed with guitars and flowers as they converged by the hundreds of thousands in Poland to celebrate his presence, sending an unmistakable message of national solidarity to the rulers of Central Europe and helping set in motion the peaceful revolution that was to bring down a Communist empire within a decade.
As the priest who observed him at Vatican II sensed, there was much of the personal in John Paul's fervor on certain matters. The pope who sought a new relationship with Judaism had been a friend of his Jewish neighbors from childhood, in a time and place darkened by anti-Semitism. Brought up in a close, tolerant and deeply religious family, the future pope was made aware of the fragility of life by the loss of his mother when he was 9, of his father when he was 18, and of his older brother, a physician who contracted a fatal disease from one of his patients. In his lifetime, he lived under two cruel, seemingly all-powerful social ideologies with millennial pretensions, worked against them and saw both fall, while the church to which he had committed himself endured. It may be that this personal experience has something to do with a conservatism grounded in preservation of what he thought good in his church and in human life -- but not in fear of change.
"The pope is a thoroughly modern man who nevertheless challenged a lot of the conventional wisdom of self-consciously modern people," his biographer George Weigel said in a magazine interview some years ago. "In a world dominated by the pleasure principle and by personal willfulness, he insists that suffering can be redemptive and that self-giving is far more important to human fulfillment than self-assertion. In an intellectual climate where the human capacity to know anything with certainty is under attack, he has taught that there are universal moral truths . . . and that, in knowing them, we encounter real obligations. To a world that often measures human beings by their utility, he has insisted that every human being has an inviolable dignity and worth."
One who exercises as much power as the pope will never be free of controversy, no matter how exemplary his life; the secular world is not in the habit of conferring sainthood on people. But John Paul II, after his death yesterday at 84, will be seen by most, we think, as a remarkable witness, to use a favorite term of his -- witness to a vision characterized by humaneness, honesty and integrity throughout his reign and his life.

Papal funeral: Text of homily

CNN April 8, 2005

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Text of the homily read, in Italian, by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, dean of the College of Cardinals, during the funeral Mass of Pope John Paul II. Translation given by the Vatican.

"Follow me." The Risen Lord says these words to Peter. They are his last words to this disciple, chosen to shepherd his flock. "Follow me" -- this lapidary saying of Christ can be taken as the key to understanding the message which comes to us from the life of our late beloved Pope John Paul II. Today we bury his remains in the earth as a seed of immortality -- our hearts are full of sadness, yet at the same time of joyful hope and profound gratitude.
These are the sentiments that inspire us, Brothers and Sisters in Christ, present here in St. Peter's Square, in neighboring streets and in various other locations within the city of Rome, where an immense crowd, silently praying, has gathered over the last few days. I greet all of you from my heart. In the name of the College of Cardinals, I also wish to express my respects to Heads of State, Heads of Government and the delegations from various countries. I greet the Authorities and official representatives of other Churches and Christian Communities, and likewise those of different religions. Next I greet the Archbishops, Bishops, priests, religious men and women and the faithful who have come here from every Continent; especially the young, whom John Paul II liked to call the future and the hope of the Church. My greeting is extended, moreover, to all those throughout the world who are united with us through radio and television in this solemn celebration of our beloved Holy Father's funeral.
Follow me -- as a young student Karol Wojtyla was thrilled by literature, the theater, and poetry. Working in a chemical plant, surrounded and threatened by the Nazi terror, he heard the voice of the Lord: Follow me! In this extraordinary setting he began to read books of philosophy and theology, and then entered the clandestine seminary established by Cardinal Sapieha. After the war he was able to complete his studies in the faculty of theology of the Jagiellonian University of Krakow. How often, in his letters to priests and in his autobiographical books has he spoken to us about his priesthood, to which he was ordained on Nov. 1, 1946. In these texts he interprets his priesthood with particular reference to three sayings of the Lord. First: "You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last" (John 15:16). The second saying is: "The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:11). And then: "As the father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love" (John 15:9). In these three sayings we see the heart and soul of our Holy Father. He really went everywhere, untiringly, in order to bear fruit, fruit that lasts. "Rise, Let us be on our Way!" is the title of his next-to-last book. "Rise, let us be on our way!" -- with these words he roused us from a lethargic faith, from the sleep of the disciples of both yesterday and today. "Rise, let us be on our way!" he continues to say to us even today. The Holy Father was a priest to the last, for he offered his life to God for his flock and for the entire human family, in a daily self-oblation for the service of the Church, especially amid the sufferings of his final months. And this way he became one with Christ, the Good Shepherd who loves his sheep. Finally, "abide in my love:" the Pope who tried to meet everyone, who had an ability to forgive and to open his heart to all, tells us once again today, with these words of the Lord, that by abiding in the love of Christ we learn, at the school of Christ, the art of true love.
Follow me! In July 1958 the young priest Karol Wojtyla began a new stage in his journey with the Lord in the footsteps of the Lord. Karol had gone to the Masuri Lakes for his usual vacation, along with a group of young people who loved canoeing. But he brought with him a letter inviting him to call on the Primate of Poland, Cardinal Wyszynski. He could guess the purpose of the meeting: he was to be appointed as the auxiliary Bishop of Krakow. Leaving the academic world, leaving this challenging engagement with young people, leaving the great intellectual endeavor of striving to understand and to interpret the mystery of that creature which is man and of communicating to today's world the Christian interpretation of our being -- all this must have seemed to him like losing his very self, losing what had become the very human identity of this young priest. Follow me -- Karol Wojtyla accepted the appointment for he heard in the Church's call the voice of Christ. And then he realized how true are the Lord's words: "Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it" (Luke 17:53). Our pope -- and we all know this -- never wanted to make his own life secure, to keep it for himself, he wanted to give of himself unreservedly, to the very last moment, for Christ and thus also for us. And thus he came to experience how everything which he had given over into the Lord's hands came back to him in a new way. His love of words, of poetry, of literature became an essential part of his pastoral mission and gave his new vitality, new urgency, new attractiveness to the preaching of the Gospel, even when it is a sign of contradiction.
Follow me! In October 1978, Cardinal Wojtyla once again heard the voice of the Lord. Once more there took place that dialogue with Peter reported in the Gospel of this Mass: "Simon, son of John, do you love me? Feed my sheep!' To the Lord's question, `Karol, do you love me?' the archbishop of Krakow answered from the depths of his heart: "Lord, you know everything: you know that I love you." The love of Christ was the dominant force in the life of our beloved Holy Father. Anyone who ever saw him pray, who ever heard him preach, knows that. Thanks to his being profoundly rooted in Christ, he was able to bear a burden which transcends merely human abilities: that of being the shepherd of Christ's flock, his universal Church. This is not the time to speak of the specific content of this rich pontificate. I would like only to read two passages of today's liturgy which reflect the central elements of his message. In the first reading, St. Peter says -- and with St. Peter, the pope himself -- "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ -- he is Lord of all" (Acts of the Apostles 10:34-36). And in the second reading, St. Paul -- and with St. Paul, our late Pope -- exhorts us, crying out: "My brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved" (Philippians 4:1).
Follow me! Together with the command to feed his flock, Christ proclaimed to Peter that he would die a martyr's death. With those words, which conclude and sum up the dialogue on the love and on the mandate of the universal shepherd, the Lord recalls another dialogue, which took place during the Last Supper. There Jesus had said: "Where I am going, you cannot come." Peter said to him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus replied: "Where I cam going, you cannot follow me now: but you will follow me afterward." (John 13:33-36). Jesus from the Supper went toward the Cross, went toward his resurrection -- he entered into the paschal mystery; and Peter could not follow him. Now -- after the resurrection -- comes the time, comes this "afterward." By shepherding the flock of Christ, Peter enters into the paschal mystery, he goes toward the cross and the resurrection. The Lord says this in these words: "`....when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go; (John 21:18) In the first years of his pontificate, still young and full of energy, the Holy Father went to very ends of the earth, guided by Christ. But afterward, he increasingly entered into the communion of Christ's sufferings; increasingly he understood the truth of the words: "Someone else will fasten a belt around you." And in the very communion with the suffering Lord, tirelessly and with renewed intensity, he proclaimed the Gospel, the mystery of that love which goes to the end (John 13:1).
He interpreted for us the paschal mystery as a mystery of divine mercy. In his last book, he wrote: The limit imposed upon evil "is ultimately Divine Mercy" ("Memory and Identity," p. 60-61). And reflecting on the assassination attempt, he said: "In sacrificing himself for us all, Christ gave a new meaning to suffering, opening up a new dimension, a new order: the order of love .... It is this suffering which burns and consumes evil with the flame of love and draws forth even from sin a great flowering of good." Impelled by this vision, the Pope suffered and loved in communion with Christ, and that is why the message of his suffering and his silence proved so eloquent and so fruitful.
Divine Mercy: the Holy Father found the purest reflection of God's mercy in the Mother of God. He who at an early age had lost his own mother, loved his divine mother all the more. He heard the words of the crucified Lord as addressed personally to him: "Behold your Mother." And so he did as the beloved disciple did: he took her into his own home;" (John 19:27)
Totus tuus. And from the mother he learned to conform himself to Christ.
None of us can ever forget how in that last Easter Sunday of his life, the Holy Father, marked by suffering, came once more to the window of the Apostolic Palace and one last time gave his blessing urbi et orbi. We can be sure that our beloved pope is standing today at the window of the Father's house, that he sees us and blesses us. Yes, bless us, Holy Father. We entrust your dear soul to the Mother of God, your Mother, who guided you each day and who will guide you now to the eternal glory of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.