April 2, 2005


Pope John Paul II dies (VICTOR L. SIMPSON, April 2, 2005, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Pope John Paul II, the Polish pontiff who led the Roman Catholic Church for more than a quarter century and became history's most-traveled pope, died Saturday night in his Vatican apartment. He was 84.

The announcement came from papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls and was distributed to journalists via e-mail.

"The Holy Father died this evening at 9:37 p.m. (2:37 p.m. EST) in his private apartment. All the procedures outlined in the apostolic Constitution 'Universi Dominici Gregis' that was written by John Paul II on Feb. 22, 1996, have been put in motion."

A Mass was scheduled for St. Peter's Square for Sunday morning.

Pope's health deteriorates further (Philip Pullella and Crispian Balmer, 4/01/05, Reuters)

Pope John Paul's health has worsened further, with his breathing becoming shallow and his blood pressure deteriorating, says the Vatican, and one Italian news agency has reported he has lost consciousness.

Church officials tried to prepare the world and its 1.1 billion Roman Catholics for the end of one of the longest papal reigns in history after the Vatican said the long-ailing Pope had declined further hospital treatment.

"The general conditions and cardio-respiratory conditions of the Holy Father have further worsened," said Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls.

"A gradual worsening of arterial hypotension has been noted, and breathing has become shallow. The clinical picture indicates cardio-circulatory and renal insufficiency. The biological parameters are notably compromised."

Sky Italia TV, quoting a report from Italy's Apcom news agency, said on Friday the Pope had lost consciousness but there was no independent confirmation. "There's no hope any more," the ANSA news agency quoted an unidentified medical source as saying.

As of 1:50pm, The Vatican says his brain and heart are still functioning.

-The Pontificate of Pope John Paul II (EWTN.com)

-The Vatican

-How Are Popes Elected? Two Complimentary Lectures (The Teaching Company)

-Pope John Pal II's Theology of the Body

-Tireless thinker who offered world's masses love and hope (STEPHEN MCGINTY, 4/02/05, The Scotsman)

EACH morning, when his health allowed him, Pope John Paul II would wake to watch the dawn. "I like to watch the sun rise," he told friends. This week, as night prepared to envelop him and his 26-year pontificate, it was worth recalling that he saw his role, like that of the sun, as "a witness to hope".

On 16 October 1979 when, at the age of 58, he stepped on to the balcony of St Peter’s Square dressed in the white papal robes and wearing the fisherman’s ring, the first words he uttered were: "Be not afraid". The message he has preached across 100 countries and to billions of people has been one of love and hope - even if, on occasion, it felt like the hectoring of an impatient father.

In the years to come his legacy will be dissected. Yet today, say Catholic observers, it is important to remember that he believes his mission is for the good of all mankind, not just the world’s 1.1 billion Roman Catholics.

When previous cardinals were elected as Pope, some were deeply shaken while others wept tears of fright. When Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was elected on the second day of voting, his confidence was unshakeable.

For the first 13 years of his papacy, he trained his voice and position against communism. In an earlier era, Stalin said mockingly: "How many battalions has the Pope?" Pope John Paul II revealed that he needed none - just faith, a public platform and the assistance of America. Together, they helped bring the Berlin wall tumbling down.

-A counterbalance to Communists (Judy Dempsey, April 2, 2005, International Herald Tribune)
In Poland, two things happened the day the Archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was elected pope on Oct. 16, 1978.

The population broke open bottles to celebrate and the then-ruling Communist Party went into emergency session.

In fact, it was some months before the impact of Wojtyla's election as Pope John Paul II was felt - not only in Poland, but throughout Eastern Europe. For believers and even the less devout, he provided a moral and spiritual counterweight to the Communist regimes.

Once heavily Catholic Poland learned that a Pole would lead the Catholic Church, many hung the red and white Polish flag from their windows. They sat and watched state-run television, weeping over how this extraordinary event was being reported.

And then, as so often, they turned to poetry to ventilate their anger, hopes and fears. This time, they quoted Juliusz Slowacki, the early 19th century romantic writer forced into exile after a Polish insurrection in 1830 had failed to drive out foreign powers.

Prophetically, he had written that "Among the quarreling, the Lord Struck On a mighty bell; Lo, for a Slav Pope He provided the throne... He shall spread love, as today the Powers Spread weapons."

-A giant of faith and freedom on the world stage (The Australian, 2nd April 2005)

POPE John Paul II has been a great figure of the 20th century, an authentic giant of history who will be remembered as long as human beings value liberty or care about religion. John Paul II has been the supreme pontiff of the Catholic Church. But he has been much more than that. By the force of his extraordinary personality, the clarity of his message and his immense courage he has been a figure of vast consequence who shook the foundations of the world. While very few have agreed with every single thing he said or did, his influence on the world has been overwhelmingly positive.

John Paul II has loved God, but he has also loved human beings and regarded each human being as sacred and imbued with innate dignity, and above all deserving of freedom. His remarkable personality was forged in the crucible of the two monstrous ideologies of 20th-century Europe - Nazism and communism. He detested both, he resisted both, he understood both.

What an optimistic and resilient spirit it must have taken to begin studying for the Catholic priesthood in Poland in 1942. But no sooner was the Nazi nightmare over for Poland than the communist nightmare began. It is probably for his role in the downfall of communism that John Paul II will be most obviously remembered. Poland became at one moment the pivot of Europe, and for a time the pivot of history. It was John Paul II's instinctive and sustained support for the Polish trade union movement, Solidarity, and its exuberant and brave leader, Lech Walesa, that was critical in leading to the downfall of communism in Poland. And this in turn had a mesmerising effect on the rest of Eastern Europe. The iron curtain of Stalin's tyranny and despair, which had hung across expanding swaths of Europe since 1917, was torn back as much by the Pope as by any other individual. Indeed, with Ronald Reagan and Lech Walesa, the Pope formed an astonishing triumvirate, allied in the common cause of human freedom and human dignity.

In many ways John Paul II has been the first wholly modern Pope. Nazism and communism were quintessentially expressions of a deformed modernism and this the Pope understood profoundly. His adroit leadership during the fall of the Polish communist government answered forever Stalin's sneering question: "How many battalions has the Pope?" The Cold War seems a long way away now, but it is right to pause to remember the radical evil that communism, the true ideological twin of Nazism, represented and the immense historical project involved in its consignment to the dustbin of history.

This is not the only political challenge the Pope has had to manage in his long reign. He has always been the friend of freedom, denouncing apartheid, opposing dictatorships and yet doing so in a way which would not increase the persecution of innocent people. But of course the Pope has not seen himself primarily as a political figure. Nor would it be fair to evaluate him as such. He has been, in his own words, a sign of contradiction, a great paradox of a leader. For his kingdom was not of this world. He has always believed in the importance of this world because of its relationship to the higher order of the spiritual world. In that sense, the Pope has been two separate leaders, an astute political figure central to the power equations of his time, and a deeply contemplative and intellectual spiritual leader, whose criterion of judgment was eternity.

Much of Western opinion, while it has admired the Pope's valiant stand for political freedom, found his spirituality baffling and his moral teaching incomprehensible or downright offensive. It is fair to say that in the majority of theological and moral utterances he has made, the Pope has been condemned by majority Western opinion. But from the Pope's point of view, it has not been necessary to have the numbers. It has been much more important to be speaking the truth. No one doubts the huge physical courage of the Pope, who survived a would-be assassin's bullet in May 1981, an attempt widely believed to be the work of the Soviet KGB. It surely was another aspect of that courage to stand so trenchantly against every tenet of received opinion in the Western world.

The Pope has preached discipline, restraint and submission to legitimate authority in spiritual matters. This was never a contradiction of his insistence of human freedom in the political order. For even his view of the spiritual life has been based on the centrality of human freedom, the freedom of the human conscience to choose what is right. It is not the place of a church leader to give in to social fashion. The Western world is awash with self-indulgence and the pursuit of instant gratification. It hardly needed a church leader to tell it that this was all OK. Instead John Paul II has taken the much harder road of trying to remind the West of God, and the obligations of morality. Even those who have no religious belief can recognise that there is a benefit to society to have such a message delivered uncompromisingly by an authoritative leader.

-The Tikkun Olam Pope (Lisa Palmieri-Billig, Apr. 3, 2005, THE JERUSALEM POST)
Like other outstanding spiritual and political leaders, Karol Wojtyla began his career as an actor.

Born with a talent for communication, an overpowering sensitivity and empathy for the human condition, steeped in a deeply religious Polish Catholic environment but surrounded by Jewish friends and classmates, he consequently embraced the moral imperative of transforming consciences according to his faith.

Indelibly branded spiritually by the Holocaust, by World War II and communist tyranny, he embraced his mission fervently as an opportunity to help heal the world. He might well go down in Jewish history as the Tikkun Olam Pope.

Run-of-the-mill priests can be identified by the quality of their voices. They have a holier-than-thou, desexed quality of resignation, devoid of of passions. Not so with Karol Wojtyla.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 2, 2005 3:23 PM
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