Sunday, April 03, 2005

A remarkable life 

Some thoughts,.

One I hope isn’t an urban legend. The then recently enthroned Bishop of Crakow, out ski-ing in the Tatra mountains accidentally crossed the border into Czechoslovakia. He was arrested and charged with two offences. Illegal crossing of the border and concealing his identity by impersonating the Bishop of Crakow.

No such anonymity at the time of his death for that young bishop become Pope.

There was never any doubt about his political impact in east Europe from the moment he became Pope. When he visited Poland as Pope the first time his celebration of Mass was carried on Channel 2 of Polish TV. Channel 2 because this had more restricted coverage and in particular was easier to jam so it couldn’t be picked up in then Soviet-occupied Lithuania.

There is no doubt he played a vital role in upholding the moral consciousness that led to the peaceful dismemberment of the Soviet Empire and the liberation of my mother’s homeland.

And he is owed deep gratitude for forcing all of us to face up to the true complexity of horrors that fell on the Jewish peoples of Europe and in forcing his church to face up to a truer knowledge of its place in those events.

But in the early 1980’s I recall the deep alarm of Catholic friends with background knowledge of Catholic institutional politicing about the pressures and directions of policy statements and institutional appointments. This disquiet continued right through to his death, tellingly in a more Samizdat and underground form. They (and indeed I ) would still see Pope John the XXIII as the greatest Pope of the last century in terms of living spiritual renewal of the Catholic faith and saw Pope John-Paul as dedicated to the long-term negation of much of the work of the Vatican II conclave.

The College of Cardinals, which can now vote in a Pope on a majority rather than requiring unanimity, is made up almost entirely of Cardinals appointed by the late Pope. I have expectations rather than hopes about the outcome of this conclave.

Peter Black's thoughts echo mine with a bit more hope ... I really do not expect a Liberal Voice in the Vatican, quite the opposite.


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