Saturday, April 02, 2005

Pope John Paul II

I suppose I should say that today was like any other day to me, that the passing of the pope had little effect on my life. After all, I have no special affection for organized religion. I am sure there will be many people who, in their zeal point out how they are “above the fray” as non-believers (Or “brights” as some of my more distinguished agnostic/atheist brethren prefer to call themselves.) will rush to point out the flaws in John Paul’s papacy. You will not find me among them.

In the past the papacy was just as much a political post as a religious honor but, as the power of the Roman Catholic Church receded, the church made its influence felt via less direct means. I suppose that the focus on religious authority as the major sphere of influence for the church necessitated a return to a position of greater moral standing in the papacy. Gone were the days when the pope could live profligately while demanding the obeisance of kings, clergy, and laymen alike. The men who occupied the papacy in the latter half of the 20th century best represented this realization of the limits of power and the necessity of fealty to moral ideals but none more so that John Paul II.

The recently deceased pope represented the courage of conviction that so many politicians were unable, or unwilling to display. Was it his heritage? As a Pole he understood better than most the evils of communism and the hunger of the human spirit for freedom. Perhaps it was his faith? The pope lived through two world wars, witnessed the destruction of Europe and an attempt by men to eradicate an entire race of people yet continued to hold a faith in humanity equaled only by his faith in God. He refused to lower his expectations for those he truly considered to be his children. Or was it his strength? I remember few men who were willing to kneel at the sacred wall of their historical opponents and beg for forgiveness. The pontiff acknowledged the past sins of the church and asked nothing more than for the world to hear his confession.

Many horrors have occurred within the church recently but I feel no need to address them here. They are familiar to us all and time will determine the effect they will have on the Church as an institution. I think it is a day to remember a great man, irrespective of his religion. The pope left us in a world better than that which he found. I left my house today to the sound of church bells ringing. As I walked through the rain I realized it wasn’t just the catholic churches marking his death, the bells were ringing everywhere. I found myself overwhelmed by the thought that a man had died who saw in me what I could not see in myself, a person who loved me not because I was a Catholic, but because he felt I was a gift. I remain faithless but I see in John Paul II many of those qualities to which we should all aspire. Thank you, John. Thank you for what you have given to us all.


Blogger Timmy said...

Good blog.
Keep it up.

4:32 PM  

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