The Rhetoric of Pope John Paul II: The Pastoral Visit as a New Vocabulary of the Sacred

By Margaret B. Melady | Go to book overview

tions. Is the papal visit a new vocabulary of the sacred and in what does this reframing consists?

Finally, John Paul II's use of overseas visits to local churches as a new form of communicating about the sacred is rooted in the pastoral practice of the Catholic Church. Bishops have regularly visited the parishes in their dioceses. Itinerant religious priests were often invited into local parishes to revive people's faith through a parish mission, a practice popular in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the United States. The papal visit as a communication strategy is also a continuation of papal historical experience of the last one hundred years. As Leo XXIII led the church into public discussion of the rights of the worker, John Paul II leads the church into a public discussion of the problems associated with today's secularized world. Because this public discussion takes place in a pluralistic society, the papal visit competes with and relates to other vocabularies of the sacred. Specifically, how does the papal visit relate to other religious responses to the accommodationresistance dialectic?

My study is organized in the following way: In chapter 2, I present the theoretical and methodological assumptions upon which my study is based. To operationalize my rhetorical study, I outline the categories used to systematize my interpretative analysis of symbols and discuss how a prototype visit is chosen. Chapter 3 provides background on John Paul II as a communicator and on the communicative functions of the Catholic Church as they are organized at the Vatican. In chapters 4 through 7, I examine the prototype visit in-depth. First, I consider the preparation of the trip as a negotiation of symbols, then examine how John Paul II addresses diverse audiences and utilizes textual imagery. I also consider the performative aspects of the visit, that is, the nonverbal elements of presentation, the actual contextual elements, and the media coverage of the events. Finally, in chapter 8, I consider my findings in relation to the operational categories of sacred and secular and present my conclusions.


NOTES
1.
Paul Gray, "Empire of the Spirit", Time, 26 December 1994/2 January 1995, 53.
2.
The relationship between church disengagement from temporal control strategies with enhanced moral prestige is developed by Ivan Vallier, Catholicism, Social Control, and Modernization in Latin America ( Santa Cruz: University of California, 1970).

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