Pope John Paul II and the Church

By Peter Hebblethwaite | Go to book overview

1
From Poland, a pope

( October 27, 1978) This time there were three surprises: that the new pope should be so young -- 58; that he should be a non-Italian; and that he should come from an Eastern European country. Though there has been noticeably less talk about the Holy Spirit, once again the cardinals have said how satisfied they are with their choice.

Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was better known than his predecessor, Cardinal Albino Luciani. He took part in all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council, was on drafting committees for the "Constitution on the Church in the Modern World" and the marriage sessions of "The Church in the World Today." He also took part in every synod from the first in 1967 to the most recent in 1977. His position papers were appreciated for their solidity and clarity.

No one would call him an adventurous theologian. As he made clear in the speech the day after the election, he is wedded to the theology of Vatican II and thinks it should be applied still further and developed. He particularly stressed collegiality and its instrument, the Synod of Bishops. Though these would not be called "progressive views" in Holland, in Poland they represent the best and most advanced thinking available.

Cardinal John Krol of Philadelphia, who knows the new pope well, was right when he commented that in the United States, Vatican II "has meant adaptation rather than spiritual renewal." Still, Wojtyla organized a synod in his diocese -- it is still going on -- in which more than 500 groups of 15 to 20 people work together on texts.

In his first speech to the cardinals, Pope John Paul II committed himself to ecumenism without any of the hedging restrictions his predecessor introduced. It is difficult for a Polish Catholic to find a partner in ecumenical dialogue -- the Orthodox number 500,000 and move among themselves while the Protestants number only 200,000.

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*
Dates identify original dates of publication in the National Catholic Reporter.

-3-

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