Pope John Paul II and the Church

By Peter Hebblethwaite | Go to book overview
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Pope in United States more teacher than learner

( September 25, 1987) Well, what are the prospects for your exhibition?

I suppose they will cut me to pieces. Max promises me that most decisively.

You shouldn't take much notice. How many times have I cut Adam to pieces, who is my close friend. Without censure, life would be so boring.

-- From " Our God's Brother," a play completed by Karol Wojtyla in 1949

All papal trips have the same pattern: The pope moves around the country, he is visiting, talking to different categories of people. Yet all papal trips are different: The pope deals with what he perceives to be the major problems facing the local Catholics.

In the case of the United States, the usual category-by-category approach -- educators, health workers and so on -- was complicated and enriched by ethnic diversity. This was recognized in the pope's meetings with blacks in New Orleans, Hispanics in San Antonio, Texas, and Native Americans in Phoenix, Ariz.

And that was only a sampler, a beginning. But it already makes a striking contrast with John Paul's last trip, to his homeland.

While Polish Catholicism equates Catholicism and national feeling, the U.S. church has to bring together almost as many peoples as are found in the United Nations; its Catholicism, therefore, cannot be exclusive and defensive. To be truly Catholic, the U.S. church has to be inclusive, welcoming, all-embracing.

The pope knows this on the international level. Yet he had a curious phrase in New Orleans which seemed to deny the existence of an American church. "It is important to realize that there is no black church, no white church, no American church; but there is and must be, in the one church of Jesus Christ, a home for blacks, for whites, Americans, every culture and race."

One sees the point: There must be no separated American church any more than a separated black church. But it would be per


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