Two Popes of the Third Millennium

Article excerpt

I DONaT have to wait for international magazines like Time and Newsweek to tell the world what have been the most significant happenings of 2005. I am sure both Christians and non-Christians all over the world will agree that the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI have been the most momentous events during this year that is ending. The lives, actions, and words of these two intellectual giants will reverberate for many decades and centuries to come.

I couldnat find a more fitting way to pay tribute to these two Popes who have inaugurated the Third Millennium than to share with my readers an interview that Pope Benedict XVI gave to the public television station in Poland last October 16, 2005, the day established by the Polish Parliament as Pope John Paul II Day to commemorate his election as Pope in 1978. The transcript of the interview appeared in the October 16, 2005 issue of Zenit International News Agency.

First, the present Pope talked about how his friendship with Cardinal Karol Wojtyla began: "I met him personally during the two pre-conclaves and conclaves of 1978. Naturally I had heard about Cardinal Wojtyla, especially in the context of correspondence between the Polish and German bishops in 1965. The German cardinals told me about the great merits and contribution of the cardinal of Krakow and how he was the soul of this historic correspondence. I had also heard from university friends about his stature as a philosopher and thinker. But, as I said, the first personal encounter took place during the conclave of 1978. I liked him from the beginning and, thanks to God, without any merit on my part, the then cardinal immediately made friends with me.

"I am grateful for this trust that he showed me. Above all, when I watched him pray, I saw and understood that he was a man of God. This was my first impression: A man who lives with God and in God. I was also impressed by the unprejudiced cordiality with which he made my acquaintance. On various occasions, he addressed these pre-conclave meetings of the cardinals, and it was here I had the opportunity to experience his stature as a thinker. Without using big words, he created a heartfelt relationship and immediately after his election as Pope, he called me to Rome several times for talks and in the end, he appointed me prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."

These two Popes of modern times have a common lesson to teach all of us. What makes a man truly influential for good is not his intelligence or cunning. It is first and foremost a life of prayer. Prayer connects us to the omnipotent God who is the One who accomplishes any good we do. We are mere instruments. Pope John Paul II and now Pope Benedict XVI are examples of complete docility to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

When asked what, in his opinion, are the most significant moments of the more than 25 years of John Paul IIas pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI replied: "We can see it (the Pontificate) from two perspectives: One (aad extraa) a" toward the world and the other (aad intraa) a" toward the Church. With regard to the world, it seems to me that through his speeches, his person, his presence, his capacity to convince, the Holy Father created a new sensitivity for moral values, for the importance of religion in the world. This has created a new opening, a new sensitivity towards religion and the need for a religious dimension in man. Above all, the importance of the Bishop of Rome has increased immensely.

"Despite the differences and despite their non-recognition of the Successor of Peter, all Christians have recognized that he is the spokesman of Christianity. No one else in the world, on an international level can speak in the name of Christianity like this and give voice and strength to the Christian reality in the world today. He was the spokesman of the great values of humanity for non Christians and other religions too. …