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

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

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

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

Synopsis

John Paul II's frequent use of international pastoral visits to communicate directly with local church members and the society in which they live has become a distinctive mark of his papacy. While media coverage of these visits is extensive, most commentators are perplexed by the pope's enigmatic style. This book explains this ambiguity by examining John Paul II's rhetorical strategy and analyzing his purposeful choices in planning, arranging themes, managing form and imagery, and performing the visit. Using the 1987 visit to the United States as a prototype for rhetorical study, the author treats the visit's discourse and symbols, and their contexts and arrangements, as observable data that can be interpreted using the accommodation-resistance dialectic to locate religious vocabularies in relation to secularizing tendencies. The pope's overseas pastoral visits emerge as a rhetorical response to a church and society deeply affected by secularization and pluralism, and as a new way of speaking about the sacred.

Excerpt

Pope John Paul II's image has appeared repeatedly in print and electronic media throughout the world during the twenty years of his papacy. Largely because of his travels and their extensive media coverage, John Paul II is probably better known than any other pope in modern times. His forceful and captivating personality has facilitated the creation of a high media profile, but personal appeal alone cannot sustain the public interest and recognition that John Paul II has continually received year after year. When Pope John Paul II was chosen Time magazine's Man of the Year for 1994, Time correspondents explained their choice by pointing to the pope's "mass proselytizing," in which he used well and often the "world's bully-est pulpit" to make the world listen to his message. Consequently, John Paul II's high media profile is due not to one or several single acts, but to his multiple, sustained, and purposeful efforts to construct meaning for the church in the public forum of the world. Certainly, John Paul II is not the first pope to preach to the world on moral issues, nor is he the first pope to venture outside the Vatican. However, he is the first pope to use the international visit as a new form of communicating with the far reaches of the Catholic Church, contributing a unique character to the development of the modern rhetorical papacy.

EMERGENCE OF THE RHETORICAL PAPACY

John Paul II's use of communicative tactics is an outgrowth of social and political changes that have led to an emergence of a rhetorical pa-

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