Push and Pull of Sacred and Secular
The international pastoral visit is John Paul II's distinct way of communicating to a church that is challenged by increasingly secularized cultures. As with any religious language, it deals with the interplay of opposites, coding the tension between what is human and what is above and beyond the human. Yet, through its planning process, its textual arrangement and performance, it recognizes the limits of diversity and fluidity that permeate the audience's experience, sustaining religious consciousness through a multileveled meaning structure that helps us to cope with the discrepancies between normative ideals and everyday practice. The papal visit is a new way of speaking about the sacred.
The rhetorical strategy of John Paul II fluctuates with audiences, subjects, and settings as it weaves back and forth over a range of accommodating and resistance tendencies, thereby demonstrating how construction of a sacred cosmos cannot be held in check for very long at one point on the continuum. In fact, the papal visit employs a polysymbolic strategy that deliberately opens and closes to the secular world, and thus constructs a sacred cosmos of multimeanings. In other words, John Paul II attempts to return to a sacred image that is distinct and apart from the secular and, at the same time, he reaches across the borders to the secular world for symbols that cloud and shatter meaning with their opposing movement. The result is an ambiguity that em-