Pope John Paul II and the Church

By Peter Hebblethwaite | Go to book overview

In his picture of the world, the East-West conflict has given way to a North-South polarity. He referred to this when he spoke of "economic tensions between entire continents" as one of the main threats to peace.

The U.N. speech did not tell us anything we did not already know. But it provided the theme for the rest of his trip. He did not come simply to flatter the United States. Though he admires the tradition of political freedom (Battery Park), his image of the United States is of a land of privilege that contains too many poor and marginalized people (Yankee Stadium).

He is particularly critical, too, of playing to sexual liberation: "No freedom can exist when it goes against man in what he is, or against man in relation to others or to God" ( Philadelphia).

The natural enthusiasm of the big welcome should not blind anyone to the "hard sayings" of John Paul. He has come to discern the Spirit. It is not a comfortable process. In his version of Christianity, it challenges before it comforts.


6
Pope unveils his papacy: 'Restoration' era begins

( October 19, 1979) What was the meaning for the U.S. church of Pope John Paul II's visit? Archbishop John J. Roach of St. Paul- Minneapolis, vice president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, was asked this question when he bravely faced the press in Chicago after the pope's 90-minute address to the bishops.

He prudently replied that it "had created a climate in which good things can happen," expressed the hope that they would not respond merely by setting up 95 new programs and that, for the rest, the bishops "would have to reflect on what this visit means." It was a confession of agnosticism. He didn't yet know what the visit meant.

Yet the pope's address to the 350 bishops was the most important of the week. It has the greatest, and gravest, implications for the future. In this address, Pope John Paul II revealed clearly for the first time what the strategy of his pontificate will be.

-22-

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