Pope John Paul II and the Church

By Peter Hebblethwaite | Go to book overview

No. 5 is the apostrophe. This is reserved for the conclusion of homilies. A good example occurred at Belem. John Paul turned toward the statue of Our Lady and addressed the Mother of God. "Mary, you are the second Eve There was transition from preaching to praying.

6. Here the rhetorical device also contains a psychological ploy. It consists in a quotation from the very person or persons whom he is addressing. It is most commonly used with bishops who feel gratified, flattered and -- it must be admitted -- hoist with their own petard.

In Brazil, John Paul used this device in his address to President Joao Figueiredo. If reforms are to be realized, then mentalities have to be changed, he told the president, adding: "always enlightened by 'the certainty that man is at the center of our concerns and responsibilities,' as you wrote to me recently."

It was a shrewd move. The president could hardly object to having his own words quoted back at him. But now he was being forced to consider the further implications of what may have been no more than a rhetorical flourish. Since the centrality of a man (the human person) was the theme of the entire visit, it was a perfectly fair procedure.

John Paul's rhetorical style derives from Cicero and Bossuet -- and, no doubt, Piotr Skarga, the 18th century Polish preacher. It is a style that has largely vanished from the Anglo-Saxon world where television demands a different kind of intimacy and "I'd just like to say a few words" is the only form of public discourse left. But it seems to work in Latin countries. □


16
Pope foresees growing battle between good and evil.

( January 9, 1981) As Pope John Paul peers into the future, he sees not the next decade but the next 20 years. The year 2000 fascinates him like the eye of the basilisk. What is going to happen in this period is an intensification of the age-old struggle between good and

-55-

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