Pope John Paul II and the Church

By Peter Hebblethwaite | Go to book overview

resolve this triple crisis by speaking out clearly on all disputed issues.

Priests were to be spiritual guides, not social activists. Religious were to return to their prayers and their habits. Theologians were painfully -- in some cases -- reminded of their primary duty of loyalty to the magisterium.

It would be wrong to see all these moves -- and many others in the same vein -- merely as an expression of "Polish" conservatism and clericalism. In John Paul's eyes they are a condition of speaking effectively to the world. If the bans on artificial contraception, divorce and abortion were vigorously reaffirmed, this was first because they belong to the "law of God" and second because a divided church can offer only a muted message.

In an age of increasing tension and lackluster politicians, John Paul's international importance has been greatly enhanced. He is a beacon of sanity and good sense. He has spoken out on the rights of humans and the rights of small nations (here again Poland is his exemplar). He has carried his message to the United Nations in New York, to UNESCO in Paris and to Hiroshima in Japan. He has said yes to peace and detente, no to nuclear weapons.

He is out of tune with the prevailing mood among world leaders. This makes him -- and through him the church -- more than ever the lucid conscience of the nations. It is ironical that he should fall victim to the violence he has so steadfastly denounced.


18
Bullets pare down papacy to 'Praised be Jesus Christ'

( May 29, 1981) "Praised be Jesus Christ" were the first words Pope John Paul II spoke from the loggia of St. Peter's Oct. 16, 1978, the day of his surprise election. And "Praised be Jesus Christ" were his first words, broadcast over the square May 17.

Then, with difficulty and in evident pain, he read out six sentences that will never be forgotten by those who hear them: "Dear brothers and sisters, I know that in these days, and especially in this

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