Pope John Paul II and the Church

By Peter Hebblethwaite | Go to book overview

John Paul could give us all a lead in this direction, if only he could give his more absolute claims a rest. The world is his oyster. It would be unfortunate if his epitaph were: He would not stoop, he failed to conquer. □


48
Thoughts on a Slav Pope who is more Polish than papal

( June 21, 1991) Warsaw, Poland -- the general resemblance between the thinking of Gen. Charles de Gaulle, sometime president of France, and Pope John Paul II has often been remarked upon. During the Pope's June 1-9 visit to Poland the comparison was irresistible, and some new traits were added.

One was stylistic. De Gaulle always spoke of himself in the third person, as if "de Gaulle" was an institution apart from himself. "You wanted de Gaulle," he would say to the massed crowds, "eh bien,de Gaulle is here."

In his address to the diplomatic corps in Warsaw June 8, John Paul II adopted the same device. "The election of a Slav pope," he said, as if speaking as an objective historian, "resulted in greater solidarity and responsible support on the part of the Holy See for the churches and peoples of Central and Eastern Europe."

Of course, John Paul was not speaking as an objective historian at all. He was critiquing his predecessor, Pope Paul VI, whose Ostpolitik to his mind was feeble and fudging, making too many concessions to the communists. With the resignation on grounds of age of Cardinal Agostino Casaroli December 1990, the last effective member of Paul's team was removed, and with him the last restraint on John Paul.

From now on he will be pope in his own way, without having Casaroli pointing out that Paul VI would not have done that. The current cardinal secretary of state, Angelo Sodano, is a "yes man" who is light-years away from Casaroli's subtlety, power of analysis and knowledge of international affairs. The only political figure So-

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