OPINION

More Paul than John

No religious leader has ever restricted himself to the realm of metaphysics or the divine. His work is by its nature of this world, and has to do with politics, no matter how often he may invoke divine law. From 1978 until his death, Pope John Paul II tried to influence history. Despite the burden of age and ill health, he remained faithful until the end to that inclusive spirit in whose service he became the most well-traveled pope ever. Although we keep claiming that history is advanced by the actions of the masses rather than by individual «chosen» or enlightened pioneers, it is possible that had it not been for the long service of the first non-Italian pope since 1523, the 20th century would have ended on a rather different note. No doubt John Paul II’s activities were more effective earlier on and in the East (with political and financial support for those who opposed communist regimes) than in later years when the Catholic Church opposed wars waged by the West (even in the name of God). US President George Bush might now praise the deceased for his struggles for freedom, but everyone knows what the US president means when he refers to freedom, and how he had ignored the pontiff’s pleas. The pope was more Paul than John. He was more political than metaphysical, more practical and methodical, more like Paul, the founder of Christianity as a universal religion, than intellectual (like John the Evangelist), or prophetic (like the author of Revelation). As for his spiritual side, the pope asked for the forgiveness of Orthodox Christians, Jews and even scientists for the past actions of his fellow Catholics. That may have been part of his politics, but it is still of historical significance.