Page 5, 15th October 1993

15th October 1993
Page 5
Page 5, 15th October 1993 — Pope John Paul II: bringing the Church centrestage

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Pope John Paul II: bringing the Church centrestage

On 16 October the Catholic Church will celebrate the 15th anniversary of John Paul II's election as Pope. Since 1978 Karol Joseph Wojtyla, the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years, has witnessed some would argue contributed to the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe; survived illness and repeated attempts on his life; and emerged as a hard-line defender of doctrine. The Catholic Herald focuses on the major events that have shaped his globe-trotting papacy, and looks ahead to the future.

16 OCTOBER 1978: In a stunning surprise decision, the Conclave elected Cardinal Archbishop Karol Waft-yin of Kracow to succeed John Paul I, whose papacy lasted 30 days, and to lead the world's 900 million Catholics.

JUNE 1979: John Paul II visited his homeland, Poland. At the time it was perceived as his first major foray into the realm of public affairs.

Despite the hostility of the ruling Communist government the Pope travelled for nine days to six different cities. Thirteen million Poles a third of the population heard him "speak the hitherto unspeakable", as one commentator put it.

While in Poland he visited his birthplace and took time to see the site of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. A Polish professor afterwards described the visit as "a psychological earthquake, an opportunity for mass political catharsis."

SEPTEMBER 1979: Tray

died to Ireland. Within a month he went to Phoenix Park, Drogheda, where Royalist Catholics were massacred in thousands by Cromwell. He also visited Knock, Galway, Limerick and the Maynooth Seminary the theological college established in the first wave of 19th century religious emancipation.

OCTOBER 1979: John Paul II visited the USA, taking in Boston, New York, Chicago, and Washington.

In Philadelphia he declared his opposition to women priests and to male priests rejecting their vows. During 1979, Cardinal Ratzinger, widely regarded as the Pope's "right-hand man" and a leading Conservative, was invited to Rome as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

OCTOBER 1980: The Queen met the Pope in Italy, perhaps the first time a British monarch had spoken cordially to the head of the Roman Church since Henry VIII's defection in the 1530s.

NOVEMBER 1980: Not to be outdone, then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher also met John Paul H.

JANUARY 1981: Poland was back on the agenda: John Paul met Lech Walesa, leader of the Solidarity movement and foremost critic of the Polish Communist regime. The previous August, Walesa hit the headlines after starting a series of strikes by Gdansk workers, supported by Cardinal Wysz-ynski. Solidarity was banned in December. In January the Pope made a public appeal on behalf of the movement, the first instance of his taking a political stand against authoritarian regimes. General Jaruzelski fell from power some years later.

MAY 1981: Assassination attempt by A/Whir-let All Agca, a Turkish terrorist. The Pope survived after being repeatedly shot.

MAY 1982: Another attempt on his life was made when someone called Krohn tried to stab him in Portugal. Later that month he came to Britain, the first time a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church had ever set foot on English soil. While here he met Dr Runcie, then Archbishop of Canterbury, and in York spoke against abortion and contraception.

SEPTEMBER 1982: Met Yasser Arafat, head of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation.

MARC:H 1983: Visited Haiti. The then ruler, Papa Doc Duvalier, was another dictator to fall shortly after entertaining His Holiness.

JUNE 1983: Returned to Poland where he delivered more outspoken support for Solidarity.

DECEMBER 1983: Tears were shed when John Paul II met the man who tried to kill him. Ali Agca kissed the papal ring while the Pontiff gave the Turk a rosary and Christmas cake.

APRIL 1985: In Rome, Charles and Diana met John Paul. Charles attended Catholic Mass.

AUGUST 1985: Travelling in Africa, the Pope condemned apartheid. Later that year Cardinal Joszef Ratzinger condemned liberation theology.

FEBRUARY 1986: Visited Mother Teresa in Calcutta.

APRIL 1986: Visited a synagogue in Rome, the first Pope ever to do so. During the year he wrote to Brazilian bishops admitting liberation theology could be legitimate if purified from Marxism.

JANUARY 1987: Met General Jaruzelski in Rome, to show he was prepared to listen to both sides of the long-running political dispute in Poland.

APRIL 1987: In Chile he denounced General Pinochet's regime, probably contributing to his fall from power.

JANUARY 1988: Talks with Nicaraguan President perhaps predictably in the light of his previous record, Ortega's regime fell after the Papal visit.

FEBRUARY 1988: The Red Army Choir sings at the Vatican.

OCTOBER 1988: During 3 Papal visit to France, Ian Paisley, the Presbyterian minister and Democratic Unionist MP, harangued the Pope in the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

During 1988 the Pope published Mulieris Digniratem, his Apostolic letter on women. The letter praised women for their "special" character, reminds them that Mary should be held up as their ideal, and concluded that they ought to accept their "difference" from men, within and outside the Church.

Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, a traditionalist campaigning against Mass in the vernacular, was formally excommunicated. Undaunted, the Archbishop went on to ordain four bishops himself. Despite much speculation, the threatened Church schism did not occur.

SEPTEMBER 1989: Ecumenism was in the air: the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, attended Mass at the Vatican, prompting people to talk of a reconciliation of the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches.

DECEMBER 1989: Mikhail Gorbachev visited the Vatican. Diplomatic relations between Rome and the Soviet Union were resumed after a 70 year suspension.

John Paul II issued Christifidelis Laws, an encyclical that encouraged the role of lay people in Church matters.

1990: Told African priests that using condoms as a precaution against Aids only encouraged the kind of behaviour that caused the disease.


Condemned the Gulf War in St Peter's Square. Afterwards he was thanked by the Organisation of Muslim States.

JULY 1992: Underwent surgery to remove a tumour in th,e colon after suffering from a stomach complaint. Gorbachev gave him credit for the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe.

SEPTEMBER 1993: liritatis Splendor is published. The encyclical is the Pope's strongest answer to dissent within the Church, insisting on the validity of universal moral norms and objective truth particularly in such troublesome areas as human sexuality as spelled out in Church teaching.

But its wider audience is modern society, which the Pope sees as dangerously absorbed in self-gratification and increasingly comfortable with ethical relativism. It is a society, the Pope has warned, that denies the value of anything unless it brings immediate advantage.

Many Vatican observers say this encyclical is a prelude to a much more specific document on the "protection of life" which would treat the social policy aspects of abortion, euthanasia, sterilisation and other practices.

THE WAY FORVIARD: For the Pope, the 15-year-mark is a time to set new goals for what has been one of the most dynamic papacies in history.

The global scene has changed dramatically since 1978.

The Pope's crucial role in the demise of Communism, many believe, will be the lasting legacy of his pontificate. But today, with the Cold War over and the Church in a rebuilding phase throughout Eastern Eurone, John Paul II is shifting his moral spotlight to the short-comings of Western society and the imbalance of the global economy.

The Pope calls the economic disparity "the North-South problem", and he has seen it up close during frequent trips to the Third World.

Warning that the poor are getting poorer, the Pope is saying the West cannot keep living in "an island of abundance surrounded by an ocean of suffering".

During a September trip to the Baltic countries, his first visit to a part of the former Soviet Union, the Holy Father was art unusually stern critic of unbridled capitalism.

In his speech, the Pope said capitalistic ideology was responsible for "grave social injustices" — and that Marxism's "kernel of truth" lay in seeing capitalism's faults.

War looms large in the Pope's mind and prayers as he begins his 16th year in office the reality of smaller ethnic or tribal wars that have flared up in places like the Balkans. Africa and southern. Soviet Republics.

John Paul II's challenge in the 90s is to help ensure that religion does not fuel these conflicts, but acts as a reconciler.

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