Thursday, April 07, 2005

John Paul the Great

Pope John Paul II certainly conserved that which is best about the Catholic Church in my opinion, but Micah Halpern suggests he was a visionary that we will remember for all the ages (Hat Tip PowerLine).

On most issues the Pope was a theological conservative. When it came to approaching Jewish issues, he was a theologically visionary.

For the Pope, Antisemitism was wrong, plain and simple, wrong. Antisemitism symbolized the Dark Ages. Given his understanding of history and the Bible, the hatred of the Jew on the theological level was totally unjustified. Moving away from Antisemitism was moving the Church, finally, out of the Dark Ages. Theologically eliminating the hatred of the Jews was the perfect symbol of the modernization of the Church. It was a move toward modernity that neither touched nor eroded mainstream theological issues like marriage, homosexuality, and abortion, issues that might shake the foundations of Church teachings. . . .

On his visit to Jerusalem's Western Wall the Pope, as tradition dictates, placed a note between the centuries old stones of the Wall. The text of the note was later made public. This is what he wrote, please note that it was addressed to "God."

God of our fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring your name to the nations: We are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness, we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant.

Those few words explain it all.

In a few sentences the Pope transformed the Church's perspective of the Jew. Jews were moved from the world of persecution where it was accepted and even requisite to oppress them for their past and for what they had done and embraced in brotherhood. For the first time, Jews were recognized for their original contribution in setting the foundation of Christianity.

How amazingly simple and correspondingly profound.

The Pope was not only eliminating officially sanctioned Antisemitism because it is wrong. The Pope was bolstering, protecting and insuring the future of his Church. He was helping the Church confront future challenges.

John Paul II. The Jew's Pope. Everyone's visionary. May his memory be blessed.

A man whose life spanned loss of mother and brother at a young age, living in Nazi-occupied Poland and, of course, Stalin.

He was a man who loved God and His people. All people.

With one kiss, the pope gave Tony Melendez what other Roman Catholic officials had denied.

Born without arms after his mother took the prescribed drug Thalidomide during pregnancy, Melendez said he had been rejected from the priesthood because he was unable to deliver the Eucharist.

So Melendez learned to play the guitar with his toes and performed a song for John Paul II when he visited Los Angeles in 1987. The pope hopped down off a stage and kissed him on the cheek.

“It’s more than the kiss. As a Catholic I’ve been able to start a ministry because of that moment,” Melendez said. “The ministry that flowed from that day, just by one song and a kiss ... he doesn’t know how much has flowed from that. He kissed me and passed on responsibility.” . . .

The pope quietly praised Melendez’s song, “Never Be the Same,” telling him “It sounds nice,” before returning to the stage to address him in front of the crowd of thousands.

“You are a courageous young man,” the pontiff said for all to hear. “And my wish for you is to bring hope to all the people.”

If you have seen the video of Pope John Paul II kissing Tony Melendez, you know how easy it is to shed a tear. It is also one of many examples where the Pope took an opportunity to elevate a performance into a sublime message.

The spontaneity. The Love. The Joy.

The Hope.

Thank you Jesus for Karol Wojtyla.