Examines the role played by Pope John Paul II and Mikhail Gorbachev during the recent collapse of communism in Eastern Europe
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Malachi Martin, eminent theologian, expert on the Catholic Church, former Jesuit and professor at the Vatican's Pontifical Biblical Institute, is the author of the national best-sellers Vatican, The Final Conclave, Hostage to the Devil and The Jesuits. He was trained in theology at Louvain. There he received his doctorates in Semitic Languages, Archaeology and Oriental History. He subsequently studied at Oxford and at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. From 1958 to 1964 he served in Rome, where he was a close associate of the renowned Jesuit cardinal Augustin Bea and Pope John XXIII. He now lives in New York City.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
"Everything Must Change!"
On October 14, 1978, a new era began for the Roman Catholic Church and its nearly one billion adherents around the world. And with it, the curtains were raised on the first act of the global competition that would end a thousand years of history as completely as if a nuclear war had been fought. A drama that would leave no regions or nations or individuals as they had been before. A drama that is now well under way and is already determining the very way of life that in every place every nation will live for generations to come.
On that October day, the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church assembled in the Vatican from around the world for the second time in barely two months. Only in August, they had elected Cardinal Albino Luciani of Venice as Pope John Paul I. Still in shock at the sudden -- some said suspicious -- death of the man now sadly called the "September Pope," they had convened to settle on a new man from among their contentious and divided ranks who could lead this unique two-thousand-year-old global institution at a time when it seemed in immediate danger of painful self-destruction.
Before and after any papal Conclave, discretion is normally the watchword for every Cardinal Elector. But, on this day, Joseph Cardinal Malula of Zaire did not care who in St. Peter's Square might hear his views about what kind of pope the Church must have. A stocky, well-built man with brilliant eyes and expressive mouth, Malula gestured at the Vatican buildings all around him, then struck a sharp blow against one of Bernini's columns with the flat of his hand. "All that imperial paraphernalia," he declared, "all that! Everything must change.!"
At 6:18 P.M. on the second day of Conclave, fifty-eight-year-old Karol Cardinal Wojtyla of Krakow emerged on the eighth ballot as the new ceremonial papal coronation, John Paul held a press conference for two thousand journalists in the Vatican. On the same day he addressed 125 members of the Vatican diplomatic corps representing over one hundred countries. If such a practice was not unusual in itself, the message on both occasions was certainly new in the all-encompassing international framework that was sketched out. "It is not our business," he said, "to judge the actions of government....But there is no way the dignity and the rights of all men and every human individual can be served unless that dignity and those rights are seen as founded on the life, death and resurrection of Christ....
"The Church seeks no privileges for herself," he went on, "but we do desire a dialogue with the nation." Even though the Church's diplomatic relations with so many countries "do not necessarily imply the approval of one or another regime -- that is not our business." Nevertheless, the Pontiff went on in a sort of summary preview of the scope of his interests, "we have an appreciation of the positive temporal values, a willingness for dialogue with those who are legitimately charged with the common good of society, and an understanding of their role, which is often difficult."
Clearly, this Pope portended more than a soft and appealing personal style in his pontificate; he was pointing early and with startling frankness to a new road of papal internationalism. But what -- or whose -- positive temporal values did he have in mind? And who among temporal leaders did he include among those "legitimately charged with the common good of society"? More pointedly, some began to wonder, who was excluded?
If those questions were not raised in public, they were surely raised in more than one political chancery and boardroom around the world.
Then there was the matter of his ceremonial coronation. Actually, it was not a coronation at all, for he refused to have the papal tiara placed on his head as the symbol that he was now, among other things and in the language of the ceremonial, "the Father of Princes and Kings."
That refusal was not entirely new in itself. His immediate predecessor, the "September Pope," had been the first to break with that ancient custom. Was John Paul II's behavior a sign of defiance? A sign that he had no fear of the fate of the "September Pope"? Perhaps. Was it a soothing democratic gesture after his unsettling policy speeches of a few days before? Surely, there were those who hoped as much.
Popes rarely explain such ceremonial behavior. In his own break with papal custom, however, John Paul gave the most public explanation imaginable. To all those gathered around him in St. Peter's, and to the estimated billion or so people around the world watching on television, the Pontiff gave a glimpse of his mind as Pope, and a look at the vigorous papal policies that would soon prove so troublesome to so many.
"This is not a time," he said, "to return to a ceremony and to an object" -- the tiara itself -- "that is wrongly considered to be a symbol of temporal power of the Pope."
Very soon, his actions and overt policies would illustrate over and over again the meaning of his words: John Paul's firm belief that neither tiara nor the power symbolized by such a thing was an adequate expression of the divine claim he did indeed have to exercise spiritual authority and moral primacy over all those who wield such temporal power in our lives.
About the scope of that authority and primacy he tried to leave as little doubt as possible, that October day. Speaking successively in ten languages, he gave to the world a message that was explicit and direct. "Open wide the doors of Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture and civilization and development. Do not be afraid....I want your support in this, my mission."
There were those in very high places who understood and winced at the global reach John Paul seemed ready to make his own as Pope. Some powerful leaders at the helm of those states whose boundaries the Pope wanted open to him would not be entirely happy to oblige. Hard-driving leaders of economic and political systems he referred to. with their own plans for development well along in the "vast fields of culture and civilization," would not willingly open those fields to this Pope or any other. And not least among those who took the point, and winced, were some among the highest of John Paul's own clergy, in and out of the Vatican.
John Paul anticipated those reactions, and later learned about them in some detail. What seemed more remarkable was the seeming lack of interest demonstrated by the media around the world in what was a stunning glimpse into the heart of the new papacy. Still, if he was worried about either the international concern or the seeming indifference in the media, he gave no sign of it.
Instead, shortly after his election, John Paul gave yet another clear notice of how sweeping he intended his policies to be.
His intention, he said, was "to start anew on the road of history and of the Church, to start with the help of God and with the help of man."
Lest anyone mistake his mind on the subject of temporal power, or perhaps in answer to a worried complaint or two, the new Pontiff addressed the same point again at his first papal Mass. With St. Peter's filled to the last seat by many of the leaders he most intended to reach, he declared: "We have no intentions of political interference, nor of interfering in the working out of temporal affairs....It is not our business to judge the actions of governments."
Fevered diplomatic brows were not soothed, however. The unasked question in many minds was obvious: "But Your Holiness does intend to insert yourself into our temporal affairs -- to cross our political and cultural and economic boundaries. But if not as a wielder of temporal power yourself, in what guise, then, Holiness?"
Apparently, the media at large could still find no way to zero in on what the new Pope might have meant by such statements. Or perhaps they found it dull copy after the death-and-destiny stories of just a few weeks before. Whatever the reason, publicity continued to focus its ever-present lenses on an entire landscape of trivia still to be mined. Everything was grist for the mill, from the fact that he was the tallest of the twentieth-century Popes to the fact that he was the first Pope to wear long trousers under his papal robes, and the first to be an accomplished skier. Even his impressive academic achievements were judged to be better copy than his open notice to the world of what could be expected from him as head of the only power in the world whose organization, institutions and personnel, as well as its authority, crossed all the borders and all the cultures and all the civilizations he had targeted without benefit of tiara in St. Peter's Basilica.
As if to spare the world the boredom of endless stories that were appearing in the media about such things as his three doctorates, in philosophy, theology and phenomenology; or about his ten published books, including drama and poetry; or about his university lecturing, John Paul launched into activities that were the dream of reporters and editors and proved themselves to be sources of fresh material. Stories not of the past, but the present. Stories not of opaque policies they couldn't explain, but of people with faces they could photograph.
Even here, John Paul's activities and gestures began to speak loudly of a new papal approach. Before October's end, he had granted a $375 bonus and a five-day vacation -- from the first to the fifth of November -- to all Vatican workers.
More significantly, he began to shoulder aside the idea that the Pope must dwell within the tranquil golden amber of the Vatican. The idea, so detested by Cardinal Malula, that the Holy Father did not come to see you or your surroundings. The idea that the most you might see of him if you went to Rome would be at public blessings in the luminous Roman airs. There was to be no such constricted, hidden life for John Paul.
For one thing, he refused the traditional use of the papal "We" and "Us" and "Our." "I," he said, in referring to himself in every context and conversation; and "me" and "my," just like everyone else.
Moreover, he popped up everywhere, as if Rome were Krakow and Italy were Poland and he had never left his home or his people. In quick order, he visited the towns of Assisi and Siena. He inspected the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. He worshiped at the mountain shrine of La Mentorella. He traveled to see one ailing bishop and one ailing cardinal in Roman hospitals.
Far from being questioned or criticized, such spontaneous and rapid-fire visibility -- undertaken, moreover, with an obvious zest and personal energy -- was welcomed by the media and delighted the public. Italians -- and Romans in particular -- who, for centuries before this, had invented the very Italian concept of l'uomo in order to characterize the exclusive flair and personal style of an individual, took this extraordinary Pope as their very own.
They loved his public apologies for the few mistakes he made when addressing them in Italian. They loved his obvious delight in their children. They found his independence of mind concerning ancient customs so much like their own attitudes. Quickly they began calling him il nostro polacco -- our Pole. But even this gave way to "Papa Wojtyla": just as Paul VI had been Papa Montini for them; and John XXIII had been Papa Roncalli; and Pius XII had been Papa Pacelli. Pole by birth, he was now Roman by adoption. Papa Wojtyla was theirs.
Whenever he walked in St. Peter's Square, crowds literally mobbed him. In fact, so close were their encounters with him that he often returned to his apartments minus several buttons from his papal robe and with some dozen lipstick marks on his white papal sleeves.
When he went to take possession of the ancient papal church, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, tens of thousands left their shops and offices and homes all along the way to cheer him, to kiss his hand, to ask his blessing. When he took a helicopter to reach the mountain shrine of La Mentorella, he found crowds of men and women who had already scaled that difficult height and were waiting there to greet him.
The delight of the Italian press in all this papal activity was infectious, at least for a while. Many a newspaper in other lands seemed to echo the benign and favorable tone taken by The New York Times in its lead editorial of November 11. "A man," said the Times of Pope John Paul, "who knows himself to be in charge, beholden to no nation or faction, strong without being rigid."
For the moment, Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee could find few Churchmen who could comfort him publicly for having rushed too soon to tell the world that "the Italian people were deeply hurt by the election of a Pole as Pope."
Papa Wojtyla's personal innovative style within the Vatican itself did spark a few complaints of unpapal behavior. The ever-alert paparazzi, with their zoom lenses ever at the ready, caught excellent shots of John Paul jogging in the Vatican gardens at 4:30 in the afternoon. Il jogging papale -- the papal jogging -- as his clockwork habit was quickly dubbed, was readily taken by lighthearted Romans to fix the time of their afternoon rendezvous.
When John Paul ordered a 40-by-82-foot swimming pool to be dug at Castel Gandolfo, there were some reproaches about the expense. The Pontiff countered that "a new Conclave would be much more expensive." The deft and smiling implication that even a pope might succumb because of a lack of adequate exercise added an easy personal tone to the publicity that ho one had expected, and that few could match.
As the weeks went on, there seemed to be so much to write about this Pope that was so new, and often so downright entertaining, that no amount of copy seemed to satisfy an ever-mounting curiosity about the uncommon common man who had come to the papacy. Even his work schedule proved to be good copy. His eighteen-hour day caused much rolling heavenward of Italian eyes. The world learned that he was up at 5:00 A.M. That he had a working breakfast, a working lunch, a working dinner, always with guests and always with plenty of documents. That he went late to his bed.
Among those government leaders who were far more interested in John Paul's policies than his publicity were the leaders in the countries of Eastern Europe and their Soviet masters in Moscow. By late October, their worries in particular were raised to a new level by the first orchestrated rumors and speculation -- spread by word of mouth and by authoritative media articles fed from within the Vatican itself -- that this new Pope was going to visit Poland.
In later years, the world became accustomed to the idea of John Paul II popping up in the most unexpected places as easily as he had gone to Assisi and Siena and La Mentorella. But in October and November of 1978, the very thought of a visit to Poland was a bombshell. Preposterous, said some; foolhardy and pointless, said others.
Nevertheless, it was officially confirmed: John Paul's Vatican was "talking with Warsaw." And while it might turn out to be foolhardy, it was anything but pointless. It was the clearest indication of what John Paul regarded, and still regards, as the essential hub of his vision of the new "road of history and of the Church"
Warsaw was not the only bombshell John Paul lobbed, as he went rapidly about installing the new spirit of his papacy. By means of his papal style, and taking the mantle of publicity that fell so easily and so usefully around him as an instru...
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Book Description Simon & Schuster, 1990. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110671691740
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