John Paul II – Christianity – man
Fr. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ
Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow was elected Pope thirty years ago. He chose the name of John Paul II. I remember his predecessor to the Apostolic See justifying this name, referring to the counciliar popes: John XXIII and Paul VI. The very short pontificate of John Paul I made Cardinal Wojtyla refer to his decision. The pontificate of John Paul II has been evaluated as one of the greatest pontificates in the history because of its achievements. The Pope from the Polish nation has been defined as ‘Great’. And indeed, the work of the Holy Father for the cause of the Church is only one of its kind. He made over 100 pilgrimages to the nations of the whole world. The feet of this great Apostle of our times stood on every continent. Thus his pontificate fits the Year of St Paul, the Apostle to the Nations, which is now celebrated in the Church. Here one must mention the mission of the Church, which refers to the Triune God. God sends his Son to the world, then the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and they in turn send their successors, bishops. The holy sign of laying hands on those who are sent becomes a sign of mission and huge dynamism of the Church. Since the very beginning of her existence the Church has pointed to her missionary character that made the Good News about salvation, which Jesus Christ brought to humankind, spread in a dynamic way. The first ages of Christianity, sealed by the martyrs’ blood of Christ’s followers, who for his name, out of love for him and for spreading the holy faith did not fear to give their lives, also formed the theological foundations of Christianity – this was a rich maturing of the Church. With great joy and respect we reach for the texts of the outstanding men of the Church that show the development of the Christian doctrine and increasingly more mature view at the work of evangelisation and with every century they assume new value. Two thousand years of the history of the Church make us look with great esteem at everything what Christianity has built. One cannot imagine the development of the history of humankind without Christianity. It is thanks to the text about the commandment of love of God and neighbour based on the Greek and Roman thoughts that whole spheres of all-human philosophy, saturated with the spirit of the Gospel, have been worked out. However, we must not forget the Old Testament roots of this philosophy from which the Christian thought grew and in which background it became radiant in its whole beauty, showing God’s vision concerning man’s life. All achievements, both in humanities and technology, have their source in the Christian thought conceived at the medieval universities with their faculties of theology being great centres of the culture of Europe and the world, which was being created then. During his pontificate the Holy Father John Paul II, filled with this culture and being perfectly aware of its meaning for individuals, society and the world, reminded us of these thoughts. All his statements, including the ones flowing from the Christian, Catholic doctrine and the ones that expressed the humanistic attitude, are reminders to the world of how much we owe to the Catholic scientists and thinkers. Through his pontificate John Paul II supplied the thought of the contemporary Church with the weapon of extraordinary impact. That’s why some atheistic centres feared that power of the Church and the captivating conviction to his ideas that John Paul II presented to such an extent that they intensified their fight against it and they wanted to annihilate the Pope. However, Mary protected him with her coat, knowing that he spoke ‘to us and for us’; that he was the extended hand of the One who stands up for every man as his beloved child but who also reprimands it with fatherly love. Finally, one should see John Paul II as a man of great stability, showing people all over the world clarity and correctness of thinking, including its ethical and moral aspects. Naturally, the Pope’s thought is rooted in his faith. Therefore, the faith in Jesus Christ made John Paul II show contemporary man the luminous way if he only considers God in his life. And we witnessed how people listened to John Paul II and believed him. We also witnessed his courage when he was to preach unpopular truths in difficult situations. Today we miss John Paul II very much, especially we, Poles, who struggle with various problems for which he would have given us answers and who would have been heard. Christianity seems to have been endangered as never before and Christians forget that they are called to action, including missions. Our lacking awareness of faith makes us get frightened easily and we fear that we lack a sense of solidarity. We can face so much harm done to our brothers in India and there are so few voices to defend the aggrieved. European Christians do not feel the obligation to help Christians in other countries, to defend the foundations of justice and balance in worldly goods. We can see some affluent Christian countries maintain good economic relationships with the persecutors of Christians, for example in India or Saudi Arabia, without doing anything to improve the situation. And if the balance is ruined the chance for peace on this earth disappears retrievably. Therefore, remembering the example of the Holy Father John Paul II we should increase our appeal for Christian courage. Saint Paul, the patron of our times, was also a man of courage – courage the source of which was Jesus Christ himself. May the Pauline Year help light Christian solidarity that will defend justice. Today we must look at John Paul II but not only during the ceremonies to commemorate his person. We must remember the Holy Father travelling over the world, even when he was very ill, to convince people that it was worth being led by love, that – using the language of business – it pays to do so. We should do our best to make his teaching that cures the contemporary world become possessed by all nations and dwell in our awareness for good. John Paul II prepared our nation to greatness. Since the world has expectations about us, that thanks to our faith and reference to the Great Pope we become a leaven of a new accelerated evangelisation of Europe and the entire world so that Jesus Christ becomes ‘God with us’, the One that brings peace and restores balance to all humankind.