My life and my thoughts - on faith, culture, politics, whatever comes to my mind

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

In memoriam Pope John Paul II

Since Friday, whenever my beloved and I have been watching TV, we watched “Rome”. We watched news Friday evening and Saturday evening, the live feed from the place in front of St. Peter and the then still-alive Pope John Paul II. As thousands on that place and millions in front of their TV we watched for the bronze doors of St. Peter and the light in the Pope’s windows and waited for the bells. When the bells starting tolling Saturday night around 10 pm our time we actually got up again and spent another half hour in front of the TV. It was an event in history that was important to us. Maybe more important than we would have thought before. By now, we think we’ve seen about all the documentaries and pictures of the Pope there are ... (well, probably not all, but lots of them!). And it has moved us a lot.

As a Protestant, I do not share the reverence and a similar love for the late Pope like many devout Catholics. There are theological issues (and quite some important ones) where I respectfully disagree with the teaching of the Catholic Church and also this particular Pope.
But he has done many good and important things. He has been a light for Christ. And he still is now in his death. He has shown us and the world that suffering is part of our lives. A part that needs to be accepted, maybe even embraced, like all those other parts that sound more fun to our worldly minds. He has emphasized the value of life throughout his papacy. In his Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae he wrote

Here we are faced with one of the more alarming symptoms of the "culture of death", which is advancing above all in prosperous societies, marked by an attitude of excessive preoccupation with efficiency and which sees the growing number of elderly and disabled people as intolerable and too burdensome. These people are very often isolated by their families and by society, which are organized almost exclusively on the basis of criteria of productive efficiency, according to which a hopelessly impaired life no longer has any value.
The choice of euthanasia becomes more serious when it takes the form of a murder committed by others on a person who has in no way requested it and who has never consented to it. The height of arbitrariness and injustice is reached when certain people, such as physicians or legislators, arrogate to themselves the power to decide who ought to live and who ought to die. Once again we find ourselves before the temptation of Eden: to become like God who "knows good and evil" (cf. Gen 3:5). God alone has the power over life and death: "It is I who bring both death and life" (Dt 32:39; cf. 2 Kg 5:7; 1 Sam 2:6).
This natural aversion to death and this incipient hope of immortality are illumined and brought to fulfilment by Christian faith, which both promises and offers a share in the victory of the Risen Christ: it is the victory of the One who, by his redemptive death, has set man free from death, "the wages of sin" (Rom 6:23), and has given him the Spirit, the pledge of resurrection and of life (cf. Rom 8:11). The certainty of future immortality and hope in the promised resurrection cast new light on the mystery of suffering and death, and fill the believer with an extraordinary capacity to trust fully in the plan of God.

By far not everything he said was popular, not even in the Roman Catholic Church. But he stood up for what he thought was right and God’s will with boldness and courage. And I think that that is a good example for all of us.
The world has watched and wondered. This is a wonderful opportunity to share our beliefs with others. May we use it with boldness, respect and love.