Clare McGrath Merkle: Revert from the New Age to Catholic Faith – The Journey Home

Clare McGrath Merkle: Revert from the New Age to Catholic Faith – The Journey Home

Uploaded on Jul 10, 2015

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The New Age Movement and the Demonic click below:

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The tax collector, completely aware of the enormity of his sin, and therefore of his unworthiness, beats his breast and prays, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Where does he get the confidence to do this? His experience of limitation and failure has led him, not to despair, but to depend. He remains certain that there is something beyond “every evil threat” and that the Lord will rescue him. Maybe it was his sin that jogged his memory of the promise of Sirach: “The Lord hears the cry of the oppressed. The prayer of the lowly pierce the clouds.” This is why the formerly unspeakably sinful Paul can say without boasting: “From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me.” For “whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” And the saints wrote, “We should let God be the One to praise us and not praise ourselves. For God detests those who commend themselves. Let others applaud our good deeds (Pope St. Clement I)….And the soul’s true greatness is in loving God and in humbling oneself in His presence, completely forgetting oneself and believing oneself to be nothing; because the Lord is great, but He is well-pleased only with the humble; He always opposes the proud (St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in my Soul). ‘If humble souls are contradicted, they remain calm; if they are calumniated, they suffer with patience; if they are little esteemed, neglected, or forgotten, they consider that their due; if they are weighed down with occupations, they perform them cheerfully’” (St. Vincent de Paul).


Opening Prayer

“Lord, may your love control my thoughts and actions that I may do what is pleasing to you. Show me where I lack charity, mercy, and forgiveness toward my neighbor.  And help me to be generous in giving to others what you have so generously given to me.” In your Name, I pray. Amen.

Reading 1
Sir 35:12-14, 16-18 – The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds.

The LORD is a God of justice,
who knows no favorites.
Though not unduly partial toward the weak,
yet he hears the cry of the oppressed.
The Lord is not deaf to the wail of the orphan,
nor to the widow when she pours out her complaint.
The one who serves God willingly is heard;
his petition reaches the heavens.
The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds;
it does not rest till it reaches its goal,
nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds,
judges justly and affirms the right,
and the Lord will not delay.

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 34:2-3, 17-18, 19, 23

R. (7a) The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
The LORD confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.
When the just cry out, the Lord hears them,
and from all their distress he rescues them.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
The LORD redeems the lives of his servants;
no one incurs guilt who takes refuge in him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

Reading II
2 Tm 4:6-8, 16-18 – From now on, the crown of righteousness awaits me.

I am already being poured out like a libation,
and the time of my departure is at hand.
I have competed well; I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.
From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me,
which the Lord, the just judge,
will award to me on that day, and not only to me,
but to all who have longed for his appearance.

At my first defense no one appeared on my behalf,
but everyone deserted me.
May it not be held against them!
But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength,
so that through me the proclamation might be completed
and all the Gentiles might hear it.
And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.
The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat
and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom.
To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.

The word of the Lord.

Lk 18:9-14 – The tax collector, not the Pharisee, went home justified.

Bishop Robert Barron’s Homily: Prayer and Pride click below:

Jesus addressed this parable
to those who were convinced of their own righteousness
and despised everyone else.
“Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity —
greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection 1 – No favorites

Dr. Scott Hahn’s reflection click below: 

Jesus draws a blunt picture in today’s Gospel.

The Pharisee’s prayer is almost a parody of the thanksgiving psalms (see for example Psalms 30,118). Instead of praising God for His mighty works, the Pharisee congratulates himself for his own deeds, which he presents to God in some detail.

The tax collector stands at a distance, too ashamed even to raise his eyes to God (see Ezra 9:6). He prays with a humble and contrite heart (see Psalm 51:19). He knows that before God no one is righteous, no one has cause to boast (seeRomans 3:104:2).

We see in the Liturgy today one of Scripture’s abiding themes—that God “knows no favorites,” as today’s First Reading tells us (see 2 Chronicles 19:7Acts 10:34-35Romans 2:11).

God cannot be bribed (see Deuteronomy 10:17). We cannot curry favor with Him or impress Him—even with our good deeds or our faithful observance of religious duties such as tithing and fasting.

If we try to exalt ourselves before the Lord, as the Pharisee does, we will be brought low (see Luke 1:52).

This should be a warning to us—not to take pride in our piety, not to slip into the self-righteousness of thinking that we’re better than others, that we’re “not like the rest of sinful humanity.”

If we clothe ourselves with humility (see 1 Peter 5:5-6)—recognize that all of us are sinners in need of His mercy—we will be exalted (see Proverbs 29:33).

The prayer of the lowly, the humble, pierces the clouds. Paul testifies to this in today’s Epistle, as He thanks the Lord for giving him strength during his imprisonment.

Paul tells us what the Psalmist sings today—that the Lord redeems the lives of His humble servants.

We too must serve Him willingly. And He will hear us in our distress, deliver us from evil, and bring us safely to His heavenly kingdom. – Read the source:

Reflection 2 –  Righteousness, the Mark of a True Servant

The mark of a true servant of God and an authentic Christian fellowship is Christ’s righteousness, where humility rules the heart and soul of everyone.

God’s righteousness, the natural expression of His justice and His holiness, rests on His humility. Jesus teaches that true righteousness is not what men regard as popular and justified in the sight of God, but one based on what He sees in our hearts. “You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human esteem is abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15).

The scribes and Pharisees thought of themselves as setting the standard for righteousness. They felt that they, of all men, were righteous. But Jesus said, “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

Jesus Himself said those who appeared to be the most righteous would not make it into the kingdom on their kind of righteousness. He said, blessed are not the scribes and Pharisees, but the “poor in spirit,” those who “mourn,” the “gentle,” those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” the “merciful,” the “pure in heart,” the “peacemakers,” and those who are “persecuted” on account of their relationship with Him (Matthew 5:3-12).

When God takes second place to man, when neither Christ nor God’s Word is the standard, when we have set ourselves as standard, self-righteousness becomes a most difficult sin to recognize since it emanates from an attitude of the heart rather than an action. It is one of those plagues we don’t even know we have as it comes with a spiritual pride that blinds us to all self-righteousness except that which is in others.

Let us realize that righteousness of God means that we, as the children of God should seek to imitate our heavenly Father. We should seek to be humble like Christ “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God but humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” We ought to willingly suffer the injustice of men but in faith, pray, as our Lord instructed us.

Today, we would do well if we “fix our eyes” on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and be not convinced of our own righteousness. Let us not believe that we are superior to the rest of humanity -greedy, dishonest and adulterous – but be like the repentant tax collector who could not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed ”O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” When we look at Jesus, we must not look at others and worry about whether or not they match up to our own righteousness. Let Christ be the standard and realize we will never equal His righteousness here on earth. Without Him, we have no ability to attain true righteousness.

The cure for self-righteousness is humility in merciful prayer because the Lord hears the prayer of the righteous, the orphan and the widow. The humble prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds, judges justly and affirms the right without delay for the one who humbles himself will be exalted. The one who humbly serves God willingly is heard and his petitions reaches the heavens.

Jesus commands us to deny ourselves in humility by following His example, by setting aside our pride, by giving our neighbor their God-given dignity and “in humility consider others better than yourselves” Philippians 2:3b. It means seeing others as co-equals, loving one another with mutual affection; anticipating one another in showing honor (Genesis 1:27) as God’s children, special and created in His image. We need to guard our hearts against prejudice and jealousy towards other people, and serve one another in love.

Our fight against self-righteousness will always be a constant battle but with prayer and the Holy Spirit living in us, we will have the grace to know our real selves and we will be empowered to be humble.

The time of our departure may be at hand so let us face the truth behind who we are and ask God in prayer to remove our self-righteousness and allow us to run the race, complete it well by keeping the faith for today the crown of righteousness awaits everyone!

Reflection 3 – Pride and self-righteousness

Our gospel parable speaks to us about how man has the inclination to pride oneself as righteous and his neighbor as inferior. Having heard this teaching time and again from our Lord, brings to us the real need to be mindful of our nature.

Man tends to look on oneself over one’s neighbor. When we do this, we actually remove our focus from God. We shift it from Him to ourselves.  We allow our self-righteousness to blossom and be what the devil hopes we will be. Whatever humility God has started to work in us is lost. What will naturally flow will be our spiritual arrogance which has no place in us and within God’s family.

Going through the parable one will easily notice how the Pharisee focused on the ” I “.  Instead of using God as his measure and seeing how defective he was, what he did was to compare himself with the rest of his brothers and sisters. He in short, prided himself as being a lot better than the rest of God’s people.  As a contrast, we have the tax collector who accepted his own unworthiness and humbled himself in front f our Lord.  He did not think of himself as one sinner among the many but looked at himself as the sinner who is not worthy of anything from God.

As believers, God wants us to wake up to the truth that because of man’s sinful nature we are generally self-righteous. Jesus wants to remind us that it is the spirit of repentance and authentic humility that is acceptable to God when He said: ” for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

As a way of recall, let us ask ourselves this question: How many times have we, in community and in God’s church, proclaimed to people that such a person is not worthy of any ministry because one is not healed, because one is bitter, broken and sinful? How many times have we said that unless one changes (according to standards personally set by us), such a man will never progress in his relationship with God and in his work for Him and therefore could never guide God’s flock?  Isn’t this very self centered and so self-righteous to say? When we did this, did we go home justified like the tax collector or were we like the Pharisee, exalted by our own PRIDE?

Today’s gospel actually recalls Luke 7:36-50 where we are all witness as to how a Pharisee haughtily judged Jesus when the woman who had led a sinful life wept and washed His feet. The love that the woman showed Jesus was beyond the understanding of the Pharisee; neither could he comprehend what the power of forgiveness can do to someone who has a contrite heart and a repentant spirit.

In announcing that the woman’s sins were forgiven, Jesus simply stated what was already true as her love only showed that she had been forgiven. Love is a fruit of God’s work within our hearts when He forgives us.

God is not suggesting that we are all great sinners but rather He wants us to acknowledge our sins and the vast guilt that He has forgiven in us.

Have we loved our Lord? If we did, then we would have loved Him deeply as the sinful woman did. We would have gone to great lengths to show how thankful we were for what He has brought upon us, His forgiveness. We are all sinners and we can all know more of God’s forgiveness. We can and ought to love our Lord greatly. Jesus said: “So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”

Some of us may have been so proud years ago when we thought we were at the top of the world. But after going through some humbling experiences, we may now realize who we are, how weak and vulnerable we are to the ways of the world. Before, we may have only considered ourselves, quite self-serving and selfish, now we may be loving and so self-giving. We may have been so judgmental and condescending, now we are not only so forgiving and compassionate but also loving because we know from our bitter and humbling experience that we are so prone to fail.  Maybe this was how the woman in today’s gospel felt as Jesus forgave all her sins.

Are we like the woman who Jesus forgave or are we more like Simon, the Pharisee, who haughtily judged Jesus and the penitent woman?

Just like the tax collector who went home justified, let us approach the throne of our Lord and accept our unworthiness and sincerely ask God for forgiveness. Let us look at ourselves and at each other as the same deformed creature that we are because of our sins yet with a lot of goodness inside for each one of us is made up of the goodness of our God.

In our prayers let us have true concern for God’s people and lift our neighbor up to the Lord rather than pull them down for our own glory. “Let us strive to know the Lord for as certain as the dawn is his coming and his judgment shines forth like the light of day.  He will come to us like the rain, like spring rain that waters the earth!”


The only way to see one’s sinfulness and brokenness is to be properly focused on the Lord.


Heavenly Father even as I pray and preach your Word, I know how sinful I am. I have failed You in a lot of ways and far from the Model You have set for me.  I am quite close to the Pharisees that I seek your mercy on me, O God, in your goodness, in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly was me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me.  In the Name of Jesus, I hope, pray and repent. Amen.

Reflection 3 – Humble and Contrite Prayer

The aging actor was trying to impress a gorgeous young girl at the bar. “Don’t you recognize me?” he asked. She shook her head. “I’m quite well known in the movies,” he continued. “Oh!” she said, her eyes lighting up. “Where do you usually sit?” (Adapted from Reader’s Digest)

Proud persons are prone to embarrassment. This is God’s way of teaching them about the evil of pride. A few years ago I had the privilege of visiting the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in France. I joined the other pilgrims in plunging myself in the miraculous healing waters. I was wearing my clerical shirt all the time. But we were made to strip off all our clothes before going down the waters. This made a deep impression on me. Stripped of everything, I was reminded of the truth that, in God’s presence, everybody is equal – we are all sinners, limited and in need of God’s mercy and help. This, then, was an invitation for me to go deeper in humility if I want to bathe in God’s abundant graces.

St. Bernadette’s words ring true: What will be the crown of those who, humble within and humiliated without, have imitated the humility of our Savior in all its fullness!” The Psalm says, “A humble, contrite heart, O God, You will not spurn.” Indeed, a humble heart is truly beautiful in the eyes of God.

Every time we come to Mass, we are reminded that we come before the presence of God, and so we need to humble ourselves. In fact, the entire sacred celebration is filled with the spirit of humility. It starts with the Penitential Rite. The priest invites us to have the right disposition: “Brothers and sisters, let us acknowledge our sins, and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.” The readings usually remind us of God’s mighty deeds and of man’s helplessness and sinfulness. These are calls to repentance and conversion. In the Prayers of the Faithful we express all our needs, humbly acknowledging and imploring God’s merciful providence. In the Eucharistic Prayer leading to Consecration, we are asked to kneel, the vivid expression of humility in worship. And most especially, receiving Holy Communion kneeling down is still the best expression of sublime humility and complete reverence for the Sacred Body of the Lord. Nowadays, kneeling is becoming less popular. Pope Benedict XVI said: “The man who learns to believe learns also to kneel, and a faith or liturgy no longer familiar with kneeling is sick to the core (The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 194). And just before receiving Holy Communion we say, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive You but only say the word, and I shall be healed.” After all, who is worthy anyway to receive the sacred Body and Blood of Jesus?

The Gospel this Sunday further underlines this point. Jesus gives us a lesson on the need to be humble, and avoid the trap of proud people “who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.” He used two contrasting models of prayer: that of the Pharisee and the tax collector.

The Pharisee in the Gospel was a good and highly respected man. He was a very disciplined and serious-minded believer who committed himself to a life of regular prayer and observance of God’s law. But when he prayed in the Temple, he did not enjoy the favor of God. The fatal mistake of the prayer of the Pharisee is the lack of humility. We do not pray to report to God our accomplishments. We do not come to Mass to tell God how great we are. And most especially, we do not use prayer in condemning sinners and judging other people. This was precisely the great blunder of the Pharisee. Although he was a very good man, he was far from God. Pride is the worst capital sin, the root of all sins. When pride enters the spiritual life, it becomes the worst of all. It is bad to boast about our money, intelligence and social status. But it is much worse to boast about our own holiness and righteousness. This is called spiritual pride. Jesus has the harshest words against it, as he consistently condemned the holier-than-thou attitude of the Jewish leaders of his time. St. Vincent de Paul said: “You must ask God to give you power to fight against the sin of pride which is your greatest enemy – the root of all that is evil, and the failure of all that is good. For God resists the proud.”

The tax collector, on the other hand, was a public sinner. He was the most hated man in the community for being a traitor to the Jewish people and dishonest in his conduct. But his prayer was more pleasing to God. He had the right disposition before God. He trusted not in himself or in anything he had done but only in God’s mercy. He acknowledged the truth – that he was a great sinner – and so he dared not approach the altar. From a distance, he just bowed his head and said: “O, God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” In his humility, he came to know the truth that God is full of mercy and love. Blessed Giles of Assisi said: “No man can attain to the knowledge of God but by humility. The way to mount high is to descend.”

The way to true holiness is humility. It is the most basic foundation of all Christian virtues. All the saints, without exception, were profoundly humble persons. It is impossible to be holy without humility. As one comes closer to God, the True Light, the more clearly he sees his own unworthiness and sinfulness. The prayer of the tax collector is the same prayer that the saints utter over and over again: “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” That is why the saints, despite their avowed holiness of life, make it a point to come to the sacrament of Confession almost every day.

This, then, leads us to fully appreciate the value of regular and frequent Confession. St. Isidore of Seville said:“Confession heals, confession justifies, confession grants pardon of sin. All hope consists in confession. In confession there is a chance for mercy. Believe it firmly. Do not doubt, do not hesitate, never despair of the mercy of God. Hope and have confidence in confession.” The sacrament of Confession truly helps us grow in the depths of humility and in the heights of holiness.

As we come once again before God’s presence in this Holy Sacrifice, let us bow our heads in humble acknowledgement of our unworthiness and sinfulness. May the Lord Jesus, who humbled himself on the cross, fill us with the grace of humility so that we may become truly pleasing and beautiful in the eyes of God (Source: Fr. Mike Lagrimas, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road, Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422).

Reflection 4 – ‘Guilty!’

God, be merciful to me a sinner! –Luke 18:13

The great “prince of preachers” Charles Haddon Spurgeon used to tell the story of a duke who boarded a galley ship and went below to talk with the criminals manning the oars. He asked several of them what their offenses were. Almost every man claimed he was innocent, blaming someone else or accusing the judge of taking a bribe.

One young fellow, however, replied, “Sir, I deserve to be here. I stole some money. No one is at fault but me. I’m guilty.” Upon hearing this, the duke shouted, “You scoundrel, you! What are you doing here with all these honest men? Get out of their company at once!” The duke ordered that this prisoner be released. He was set free, while the rest were left to tug at the oars. The key to this prisoner’s freedom was his admission of guilt.

That’s also true in salvation. Until a person is willing to admit, “I am a sinner in need of salvation,” he cannot experience freedom from guilt and condemnation.

Have you ever said, “I plead guilty”? If not, do so right now. You can never save yourself, so receive the Lord Jesus as your Savior by placing your trust in Him. Then, once you are set free from sin’s guilt and power, you will know the joy of forgiveness and freedom.  — Richard De Haan

Admitting that we’re guilty,
Acknowledging our sin,
Then trusting in Christ’s sacrifice
Will make us clean within. –Sper

Sin brings fear; confession brings freedom (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).

Reflection 5 – Lost And Found

The tax collector . . . beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!. –Luke 18:13

Evangelist D. L. Moody once visited a prison called “The Tombs” to preach to the inmates. After he had finished speaking, Moody talked with a number of men in their cells. He asked each prisoner this question, “What brought you here?” Again and again he received replies like this: “I don’t deserve to be here.” “I was framed.” “I was falsely accused.” “I was not given a fair trial.” Not one inmate would admit he was guilty.

Moody finally found a man with his face buried in his hands, weeping. “What’s wrong, my friend?” he inquired. The prisoner responded, “My sins are more than I can bear.” Relieved to find at least one man who would recognize his guilt and need of forgiveness, the evangelist exclaimed, “Thank God for that!” Moody then joyfully led him to a saving knowledge of Christ—a knowledge that released him from the shackles of his sin.

What an accurate picture of the two contrasting attitudes spoken of in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the publican! (Luke 18:9-14). As long as the sinner claims innocence and denies his sin before the Lord, he cannot receive the blessings of redemption. But when he pleads guilty and cries out, “God, be merciful to me a sinner,” he is forgiven. In order to be found, you must first recognize that you are lost.  — Richard De Haan

Lost in the night, far from the light,
That’s where the Lord found me;
Troubled within, and burdened with sin,
He saved and set me free. —Peterson

To find salvation you must admit you are lost (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).

Reflection 6 – Paradox

Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. –Luke 18:14

Luke 18 contains a startling paradox. The man who admitted he was wrong was declared right, while the one who claimed to be right was condemned as wrong (vv.9-14).

Jesus told this parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee to teach the true way of salvation to those “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (v.9). He wanted them to see that they had a false righteousness like the Pharisee, who thanked God that he was “not like other men” (v.11).

What they needed was the attitude of the tax collector, who saw himself as a sinner. He realized that he had to rely solely on God’s mercy and grace. Jesus said of him, “This man went down to his house justified rather than the other” (v.14).

Perhaps you’ve never considered this seeming paradox–how you as a sinner can be justified through faith. If you are still trying to save yourself, you stand condemned. But as soon as you admit that you are hopelessly lost and you place your trust in Christ, God will forgive you and declare you righteous (Rom. 10:13). It is through faith alone that anyone can be justified in the sight of God (Rom. 3:28; Eph. 2:8-10).

Think about the parable Jesus told. Are you like the Pharisee or the tax collector?  — Richard De Haan

Just as I am, without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come! –Elliott

We are saved by God’s mercy, not by our merit (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).

Reflection 7 – Prayer Circles

Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled. —Luke 18:14

Around the circle the 6th-grade girls went, taking turns praying for each other in the Bible-study group. “Father in heaven,” Anna prayed, “please help Tonya not to be so boy-crazy.” Tonya added with a giggle, “And help Anna to stop acting so horrible in school and bothering other kids.” Then Talia prayed, “Lord, help Tonya to listen to her mother instead of always talking back.”

Although the requests were real, the girls seemed to enjoy teasing their friends by pointing out their flaws in front of the others instead of caring about their need for God’s help. Their group leader reminded them about the seriousness of talking to almighty God and the importance of evaluating their own hearts.

If we use prayer to point out the faults of others while ignoring our own, we’re like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable. He prayed, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector” (Luke 18:11). Instead, we’re to be like the man who asked God to be merciful to him, “a sinner” (v.13).

Let’s be careful not to let our prayers become a listing of others’ flaws. The kind of prayer God desires flows out of a humble evaluation of our own sinful hearts.  — Anne Cetas

Lord, teach us how to pray aright,
Oh, lead us in Your way;
Humbly we bow in Your pure light;
Lord, teach us how to pray. —Anon.

The highest form of prayer comes from the depths of a humble heart (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).

Reflection 8 – God, be merciful to me a sinner!

How can we know if our prayer is pleasing to God or not? The prophet Hosea, who spoke in God’s name, said: “I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6). The prayers and sacrifices we make to God mean nothing to him if they do not spring from a heart of love for God and for one’s neighbor. How can we expect God to hear our prayers if we do not approach him with humility and with a contrite heart that seeks mercy and forgiveness? We stand in constant need of God’s grace and help. That is why Scripture tells us that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6; Proverbs 3:34).

God hears the prayer of the humble
Jesus reinforced this warning with a vivid story of two people at prayer. Why did the Lord accept one person’s prayer and reject the other’s prayer? Luke gives us a hint: despising one’s neighbor closes the door to God’s heart. Expressing disdain and contempt for others is more than being mean-minded. It springs from the assumption that one is qualified to sit in the seat of judgment and to publicly shame those who do not conform to our standards and religious practices. Jesus’ story caused offense to the religious-minded Pharisees who regarded “tax collectors” as unworthy of God’s grace and favor. How could Jesus put down a “religious person” and raise up a “public sinner”?

Jesus’ parable speaks about the nature of prayer and our relationship with God. It does this by contrasting two very different attitudes towards prayer. The Pharisee, who represented those who take pride in their religious practices, exalted himself at the expense of others. Absorbed with his own sense of self-satisfaction and self-congratulation, his boastful prayer was centered on his good religious practices rather than on God’s goodness, grace, and pardon. Rather than humbling himself before God and asking for God’s mercy and help, this man praised himself while despising those he thought less worthy. The Pharisee tried to justify himself before God and before those he despised; but only God can justify us. The tax collector, who represented those despised by religious-minded people, humbled himself before God and begged for mercy. His prayer was heard by God because he had true sorrow for his sins. He sought God with humility rather than with pride.

The humble recognize their need for God’s mercy and help
This parable presents both an opportunity and a warning. Pride leads to self-deception and spiritual blindness. True humility helps us to see ourselves as we really are in God’s eyes and it inclines us to seek God’s help and mercy. God dwells with the humble of heart who recognize their own sinfulness and who acknowledge God’s mercy and saving grace. I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit (Isaiah 57:15). God cannot hear us if we boast in ourselves and despise others. Do you humbly seek God’s mercy and do you show mercy to others, especially those you find difficult to love and to forgive?

“Lord Jesus, may your love and truth transform my life – my inner thoughts, intentions, and attitudes, and my outward behavior, speech, and actions. Where I lack charity, kindness, and forbearance, help me to embrace your merciful love and to seek the good of my neighbor, even those who cause me ill-favor or offense. May I always love as you have loved and forgive others as you have forgiven.” – Read the source:

Reflection 9 – True Prayer to God Expands the Heart for Others

The book of Sirach is a collection of observations as poignant today as they were when Sirach’s grandson collected them in Alexandria twenty-one hundred years ago. Today Sirach tells us God knows no favorites. Thus, “he hears the cry of the oppressed,” but is “not unduly partial toward the weak.”

God undoubtedly has a special concern for the economically poor. But there are riches of all sorts. Sirach says “the prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds,” and our catechism echoes this when it tells us, “Abandonment to the providence of the Father… frees us from anxiety about tomorrow… and is a preparation for the blessedness of the poor” (CCC:2447). We accomplish very little if we embrace material simplicity but refuse to cultivate an accompanying poverty of spirit.

This is no doubt why the tax collector in the Gospel goes home justified while the Pharisee does not. There is nothing wrong with the Pharisee’s prayer. The commandments condemn adultery, greed and dishonesty, so this man is properly grateful that he avoids these sins. We too should be grateful when we avoid them. The problem is that the Pharisee says “thanks’ to God, but he’s really talking to himself. He goes home unjustified because he has expanded himself to fill his little world until there is no room for anything – or anyone – from outside. There’s a frightening moral lesson here, and the catechism remarks, “According to the Scripture, it is the ‘heart’ that prays. If our heart is far away from God, the words of prayer are in vain” (CCC:2652).

Meanwhile, Sirach tells us, “the prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds,” and this is the point of today’s parable. Salvation is altogether God’s gift. So is the ability to pray. “Only when we humbly acknowledge that ‘we do not know how to pray as we ought,’ are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer” (CCC:2559). The tax collector grasps this and says, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Our catechism comments specifically on this prayer and teaches that asking for forgiveness is the “prerequisite” for all prayer, because, “A trusting humility brings us back into the light of communion between the Father and his Son Jesus Christ and with one another” (CCC:2631).

Humility is the virtue by which we attribute to God all the good that we possess. It saves us from false pride in our achievements – which can, indeed, be splendid – without discouraging our efforts to achieve perfection. After the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, humility is said to be the most important virtue, because it submits all our life to the true order of being.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commends the poor in spirit (Mt 5:3). “The Beatitudes reveal an order of happiness and grace, of beauty and peace” (CCC:2546). Once we grasp this, Jesus’ judgment on the tax collector and the Pharisee makes perfect sense. For when we acknowledge that not only everything we possess but even our very existence and being are gifts freely bestowed upon us, dependence on God brings us fulfillment while the illusion of independence proves to be self-destruction.

This is the first step toward what the Church calls contemplative prayer: “the prayer of the child of God, of the forgiven sinner who agrees to welcome the love by which he is loved and who wants to respond to it by loving even more” (CCC:2712). Once again, we are drawn back to the heart. Our heart responds to God’s love with vocal prayer, which can (with practice) lead to meditation. But these are active forms of prayer; we must perform something to do them.

Contemplative prayer is silent and receptive (CCC:2716). It is an intense communion, in which God speaks and “the Spirit of adoption enables us to share in the prayer of Jesus” (CCC:2717), who asks us to “keep watch” with him (Mt 26:40). Our progress in this intimacy is called “mystical” because it opens the vast treasury of God’s life – the “mysteries” of our faith – which we can never penetrate by our own efforts (CCC:2014).

This union may result in the extraordinary charismatic gifts St. Paul lists in his Letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 12), but its greatest reward is our (usually unspectacular) participation in Christ’s death and resurrection. St. Paul reminds us that the greatest of God’s gifts is the gift of love. This is manifest most clearly in contemplative union with the Father, and spills over in our relations with one another and the world (CCC:2718).

The parable in today’s Gospel is unique to Luke, and it is unusual. Most of the parables warn us what will happen when we die; this affirms what happens today. God abandons those who believe they can exalt themselves, and exalts those who abandon themselves, if they abandon themselves to him. (Source: Fr. Reginald Martin, O.P., “Homilies for Sunday Liturgies and Feasts,” Homiletic & Pastoral Review, Vol CX, No. 10. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, August/September 2010, pp. 45-47; Suggested Reading: Catechism of the Catholic Church #: 25-41-50; 2742-45).

Reflection 10 – God of justice

The Wisdom of Sirach names God a “God of justice,” a God who does not disregard the plea of the poor, but answers it without delay.

The responsorial psalm reiterates the message given to us by Ben Sirach: “The Lord hears the cry of the poor.” 

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul proclaims that the God who accompanied him during his trial will be the same God who will crown him with glory at his passing from this world.

Like the parable of the persistent widow, today’s parable is about prayer. However, while last Sunday’s parable was about praying with persistence, this Sunday’s parable is about praying with humility. 

Before you sit too comfortably and add your condemnation of the Pharisee to that of Jesus, let me invite you to consider the following:

The Pharisee deserves our respect. After all, he was one amongst the men who financed the Synagogues’ religious services; he had zeal in his desire to follow the letter of the Law—I mean, he fasted twice a week, and gave 10 or 15% of his income to the Synagogue; and he possibly occupied a high place among the religious authorities of his time. He was a good man, indeed!

The tax collector, on the other hand, was a despicable man. He was, indeed, nothing but a conniving thief and a traitor. He worked for the occupying power, the Roman Empire, and overcharged his fellow countrymen so that he could keep the extra money for himself. Do not imagine the tax collector as a poor man. Oh, no! He did well for himself, and kept apart from the poor people he exploited, considering himself to be superior to the rest of them.

Why was it then, you may be asking now, that Jesus praised the tax collector and disliked the Pharisee’s prayer? Simply put, because the Pharisee forgot what prayer is all about! In other words, if our prayer life does not have a direct impact in how we see, judge, and treat others and ourselves, then we have missed the picture entirely.

In the Gospel of Matthew (7:1-5), Jesus issues a clear command:

Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.

The Pharisee may have followed the letter of the Law to a “t” but he knew nothing about the Spirit of the Law. The tax collector, on the other hand, understood—even if at an intuitive level—that as a sinner, he was in dire need of God’s mercy and forgiveness. He was guided and moved by the Spirit of the Law.

How many times have we heard harsh judgments and condemnations during the past months? How many times have we covertly or overtly acquiesced to such judgments? How many times have we moved from a place of disbelief to a place of indifference or, even worse, to a place of support when individuals’ reputations have been ruined through gossip and/or innuendo, when entire groups of peoples have been demonized without any nuance or factual evidence, and when categories of human beings have been denigrated and rejected as if they were less than human?

Brothers and sisters: let us pray! Let us pray to God that our prayer, our liturgy, and our spiritual life do not become a source of pride, of false assurance of our self-righteousness, of exaltation and privilege “for the few of us who are worthy.” Instead, let us acknowledge that all of us are repentant sinners, in need of God’s mercy, forgiveness, and love.

After all, that is why we begin every Eucharist with the Confiteor, a public confession of our sinfulness, and a clear plea for God’s mercy and forgiveness. Further, we utter the same request during the Our Father when we plea: “and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Furthermore, we beg for God’s mercy one last time during the Lamb of God, right before we receive the Body and Blood of the Crucified Lord, the One who died for our sins: “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us!”

May our plea to the God who hears the cry of the poor, the humble, and the sinner be heard today. May all of us, repentant sinners, pray with humble hearts so that we may go back home justified. Amen!

For further reading, see Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The Lord’ Prayer / The Seven Petitions, nos. 2838-2845. – Read the source:

Reflection 11 – How love humbles us into righteousness

In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, we see what happens when our primary motivation in whatever we do is not love but self-centeredness. “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled.” Sooner or later, self-exalting people get humbled, whether they realize it or not. They are brought down low by their own behaviors. People who encounter them in daily life do not think very highly of them. And certainly, God doesn’t either.

The much better alternative is to let our love for others be what humbles us.

Without love as our motivation, we believe in our own so-called “righteousness,” thinking we’re okay when we’re not. But when we do good deeds for others because we genuinely care about them, the pride of our self-righteousness is replaced by holy humility.

We are made righteous by our love for others. Self-righteousness is self-made — it motivates us to do good, but only for the selfish purpose of looking admirable, winning God’s approval, or gaining some other personal benefit. Love, which is true righteousness, motivates us to do good for the sake of others.

Look at the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable. We all behave like that from time to time. Think of someone who is inferior to you because you are holier, who doesn’t go to church as often as you do, or who doesn’t pray like you do. Think of someone who is not worthy of your time and caregiving. Think of someone who is too difficult to love.

The cure for this self-righteousness is to get in touch with God’s concern for them. Once we unite our hearts to God’s love for them, we begin to care about them, too. And the most powerful, most successful way to accomplish such union with God is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which absolves us of self-righteousness and empowers us with divine grace to absorb Christ’s own righteousness.

Questions for Personal Reflection:
Think of those who are less spiritually active than you, e.g., family, friends, co-workers, and parishioners who cause you to think: “Thank God I am not like them!” Do you grieve for them because of their sins and blindness? Do you do anything to help them grow closer to Christ? Do they experience Jesus every time they encounter you?

Questions for Family & Community Faith Sharing:
What are some ways that you show love to those who are not as holy as you, or not as emotionally healthy as you, or not as intelligent as you? Describe a time when you were more self-righteous than righteous. How did you (or how will you) let Jesus turn your pride into love-filled humility? – Read the source:

Reflection 12 – St. Anthony Claret (1807-1870 A.D.)

The “spiritual father of Cuba” was a missionary, religious founder, social reformer, queen’s chaplain, writer and publisher, archbishop and refugee. He was a Spaniard whose work took him to the Canary Islands, Cuba, Madrid, Paris and to the First Vatican Council.

In his spare time as weaver and designer in the textile mills of Barcelona, he learned Latin and printing: The future priest and publisher was preparing. Ordained at 28, he was prevented by ill health from entering religious life as a Carthusian or as a Jesuit, but went on to become one of Spain’s most popular preachers.

He spent 10 years giving popular missions and retreats, always placing great emphasis on the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Her rosary, it was said, was never out of his hand. At 42, beginning with five young priests, he founded a religious institute of missionaries, known today as the Claretians.

He was appointed to head the much-neglected archdiocese of Santiago in Cuba. He began its reform by almost ceaseless preaching and hearing of confessions, and suffered bitter opposition mainly for opposing concubinage and giving instruction to black slaves. A hired assassin (whose release from prison Anthony had obtained) slashed open his face and wrist. Anthony succeeded in getting the would-be assassin’s death sentence commuted to a prison term. His solution for the misery of Cubans was family-owned farms producing a variety of foods for the family’s own needs and for the market. This invited the enmity of the vested interests who wanted everyone to work on a single cash crop—sugar. Besides all his religious writings are two books he wrote in Cuba: Reflections on Agriculture and Country Delights.

He was recalled to Spain for a job he did not relish—being chaplain for the queen. He went on three conditions: He would reside away from the palace, he would come only to hear the queen’s confession and instruct the children and he would be exempt from court functions. In the revolution of 1868, he fled with the queen’s party to Paris, where he preached to the Spanish colony.

All his life Anthony was interested in the Catholic press. He founded the Religious Publishing House, a major Catholic publishing venture in Spain, and wrote or published 200 books and pamphlets.

At Vatican I, where he was a staunch defender of the doctrine of infallibility, he won the admiration of his fellow bishops. Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore remarked of him, “There goes a true saint.” At the age of 63, he died in exile near the border of Spain.


Queen Isabella II once said to Anthony, “No one tells me things as clearly and frankly as you do.” Later she told her chaplain, “Everybody is always asking me for favors, but you never do. Isn’t there something you would like for yourself?” He replied, “that you let me resign.” The queen made no more offers.


Jesus foretold that those who are truly his representatives would suffer the same persecution as he did. Besides 14 attempts on his life, Anthony had to undergo such a barrage of the ugliest slander that the very name Claret became a byword for humiliation and misfortune. The powers of evil do not easily give up their prey. No one needs to go looking for persecution. All we need to do is be sure we suffer because of our genuine faith in Christ, not for our own whims and imprudences.


Patron Saint of: Savings, Weavers

Read the source:

Catholic saints are holy people and human people who lived extraordinary lives. Each saint the Church honors responded to God’s invitation to use his or her unique gifts. God calls each one of us to be a saint. Click here to receive Saint of the Day in your email.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Read more from the source:
Antonio Claret.jpg
BORN December 23, 1807
Sallent, Barcelona, Spain
DIED October 24, 1870 (aged 62)
Fontfroide, Narbonne, France
VENERATED IN Roman Catholic Church
BEATIFIED February 25, 1934, Rome byPope Pius XI
CANONIZED May 7, 1950, Rome by Pope Pius XII
MAJORSHRINE Vic, Barcelona, Spain
FEAST October 24
October 23 (local calendars and among Traditional Roman Catholics)
ATTRIBUTES Bishop’s robe, crozier, an open book, catechism, 2 students beside him at his side and having his bent arm pointing to the sky
PATRONAGE Textile merchants, weavers,savings (taught the poor the importance of savings), Catholic press, Claretians, Dioceses of the Canary Islands, Claretian students, Claretian educators and Claretian educational institutions, technical and vocational educators

Saint Anthony Mary Claret, C.M.F. (Catalan: Antoni Maria Claret i Clarà; Spanish: Antonio María Claret y Clarà; December 23, 1807 – October 24, 1870) was a Catalan Spanish Roman Catholic archbishop and missionary, and wasconfessor of Isabella II of Spain. He founded the congregation of Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, commonly called the Claretians.


Antoni Maria Claret i Clarà was born in Sallent, in the county ofBages in the Province of Barcelona, on December 23, 1807, the fifth of the eleven children of Juan and Josefa Claret. His father was a woollen manufacturer. As a child he enjoyed pilgrimages to the nearby Shrine of Our Lady of Fusimanya.[1]

Claret received an elementary education in his native village, and at the age of twelve became a weaver. At the age of eighteen, he went to Barcelona to specialize in his trade, and remained there until he was 20 years old. Meanwhile he devoted his spare time to study and became proficient in Latin, French and engraving.[2]

Recognizing a call to religious life, he left Barcelona. He wished to become a Carthusian monk but finally entered the diocesan seminary at Vic in 1829, and was ordained on June 13, 1835, on the feast of St. Anthony of Padua. He received a benefice in his native parish, where he continued to study theology until 1839; but as missionary work strongly appealed to him, he proceeded to Rome. There he entered the Jesuit novitiate but had to leave due to ill health. He then returned to Spain and exercised his pastoral ministry in Viladrau and Girona, attracting notice by his efforts on behalf of the poor.[3] In an area despoiled by the Carlist civil war, he added the practice of rustic medicine to his other endeavors.

Recalled by his superiors to Vic, Claret was sent as Apostolic Missionary throughout Catalonia which had suffered from French invasions. He travelled from one mission to the next on foot. An eloquent preacher fluent in the Catalan language, people came from miles around to hear. After a lengthy time in the pulpit, he would spend long hours in the confessional. He was said to have had the gift of discernment of consciences. In 1848 Claret’s life was threatened by anti-clerical enemies and he was sent to the Canary Islands where he gave retreats for 15 months. His missions were so well attended that he often preached from an improvised pulpit in the plaza before the church.[1]


Coat of arms of Anthony Mary Claret as archbishop of Santiago de Cuba.

On his return to Spain, he established the Congregation of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (The Claretians) on the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (July 16, 1849), and founded the great religious library at Barcelona which was called “Librería Religiosa” (now “Llibreria Claret”).[3] Pope Pius IX gave approval to the congregation on December 22, 1865.[4]


Pope Pius IX, at the request of the Spanish crown (Queen-regnant Isabella II of Spain), appointed him archbishop of Santiago, Cuba, in 1849. He was consecrated at Vic in October 1850. Before he embarked, he made three separate pilgrimages: to Our Lady of the Pillar, patroness of Spain; to the Virgin of Montserrat, patroness of Catalonia; and to Our Lady of Fusimanya, near his home village.[1]

The Santiago seminary was reorganized, clerical discipline strengthened, and over 9,000 marriages validated within the first two years of his arrival. He erected a hospital and numerous schools. Three times he made a visitation of the entire diocese, giving local missions incessantly.[3] Among his great initiatives were trade or vocational schools for disadvantaged children and credit unions for the use of the poor. He wrote books about rural spirituality and agricultural methods, which he himself tested first. In August 25, 1855, he founded the Religious of Mary Immaculate together with Venerable Mother Antonia Paris. The congregation was considered as the first women religious institute in Cuba. He also visited jails and hospitals, defended the oppressed and denounced racism. His work stirred up opposition and at Holguín his cheek was stabbed by a would-be assassin.[4]

In February 1857, Claret was recalled to Spain by Queen Isabella II, who made him her confessor. He obtained permission to resign his Cuban see and was appointed to the titular see of Trajanopolis. His influence was now directed solely to help the poor and to propagate learning; he lived frugally and took up his residence in an Italian hospice. For nine years he was rector of the Escorial monasticschool, where he established a scientific laboratory, a museum of natural history, a library, college and schools of music and languages. In 1868, a new revolution dethroned the queen and sent her with her family into exile. Claret’s life was also in danger, so he accompanied her to France.[4] This gave him the opportunity to preach the Gospel in Paris. He stayed with them for a while, then went to Rome where he was received by Pope Pius IX.

He continued his popular missions and distribution of books wherever he went in accompanying the Spanish Court. When Isabella recognized the new, secular government of a united Italy, he left the Court and hastened to take his place by the side of the pope. At the latter’s command, however, he returned to Madrid withfaculties for absolving the queen from the censures she had incurred.[3]

Last years[edit]

In 1869 he went to Rome to prepare for the First Vatican Council. Owing to failing health he withdrew to Prada de Conflent in the French Pyrenees, where he was still harassed by his Spanish enemies; shortly afterwards he retired to the Cistercian abbey atFontfroide, Narbonne, southern France, where he died on October 24, 1870, aged 62.

His remains were buried in the Catalan city of Vic, in the Country ofOsona.


Anthony Mary Claret wrote 144 books. By his sermons and writings he contributed greatly to bring about the revival of the Catalan language, although most of his works were published in Spanish, especially during his stay in Cuba and Madrid.

His printed works number more than one hundred, including “La escala de Jacob”; “Máximas de moral la más pura”; “Avisos”; “Catecismo explicado con láminas”;“La llave de oro”; “Selectos panegíricos” (11 volumes); “Sermones de misión” (3 volumes); “Misión de la mujer”; “Vida de Sta. Mónica”; “La Virgen del Pilar y los Francmasones.”

In addition to the Claretians, which in the early 21st century had over 450 houses and 3100 members, with missions in five continents, Archbishop Claret founded or drew up the rules of several communities of religious sisters.


His zealous life and the wonders he wrought, both before and after his death, testified to his sanctity. Information was sought in 1887 and he was declared venerableby Pope Leo XIII in 1899. His relics were transferred to the mission house at Vic in 1897, at which time his heart was found incorrupt. His grave is visited by many pilgrims.

Anthony Mary Claret was beatified in Rome by Pope Pius XI on February 24, 1934. He was canonized 16 years later by Pope Pius XII on May 7, 1950. Pope John XXIII included him in the General Roman Calendar in 1960, and fixed his feast on October 23, where it remained for nine years until the 1969 revision of the calendar moved it to the day of his death, October 24, which had been the feast of Saint Raphael the Archangel since 1921.

Educational legacy[edit]

Many educational institutions ranging from kindergarten to undergraduate school are named after Claret and run by the Claretians in Europe, South America, Africa and Asia. They are located in Catalonia (Barcelona, Valls and Sabadell), rest of Spain (Madrid,[5] Gran Canaria,[6] Sevilla,[7] and Valencia), Colombia(Cali),Dominican Republic (Santo Domingo), Peru (Trujillo,Huancayo, Arequipa and Lima), Argentina (Buenos Aires[8] andBahía Blanca), Venezuela (Caracas,[9]Maracaibo and Mérida),Equatorial Guinea (Malabo), Chile (Temuco[10]), Costa Rica(Heredia[11]), the Philippines (Zamboanga City,[12] Quezon City[13]),India (Ziro), and Bangalore.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jump up to:a b c St. Anthony Claret, Restless Apostle, Claretian Publications, Chicago, Illinois
  2. Jump up^ Callahan, William James. Church, politics, and society in Spain, 1750-1874p.298, 1984 “Antonio Claret (1807-1870), the son of a Catalan textile manufacturer, … After serving as a parish assistant, he began a successful career as a missionary in Catalonia during the 1840’s.”
  3. ^ Jump up to:a b c d MacErlean, Andrew. “Ven. Antonio María Claret y Clará.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 16 (Index). New York: The Encyclopedia Press, 1914. 31 Dec. 2012
  4. ^ Jump up to:a b c “The Congregation”, Claretian Missions-USA
  5. Jump up^ Claretian order in Madrid website
  6. Jump up^ Claretian order in Gran Canaria website
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Readings & Reflections: Saturday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time & St. John Paul II, October 22,2016

Readings & Reflections: Saturday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time & St.  John Paul II, October 22,2016

A native of Wadowice, Poland, Karol Wojtyla suffered the losss of his mother as a child, and lived under two repressive regimes before being elected Pope John Paul II in 1978. He devoted himself to interpreting the Second Vatican Council and preparing the Church for the new millennium. After surviving an assassination attempt in 1981, John Paul II offered his attacker forgiveness. He suffered a slow decline from Parkinson’s disease on the world stage. Despite his frail frame and slurred speech, he continued to travel and teach. Among his many accomplishments as pope, he made 104 apostolic journeys outside Italy and promulgated a new catechism. He inaugurated World Youth Day and the World Meeting of Families. John Paul II died on April 2,2005, on the vigil of the feast he had inaugurated, Divine Mercy Sunday.  “It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness,” he told young people in the year 2000. “He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted;… it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.”


Opening Prayer

“Lord, increase my hunger for your righteousness and holiness. May I not squander the grace of the present moment to say “yes” to you, to your will, and to your way of holiness.” Amen.

Reading 1
Eph 4:7-16

Brothers and sisters:
Grace was given to each of us
according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
Therefore, it says:

He ascended on high and took prisoners captive;
he gave gifts to men.

What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended
into the lower regions of the earth?
The one who descended is also the one who ascended
far above all the heavens,
that he might fill all things.

And he gave some as Apostles, others as prophets,
others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers,
to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry,
for building up the Body of Christ,
until we all attain to the unity of faith
and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood
to the extent of the full stature of Christ,
so that we may no longer be infants,
tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching
arising from human trickery,
from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming.
Rather, living the truth in love,
we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ,
from whom the whole Body,
joined and held together by every supporting ligament,
with the proper functioning of each part,
brings about the Body’s growth and builds itself up in love.

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 122:1-2, 3-4ab, 4cd-5

R. (1) Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.

I rejoiced because they said to me,
“We will go up to the house of the LORD.”
And now we have set foot
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Jerusalem, built as a city
with compact unity.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
According to the decree for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
In it are set up judgment seats,
seats for the house of David.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.

Lk 13:1-9

Some people told Jesus about the Galileans
whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.
He said to them in reply,
“Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way
they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!
Or those eighteen people who were killed
when the tower at Siloam fell on them–
do you think they were more guilty
than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!”

And he told them this parable:
“There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard,
and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none,
he said to the gardener,
‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree
but have found none.
So cut it down.
Why should it exhaust the soil?’

He said to him in reply,
‘Sir, leave it for this year also,
and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it;
it may bear fruit in the future.
If not you can cut it down.’”

The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection 1 – Repent and reform

The nation of Israel failed to produce the fruit of faith and righteousness God required from them.  And Jesus implied that Israel must repent or face imminent judgment.  This message is still in effect. Every man should repent of his sins and reform.

The early Jews believed disasters as direct retribution for personal sins.  Like those of Job’s friends, they assumed that since God is just, man’s suffering is a sign of one’s guilt and sinfulness.  But Jesus teaches that all men are sinners and as such every man should repent.  Otherwise, the peril of eternal condemnation and judgment will be upon all.

As disciples of Christ, we are asked to live by the law of the Spirit of Jesus, which we receive at Baptism.  The Spirit frees us from the weight of our sinfulness and gives us the power to live a new life in Christ.  As such we should learn to recognize, discern and respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit rising up within us, so that peace, joy and fruitfulness in serving the Lord will flow into us, even overflowing into our relationships.

Today, God brings us his reminder: BELIEVE, REPENT AND BE CONVERTED.  We are asked to turn away from the world and its evil ways.  We are led to have a change in heart, mind and attitude and repent for it is only through authentic repentance that we can have new lives in Christ and bear fruit in His Name.  “There is no condemnation now for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

If we remain in Him and abide by His word, we will never suffer the wrath and judgment of God. We may experience guilt and awareness of sin but they are not meant to condemn us.  They will only draw us closer to our Lord and remind us of the glory and joy of being with Him.  Such should be our relationship with our Lord if such is the kind of relationship we should have with His people.  We should never condemn any man for His sins but forgive them as Jesus has forgiven us.  If Jesus set us free from bondage of sin, we too should make haste to set others free through our loving forgiveness.

As Christians, we should always be open to provide other people another chance just as what the gardener in today’s gospel did.  We have to minister to our neighbor and sow God’s word into their hearts with the hope that God will complete the work and make them fruitful. It is a task we all have from our Lord, to make others fruitful in His work.

Have we yet considered an apostolate that can help people come closer to God?


We have to repent just we all have to be merciful.


Heavenly Father, make our hearts repentant and merciful and allow us to bear fruit in your Name. In Jesus I pray. Amen.

Reflection 2 – Where were you, God, when I needed you?

A few years ago a rabbi wrote a best-seller, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. He helps his readers address a disturbing mystery that touches us all from time to time: If God loves us, why does he send us suffering? When tragedy strikes us and we’re really hurting, we are tempted to cry out in anger against a God who torments us or just doesn’t seem to care. “Where were you, God, when I really needed you?”

In Jesus’ time, many of his fellow Jews believed that suffering was God’s way of punishing sinners. They thought that if something bad happened to you, you must have done something wrong; it was your fault. That’s the way they explained a recent tragic accident in which a tower had collapsed and killed many people. No, says Jesus, that’s not the way it works. He understood the message of today’s first reading (Ex 3:1-8, 13-15), in which God tells Moses, “I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint…. I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them.” This is not a punishing God; this is a God who cares and comes to save.

This is a consoling truth, but it carries a warning, too. God will not force himself on us. In the second reading (1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12), St. Paul reminds us what happened to some of the Israelites that God rescued from Egypt. Those who grumbled against him perished in the desert. Paul says: “These things happened to them as an example, and they have been written down as a warning to us…. Whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.”

Jesus echoes this warning in his parable of the fig tree. A tree was drawing life and strength from the soil but was producing nothing. It was useless. There are two kinds of people in the world – those who take out more than they put in, and those who put in more than they take out. Jesus often reminds us that we will be judged according to the opportunities we have had. So it’s fair for us to ask ourselves, “Of what used have you been in this world? What have you contributed to love and life?” We’re expected to leave the world a little better than we found it. If we fail, the parable tells us that, like the disappointing tree, we can always count on God giving us a second chance. But if we refuse chance after chance, the day might come when all will be lost – not because God shut us out, but because we shut ourselves out.

So, why do bad things happen to good people? No one knows all the answers. But this we do know: God does not send the bad things. When misfortune overtakes us, we are not alone; God is with us, offering grace and strength. We are not supposed to be passive. Whatever happens to us, let’s try to pass on things better than we found them, and leave the rest to a compassionate, loving God.

        How am I putting something into life, instead of just taking out?(Source: Rev. James DiGiacomo, S.J., Sundays with Jesus. New York: Paulist Press, 2006, pp. 19-20).

Reflection 3 – Christ is the Answer to Life

Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall know mercy.” None of us could gain heaven if God was all just. We are all sinners by commission and omission. We need God’s mercy; we daily beg for it.

Christ is the answer to life. Without him life is meaningless. We see him daily being kind to sinners. He always forgave a sinner if he was sorry for his sins. Jesus understood our weakness. Thank God for his mercy.

The saints were not sinless people. They knew well they were sinners. But they humbly asked God for forgiveness. At times the saints were the most forgiven people. They were deeply grateful for the goodness of God.

Jesus said, “Forgive and it will be forgiven you.” The saints took this to heart. As St. Philip Neri said of one big sinner, “There but for the grace of God go.” The saints were especially kind to others so that God would forgive them. When Peter asked Jesus how often we should forgive others – “Seven times?” – Jesus replied, “Not seven times but seventy times seven times.” Peter thought he was being especially generous saying seven times. Jesus’ reply put him to shame.

The saints gained their wisdom from prayer. There is no other way. Prayer gives us strength in our half-pagan society.

In our world religion is put on the back burner. TV is our most influencial medium and it is all interested in money. You have to have money to buy all the stuff they are trying to sell. From recent years it would seem TV is not much interested in programs worth seeing.

TV tells us material possessions will make us happy. That is its basic philosophy. It is selling material possessions. Don’t bother with the spiritual; having possessions makes us happy. This could never be farther from the truth, but many people have been convinced of this phony-baloney.

Jesus really does not interest TV. Yet true happiness, which everyone desires, comes from Jesus. TV tells us we must run around in circles buying things; we do not have time for Jesus. The saints told us to pray. Prayer brings Christ to us. Prayer helps us to “get our heads on straight.” Many individuals do not think. They just follow the crowd, which is going nowhere. If we do not think for ourselves but just follow the crowd we will be on the wrong road. G.K. Chesterton reminds us that progress is going forward. But, first, we must be on the right road. Otherwise it is regress.

Those who follow the crowd on the wrong road easily fall into sin. They are guided by their emotions, often untrustworthy, and not by right reason. We must go down the middle of the right road. The Greek thinkers said, “In the middle stands virtue.” On either side are ditches.

People follow the crowd and go nowhere. We must think. We must take time for prayer to keep us on the right road. It is too easy to sin.

One of the greatest gifts Jesus left us is the sacrament of reconciliation. By this means he forgives us our sins and helps us avoid future evil.

The Church teaches us that if we cannot receive the sacrament of forgiveness we can have our sins forgiven with a perfect act of contrition. Here one is sorry for his sins out of love for God and not for fear of going to hell.

In today’s Gospel (Lk9:1-13) Jesus calls us to repent. In a parable he tells us that a fig tree is planted to grow figs. When the owner saw that his fig tree did not do that he said it should be cut down. We are created to increase the love in the world, love of God and love of neighbor. If people do not do this they are fruitless.

Some people do not go God’s way. They do not add to the love in the world but to the hostility. The world already has too much hostility. Self-centered individuals are worthless, good for nothing. By their sins they make the world worse. God cannot reward them; their sin blocks the love he wishes to give their hearts. How thoughtless man can be. A father does not reward his wayward son who causes all the trouble in the family.

Do you follow Christ or the false materialistic philosophy of television? If you do not think or pray you cannot follow Christ. Life is too difficult.

In the second reading St. Paul tells us that Christ must be the center of our lives. We are to be Christ-like. Christ was forever helping others. From the book of Exodus in the first reading, we see Moses meeting God in the bruning bush. God told Moses he was standing on holy ground. Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look on God. God told Moses he was to rescue the Chosen people from the slavery of Egypt. We are reminded that Christ rescued the people from the slavery of sin.

When Moses asked, “Who shall I say sent me?” God anwered, “I am who am.” He said, “This is my name forever, thus am I to be remembered through all generations.” Then at a later time Jesus was a new Moses sent from God to rescue the people.

Do we remember how great God is? Many these days seem to ignore or forget him. But it is God’s world and we learn that the meaning of our lives, which he gave us, is to do his holy will. In doing as our infinite Creator wishes we are always doing what is best for us.

In his great kindness God sent Jesus to us to help us on our journey to his home, heaven. Jesus forgave sin and left this tremendous gift in the world. Where would we be if we were left with our sins?

We must make use of this priceless gift by going to confesion. (Source: Fr. Rawley Myers, “Homilies on the Liturgies of Sundays and Feasts,” Homiletic & Pastoral Review, Vol. CX, No. 5. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, February 2010, pp. 33-35; Suggested reading: Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1269-1270, 1435-1440, 2013-2015).

Reflection 4 – Unless you repent

What can a calamity, such as a political blood-bath or a natural disaster, teach us about God’s kingdom and the consequences of bad choices and sinful actions? Jesus used two such occasions to address the issue of sin and judgment with his Jewish audience. Pilate, who was the Roman governor of Jerusalem at the time, ordered his troops to slaughter a group of Galileans who had come up to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice in the Temple. We do not know what these Galileans did to incite Pilate’s wrath, nor why Pilate chose to attack them in the holiest of places for the Jews, in their temple at Jerusalem. For the Jews, this was political barbarity and sacrilege at its worst!

The second incident which Jesus addressed was a natural disaster, a tower in Jerusalem which unexpectedly collapsed, killing 18 people. The Jews often associated such calamities and disasters as a consequence of sin. Scripture does warn that sin can result in calamity! Though the righteous fall seven times, and rise again; the wicked are overthrown by calamity (Proverbs 24:16).

The time for repentance and forgiveness is right now!
The real danger and calamity which Jesus points out is that an unexpected disaster or a sudden death does not give us time to repent of our sins and to prepare ourselves to meet the Judge of heaven and earth. The Book of Job reminds us that misfortune and calamity can befall both the righteous and the unrighteous alike. Jesus gives a clear warning – take responsibility for your actions and moral choices and put sin to death today before it can destroy your heart, mind, soul, and body as well. Unrepentant sin is like a cancer which corrupts us from within. If it is not eliminated through repentance – asking God for forgiveness and for his healing grace – it leads to a spiritual death which is far worse than physical destruction.

The sign of the barren fig tree
Jesus’ parable of the barren fig trees illustrates his warning about the consequences of allowing sin and corruption to take root in our hearts and minds. Fig trees were a common and important source of food for the people of Palestine. A fig tree normally matured within three years, producing plentiful fruit. If it failed, it was cut down to make room for more healthy trees. A decaying fig tree and its bad fruit came to symbolize for the Jews the consequence of spiritual corruption caused by evil deeds and unrepentant sin.

The unfruitful fig tree symbolized the outcome of Israel’s indifference and lack of response to God’s word of  repentance and restoration. The prophets depicted the desolation and calamity of Israel’s fall and ruin – due to her unfaithfulness to God – as a languishing fig tree (see Joel 1:7,12; Habbakuk 3:17; and Jeremiah 8:13). Jeremiah likened good and evil rulers and members of Israel with figs that were either good for eating or rotten and wasteful (Jeremiah 24:2-8). Jesus’ parable depicts the patience of God, but it also contains a warning that we should not presume upon God’s patience and mercy. God’s judgment will come in due course – very soon or later.

Why God judges
Why does God judge his people? He judges to purify and cleanse us of all sin that we might grow in his holiness and righteousness. And he disciplines us for our own good, to inspire a godly fear and reverence for him and his word. God is patient, but for those who persistently and stubbornly rebel against him and refuse to repent and change their course, there is the consequence that they will lose both their soul and body to hell. Are God’s judgments unjust or unloving? When God’s judgments are revealed in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness(Isaiah 26:9). To pronounce God’s judgment on sin is much less harsh than what will happen if those who sin are not warned to repent and turn back to God.

Don’t tolerate sin
God, in his mercy, gives us time to get right with him, but that time is now. We must not assume that there is no hurry. A sudden and unexpected death leaves one no time to prepare to settle one’s accounts when he or she must stand before the Lord on the day of judgment. Jesus warns us that we must be ready at all times. Tolerating sinful habits and excusing unrepentant sin and wrongdoing will result in bad fruit, painful discipline, and spiritual disease that leads to death and destruction. The Lord in his mercy gives us both grace (his gracious help and healing) and time to turn away from sin, but that time is right now. If we delay, even for a day, we may discover that grace has passed us by and our time is up. Do you hunger for the Lord’s righteousness (moral goodness) and holiness?

“Lord Jesus, increase my hunger for you that I may grow in righteousness and holiness. May I not squander the grace of the present moment to say “yes” to you and to your will and plan for my life.” – Read the source:

Reflection 5 – St. John Paul II (1920-2005 A.D.)

“Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978.

Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology.

Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin.

Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong!

He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later.

Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations.

He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria.

The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope.

“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, Redeemer of the Human Race. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.”

His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that.

One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier.

In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people.

In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities.

Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014.


Before John Paul II’s funeral Mass in St. Peter’s Square, hundreds of thousands of people had waited patiently for a brief moment to pray before his body, which lay in state inside St. Peter’s for several days. The media coverage of his funeral was unprecedented.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then dean of the College of Cardinals and later Pope Benedict XVI, presided at the funeral Mass and concluded his homily by saying: “None of us can ever forget how, in that last Easter Sunday of his life, the Holy Father, marked by suffering, came once more to the window of the Apostolic Palace and one last time gave his blessing urbi et orbi [‘to the city and to the world’].

“We can be sure that our beloved pope is standing today at the window of the Father’s house, that sees us and blesses us. Yes, bless us, Holy Father. We entrust your dear soul to the Mother of God, your Mother, who guided you each day and who will guide you now to the glory of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”


In his 1999 Letter to the Elderly, Pope John Paul II wrote: “Grant, O Lord of life,…when the moment of our definitive ‘passage’ comes, that we may face it with serenity, without regret for what we shall leave behind. For in meeting you, after having sought you for so long, we shall find once more every authentic good which we have known here on earth, in the company of all those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith and hope….Amen.”

Related St. Anthony Messenger article(s) 

Pope John Paul II: 25 Years of Service, by Cindy Wooden, Cardinal Roger Mahony, John Thavis, Mary Ann Walsh, RSM, and Bishop Joseph Galante

Pope John Paul II: Model of Heroic Service, by Jack Wintz, OFM

Blessed Pope John Paul II: Witness to Hope, by Pat McCloskey, OFM

Read the source:

Related Articles/ Videos of St. John Paul II click below:

Saint Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body in Video Presentation

The Sacramentality of Human Love According to St. John Paul II

Pope John Paul II’s Definitive Answers to Secular Feminism

Why Satan is so scared of St. John Paul II according to Rome chief exorcist

Video: Catholic Church celebrates feast day of St. John Paul II for the first time

Video:Pope Francis remembers Pope John Paul II during his general audience

Video: How St. John Paul II led Dr. Taylor Marshall to the Catholic Church?

Video: Pope John Paul II – 34 years ago today, the late Pope was shot in St. Peter’s Square

Book: Pope John Paul II’s mother rejected Doctor’s abortion suggestion

Catholic saints are holy people and human people who lived extraordinary lives. Each saint the Church honors responded to God’s invitation to use his or her unique gifts. God calls each one of us to be a saint. Click here to receive Saint of the Day in your email.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Read more from the source:
John Paul II on 12 August 1993 in Denver, Colorado

John Paul II in 1993
PAPACY BEGAN 16 October 1978
PAPACY ENDED 2 April 2005
ORDINATION 1 November 1946
by Adam Stefan Sapieha
CONSECRATION 28 September 1958
by Eugeniusz Baziak
by Paul VI
BIRTH NAME Karol Józef Wojtyła
BORN 18 May 1920
Wadowice, Republic of Poland
DIED 2 April 2005 (aged 84)
Apostolic Palace, Vatican City
NATIONALITY Polish (with Vatican citizenship)
DENOMINATION Catholic (Latin Church)
MOTTO Totus Tuus
(Totally yours)
SIGNATURE {{{signature_alt}}}
COAT OF ARMS {{{coat_of_arms_alt}}}
FEAST DAY 22 October
VENERATED IN Roman Catholic Church
BEATIFIED 1 May 2011
St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City
by Pope Benedict XVI
CANONIZED 27 April 2014
St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City
by Pope Francis
Other popes named John Paul

Pope John Paul II (Latin: Ioannes Paulus II; Italian: Giovanni Paolo II), born Karol Józef Wojtyła[a] (Polish: [ˈkarɔl ˈjuzɛf vɔjˈtɨwa]; 18 May 1920 – 2 April 2005), served as Pope from 1978 to 2005. He was elected by the second Papal conclave of 1978, which was called after Pope John Paul I, who was elected in August after the death ofPope Paul VI, died after thirty-three days. Then-Cardinal Wojtyła was elected on the third day of the conclave and adopted his predecessor’s name in tribute to him.[3][4] In the years since his death, John Paul II has been declared a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. He is referred to by Roman Catholics as Pope Saint John Paul II or Saint John Paul the Great, for example as a name for institutions.[5][6][7]

John Paul II is recognised as helping to end Communist rule in his native Poland and eventually all of Europe.[8] John Paul II significantly improved the Catholic Church’s relations with Judaism,Islam, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion. He upheld the Church’s teachings on such matters as artificialcontraception and theordination of women, but also supported the Church’s Second Vatican Council and its reforms.

He was one of the most travelled world leaders in history, visiting 129 countries during his pontificate. As part of his special emphasis on the universal call to holiness, he beatified 1,340 people andcanonised 483 saints, more than the combined tally of his predecessors during the preceding five centuries. By the time of his death, he had named most of the College of Cardinals, consecrated or co-consecrated a large number of the world’s bishops, and ordained many priests.[9] A key goal of his papacy was to transform and reposition the Catholic Church. His wish was “to place his Church at the heart of a new religious alliance that would bring together Jews, Muslims and Christians in a great religious armada”.[10][11]

He was the second longest-serving pope in modern history afterPope Pius IX, who served for nearly 32 years from 1846 to 1878. Born in Poland, John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope since theDutch Pope Adrian VI, who served from 1522 to 1523. John Paul II’s cause for canonisation commenced in 2005 one month after his death with the traditional five-year waiting period waived. On 19 December 2009, John Paul II was proclaimed Venerable by his successor Pope Benedict XVI and was beatified on 1 May 2011 (Divine Mercy Sunday) after the Congregation for the Causes of Saints attributed one miracle to his intercession, the healing of a French nun from Parkinson’s disease. A second miracle attributed to John Paul II’s intercession was approved on 2 July 2013, and confirmed by Pope Francistwo days later (two miracles must be attributed to a person’s intercession to be declared a saint). John Paul II was canonised on 27 April 2014 (again Divine Mercy Sunday), together with Pope John XXIII.[12] On 11 September 2014, Pope Francis added John Paul II’s optional memorial feast day to the worldwide General Roman Calendar of saints, in response to worldwide requests.[13] It is traditional to celebrate saints’ feast days on the anniversary of their deaths, but that of John Paul II (22 October) is celebrated on the anniversary of his papal inauguration.[14][15]

Early life

The wedding portrait of John Paul II’s parents, Emilia and Karol Wojtyła Snr

The courtyard within thefamily home of the Wojtyłas inWadowice,Poland

Karol Józef Wojtyła was born in the Polish town of Wadowice.[16][17]He was the youngest of three children born to Karol Wojtyła(1879–1941), an ethnic Pole,[18] and Emilia Kaczorowska (1884–1929), whose mother’s maiden surname was Scholz.[19] Emilia, who was a schoolteacher, died in childbirth in 1929[20] when Wojtyła was eight years old.[21] His elder sister Olga had died before his birth, but he was close to his brother Edmund, nicknamed Mundek, who was 13 years his senior. Edmund’s work as a physician eventually led to his death from scarlet fever, a loss that affected Wojtyła deeply.[18][21]

As a boy, Wojtyła was athletic, often playing football as goalkeeper.[22] During his childhood, Wojtyła had contact with Wadowice’s large Jewish community.[23] School football games were often organised between teams of Jews and Catholics, and Wojtyła often played on the Jewish side.[18][22] “I remember that at least a third of my classmates at elementary school in Wadowice were Jews. At elementary school there were fewer. With some I was on very friendly terms. And what struck me about some of them was their Polish patriotism.”[24] Wojtyła’s first, and possibly only, love affair was with a Jewish girl, Ginka Beer, who was described as “slender”, “a superb actress” and “having stupendous dark eyes and jet black hair”.[11][23]

In mid-1938, Wojtyła and his father left Wadowice and moved toKraków, where he enrolled at the Jagiellonian University. While studying such topics as philology and various languages, he worked as a volunteer librarian and was required to participate incompulsory military training in the Academic Legion, but herefused to fire a weapon. He performed with various theatrical groups and worked as a playwright.[25] During this time, his talent for language blossomed, and he learned as many as 12 foreign languages,[26] nine of which he used extensively as pope.

Nazi occupation of Poland and the Holocaust

In 1939, Nazi German occupation forces closed the university after invading Poland.[16] Able-bodied males were required to work, so from 1940 to 1944 Wojtyła variously worked as a messenger for a restaurant, a manual labourer in a limestone quarry and for theSolvay chemical factory, to avoid deportation to Germany.[17][25]In 1940 he was struck by a tram, suffering a fractured skull. The same year he was hit by a lorry in a quarry, which left him with one shoulder higher than the other and a permanent stoop.[27] His father, a former Austro-Hungarian non-commissioned officer and later officer in the Polish Army, died of a heart attack in 1941,[19]leaving Wojtyła as the immediate family’s only surviving member.[18][20][28] “I was not at my mother’s death, I was not at my brother’s death, I was not at my father’s death,” he said, reflecting on these times of his life, nearly forty years later, “At twenty, I had already lost all the people I loved.”[28]

The tomb of the parents of John Paul II at Rakowicki CemeteryinKraków, Poland

After his father’s death, he started thinking seriously about the priesthood.[29] In October 1942, while the war continued, he knocked on the door of the Bishop’s Palace in Krakówand asked to study for the priesthood.[29] Soon after, he began courses in theclandestine underground seminary run by the Archbishop of Kraków, Adam Stefan Cardinal Sapieha. On 29 February 1944, Wojtyła was hit by a German truck. German Wehrmacht officerstended to him and sent him to a hospital. He spent two weeks there recovering from a severe concussion and a shoulder injury. It seemed to him that this accident and his survival was a confirmation of his vocation. On 6 August 1944, a day known as ‘Black Sunday’,[30]the Gestaporounded up young men in Kraków to curtail the uprising there, [30] similar to the recent uprising in Warsaw.[31][32] Wojtyła escaped by hiding in the basement of his uncle’s house at 10 Tyniecka Street, while the German troops searched above.[29][31][32]More than eight thousand men and boys were taken that day, while Wojtyła escaped to the Archbishop’s Palace,[29][30][31] where he remained until after the Germans had left.[18][29][31]

On the night of 17 January 1945, the Germans fled the city, and the students reclaimed the ruined seminary. Wojtyła and another seminarian volunteered for the task of clearing away piles of frozen excrement from the toilets.[33] Wojtyła also helped a 14-year-old Jewish refugee girl named Edith Zierer,[34] who had run away from a Nazi labour camp in Częstochowa.[34] Edith had collapsed on a railway platform, so Wojtyła carried her to a train and stayed with her throughout the journey to Kraków. Edith credits Wojtyła with saving her life that day.[35][36][37] B’nai B’rith and other authorities have said that Wojtyła helped protect many other Polish Jewsfrom the Nazis. During the Nazi occupation of Poland, a Jewish family sent its son, Stanley Berger, to be hidden by a Gentile Polish family. Berger’s biological Jewish parents died during the Holocaust, and after the war Berger’s new Christian parents asked a young Polish priest named Karol Wojtyła, the future Pope John Paul II, to baptise the boy. The future pope refused, claiming that the child should be raised in the Jewish faith of his birth parents and nation, not as a Catholic.[38] In September 2003, Emmanuelle Pacifici, the head of Italy’s Jewish community, proposed that John Paul II receive the medal of a Righteous Among the Nations for saving a two-year-old Jewish boy by giving him to a Gentile Polish family to be hidden in 1942, when Karol Wojtyła was just a seminarian. After the war, this boy’s Christian adopted parents asked the future Pope John Paul II to baptise the boy, yet once again he refused, as with Berger. After the war, Karol Wojtyła did everything he could to ensure that this Jewish boy he saved leave Poland to be raised by his Jewish relatives in the United States.[39] In April 2005, shortly after John Paul II’s death, the Israeli government created a commission to honour the legacy of John Paul II. One of the proposed ways of honouring him was to give him the medal of the Righteous Among the Nations.[40]In Wojtyła’s last book, Memory and Identity, he described the 12 years of the Nazi régime as ‘bestiality‘,[41] quoting from the Polish theologian and philosopher Konstanty Michalski.[42]


After finishing his studies at the seminary in Kraków, Wojtyła wasordained as a priest on All Saints’ Day, 1 November 1946,[20] by the Archbishop of Kraków, Cardinal Sapieha.[17][43][44] Sapieha sent Wojtyła to Rome’s Pontifical International Athenaeum Angelicum, the future Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas,Angelicumto study under the French Dominican Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange beginning on 26 November 1946. Wojtyła earned a licencein July 1947, passed his doctoral exam on 14 June 1948, and successfully defended his doctoral thesis titled Doctrina de fide apud S. Ioannem a Cruce (The Doctrine of Faith in St. John of the Cross) in philosophy on 19 June 1948.[45] The Angelicum preserves the original copy of Wojtyła’s typewritten thesis.[46] Among other courses at the Angelicum, Wojtyła studied Hebrew with the Dutch Dominican Peter G. Duncker, author of the Compendium grammaticae linguae hebraicae biblicae.[47]

According to Wojtyła’s schoolmate the future Austrian CardinalAlfons Stickler, in 1947 during his sojourn at the Angelicum Wojtyła visited Padre Pio, who heard his confession and told him that one day he would ascend to “the highest post in the Church”.[48] Cardinal Stickler added that Wojtyła believed that the prophecy was fulfilled when he became a Cardinal.[49]

Wojtyła returned to Poland in the summer of 1948 for his firstpastoral assignment in the village of Niegowić, fifteen miles (24 km) from Kraków, at the Church of the Assumption. He arrived at Niegowić at harvest time, where his first action was to kneel and kiss the ground.[50] He repeated this gesture, which he adapted from the French saint Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney,[50] throughout his papacy.

In March 1949, Wojtyła was transferred to the parish of Saint Florian in Kraków. He taught ethics at Jagiellonian University and subsequently at the Catholic University of Lublin. While teaching, he gathered a group of about 20 young people, who began to call themselves Rodzinka, the “little family”. They met for prayer, philosophical discussion, and to help the blind and sick. The group eventually grew to approximately 200 participants, and their activities expanded to include annual skiing and kayaking trips.[51]

In 1953, Wojtyła’s habilitation thesis was accepted by the Faculty of Theology at the Jagiellonian University. In 1954, he earned aDoctorate in Sacred Theology,[52] evaluating the feasibility of a Catholic ethic based on the ethical system of thephenomenologistMax Scheler with a dissertation titled “Reevaluation of the possibility of founding a Catholic ethic on the ethical system of Max Scheler”[53] (Ocena możliwości zbudowania etyki chrześcijańskiej przy założeniach systemu Maksa Schelera).[54]Scheler was a German philosopher who founded a broadphilosophical movement that emphasised the study of conscious experience. However, the Communist authorities abolished the Faculty of Theology at the Jagellonian University, thereby preventing him from receiving the degree until 1957.[44] Wojtyła developed a theological approach that combined traditional Catholic Thomism with the ideas ofpersonalism, a philosophical approach deriving from phenomenology, which was popular among Catholic intellectuals in Kraków during Wojtyła’s intellectual development. He translated Scheler’s Formalism and the Ethics of Substantive Values.[55]

During this period, Wojtyła wrote a series of articles in Kraków’s Catholic newspaper, Tygodnik Powszechny (“Universal Weekly“), dealing with contemporary church issues.[56] He focused on creating original literary work during his first dozen years as a priest. War, life under Communism, and his pastoral responsibilities all fed his poetry and plays. Wojtyła published his work under two pseudonyms—Andrzej Jawień and Stanisław Andrzej Gruda[25][56]—to distinguish his literary from his religious writings (under his own name), and also so that his literary works would be considered on their merits.[25][56] In 1960, Wojtyła published the influential theological book Love and Responsibility, a defence of traditional Church teachings on marriage from a new philosophical standpoint.[25][57]


While a priest in Kraków, groups of students regularly joined Wojtyła for hiking, skiing, bicycling, camping and kayaking, accompanied by prayer, outdoor Masses and theological discussions. In Stalinist-era Poland, it was not permitted for priests to travel with groups of students. Father Wojtyła asked his younger companions to call him “Wujek” (Polish for “Uncle”) to prevent outsiders from deducing he was a priest. The nickname gained popularity among his followers. In 1958, when Wojtyła was named auxiliary bishop of Kraków, his acquaintances expressed concern that this would cause him to change. Wojtyła responded to his friends, “Wujek will remain Wujek,” and he continued to live a simple life, shunning the trappings that came with his position as Bishop. This beloved nickname stayed with Wojtyła for his entire life and continues to be affectionately used, particularly by the Polish people.[58][59]

Bishop and Cardinal

On 4 July 1958,[44] while Wojtyła was on a kayaking holiday in the lakes region of northern Poland, Pope Pius XII appointed him as theAuxiliary Bishop of Kraków. He was then summoned to Warsaw to meet the Primate of Poland, Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński, who informed him of his appointment.[60][61] He agreed to serve as Auxiliary Bishop to Kraków’s Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak, and he received episcopal consecration (as Titular Bishop of Ombi) on 28 September 1958. Baziak was the principal consecrator. Principal co-consecrators were Bishop Boleslaw Kominek (Titular Bishop ofSophene and Vågå, auxiliary of the Catholic Archdiocese of Wrocław, and future Cardinal and Archbishop of Wrocław) and then-Auxiliary Bishop Franciszek Jop of the Catholic Diocese of Sandomierz (Titular Bishop of Daulia; later Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Wrocław and then Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Opole).[44] At the age of 38, Wojtyła became the youngest bishop in Poland. Baziak died in June 1962 and on 16 July Wojtyła was selected as Vicar Capitular (temporary administrator) of the Archdiocese until an Archbishop could be appointed.[16][17]

In October 1962, Wojtyła took part in the Second Vatican Council(1962–1965),[16][44] where he made contributions to two of its most historic and influential products, the Decree on Religious Freedom (in Latin, Dignitatis humanae) and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et spes).[44] Wojtyła and the Polish bishops contributed a draft text to the Council for Gaudium et spes. According to the historian John W. O’Malley, the draft text Gaudium et spes that Wojtyła and the Polish delegation sent “had some influence on the version that was sent to the council fathers that summer but was not accepted as the base text”.[62] According to John F. Crosby, as pope, John Paul II used the words of Gaudium et spes later to introduce his own views on the nature of the human person in relation to God: man is “the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake”, but man “can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself”.[63]

He also participated in the assemblies of the Synod of Bishops.[16][17]On 13 January 1964, Pope Paul VI appointed him Archbishop of Kraków.[64] On 26 June 1967, Paul VI announced Archbishop Karol Wojtyła’s promotion to the Sacred College of Cardinals.[44][64]Wojtyła was named Cardinal-Priest of the titulus of San Cesareo in Palatio.

In 1967, he was instrumental in formulating the encyclical Humanae vitae, which dealt with the same issues that forbid abortion andartificial birth control.[44][65][66]

In 1970, according to a contemporary witness, Cardinal Wojtyła was against the distribution of a letter around Kraków, stating that the Polish Episcopate was preparing for the 50th anniversary of thePolish-Soviet War.

Election to the papacy

John paul 2 coa.svg
SPOKEN STYLE Your Holiness

The newly elected Pope John Paul II stands on the balcony at St. Peter’s Basilica on 14 October 1978 inVatican City.

The coat of arms of Pope John Paul II displaying theMarian Crosswith the letter M signifying the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus

In August 1978, following the death of Pope Paul VI, Cardinal Wojtyła voted in the Papal conclave, which elected Pope John Paul I. John Paul I died after only 33 days as pope, triggering another conclave.[17][44][67]

The second conclave of 1978 started on 14 October, ten days after the funeral. It was split between two strong candidates for the papacy: Giuseppe Cardinal Siri, the conservative Archbishop of Genoa, and the liberal Archbishop of Florence, Giovanni Cardinal Benelli, a close friend of John Paul I.[68]

Supporters of Benelli were confident that he would be elected, and in earlyballots, Benelli came within nine votes of success.[68]However, both men faced sufficient opposition for neither to be likely to prevail. Giovanni Colombo, the Archbishop of Milan was considered as a compromise candidate among the Italian cardinal-electors, but when he started to receive votes, he announced that, if elected, he would decline to accept the papacy.[69] Franz Cardinal König, Archbishop of Vienna, suggested to his fellow electors another compromise candidate: the Polish Cardinal Karol Józef Wojtyła.[68] Wojtyła won on the eighth ballot on the third day (16 October) with, according to the Italian press, 99 votes from the 111 participating electors. He subsequently chose the name John Paul II[44][68] in honour of his immediate predecessor and also in honour of the late Pope Paul VI, and the traditional white smoke informed the crowd gathered inSt. Peter’s Square that a pope had been chosen. There had been rumours that the new pope wished to be known as Pope Stanislaus I in honour of the Polish saint of the name, but was convinced by the cardinals that it was not a Roman name.[67]He accepted his election with these words: ‘With obedience in faith to Christ, my Lord, and with trust in the Mother of Christ and the Church, in spite of great difficulties, I accept.’[70][71] When the new pontiff appeared on the balcony, he broke tradition by addressing the gathered crowd:[70]

Dear brothers and sisters, we are saddened at the death of our beloved Pope John Paul I, and so the cardinals have called for a new bishop of Rome. They called him from a faraway land—far and yet always close because of our communion in faith and Christian traditions. I was afraid to accept that responsibility, yet I do so in a spirit of obedience to the Lord and total faithfulness to Mary, our most Holy Mother. I am speaking to you in your—no, our Italian language. If I make a mistake, please “correct” me …. [humorously mispronouncing the word “correct” by deliberately Latinizing it][72][70][73][74]

Wojtyła became the 264th pope according to the chronological list of popes, the first non-Italian in 455 years.[75] At only 58 years of age, he was the youngest pope since Pope Pius IX in 1846, who was 54.[44] Like his predecessor, John Paul II dispensed with the traditional Papal coronation and instead received ecclesiasticalinvestiture with a simplified Papal inauguration on 22 October 1978. During his inauguration, when the cardinals were to kneel before him to take their vows and kiss his ring, he stood up as the Polish prelate Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński knelt down, stopped him from kissing the ring, and simply hugged him.[76]

Pastoral trips

A Mexico City statue of Pope John Paul II with an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe made entirely of metal keys donated by the Mexican people[77]

During his pontificate, Pope John Paul II made trips to 129 countries,[78] travelling more than 1,100,000 kilometres (680,000 mi) while doing so. He consistently attracted large crowds, some among the largest ever assembled in human history, such as the Manila World Youth Day, which gathered up to four million people, the largest Papal gathering ever, according to the Vatican.[79][80] John Paul II’s earliest official visits were to the Dominican Republic and Mexico in January 1979.[81] While some of his trips (such as to the United States and the Holy Land) were to places previously visited by Pope Paul VI, John Paul II became the first pope to visit the White House in October 1979, where he was greeted warmly by then-President Jimmy Carter. He was the first pope ever to visit several countries in one year, starting in 1979 with Mexico[82] andIreland.[83] He was the first reigning pope to travel to the United Kingdom, in 1982, where he met Queen Elizabeth II, theSupreme Governor of the Church of England. While in England, he also visited Canterbury Cathedral and knelt in prayer withRobert Runcie, the Archbishop of Canterbury, at the spot where Thomas à Becket had been killed.[84]

He travelled to Haiti in 1983, where he spoke in Creole to thousands of impoverished Catholics gathered to greet him at the airport. His message, “things must change in Haiti,” referring to the disparity between the wealthy and the poor, was met with thunderous applause.[85] In 2000, he was the first modern pope to visit Egypt,[86]where he met with the Coptic pope, Pope Shenouda III[86] and theGreek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria.[86] He was the first Catholic pope to visit and pray in an Islamic mosque, in Damascus, Syria, in 2001. He visited the Umayyad Mosque, a former Christian church where John the Baptist is believed to be interred,[87] where he made a speech calling for Muslims, Christians and Jews to live together.[87]

On 15 January 1995, during the X World Youth Day, he offeredMass to an estimated crowd of between five and seven million inLuneta Park,[80] Manila, Philippines, which was considered to be the largest single gathering in Christian history.[80]In March 2000, while visiting Jerusalem, John Paul became the first pope in history to visit and pray at the Western Wall.[88][89] In September 2001, amid post-11 September concerns, he travelled to Kazakhstan, with an audience largely consisting of Muslims, and to Armenia, to participate in the celebration of 1,700 years ofArmenian Christianity.[90]

First papal trip to Poland

In June 1979, Pope John Paul II travelled to Poland where ecstatic crowds constantly surrounded him.[91] This first papal trip to Poland uplifted the nation’s spirit and sparked the formation of theSolidarity movement in 1980, which later brought freedom andhuman rights to his troubled homeland.[65] Poland’s Communist leaders intended to use the Pope’s visit to show the people that even though the Pope was Polish it did not alter their capacity to govern, oppress, and distribute the goods of society. They also hoped that if the Pope abided by the rules they set, that the Polish people would see his example and follow them as well. If the Pope’s visit inspired a riot, the Communist leaders of Poland were prepared to crush the uprising and blame the suffering on the Pope.[92]

“The Pope won that struggle by transcending politics. His was what Joseph Nye calls ‘soft power‘ — the power of attraction and repulsion. He began with an enormous advantage, and exploited it to the utmost: He headed the one institution that stood for the polar opposite of the Communist way of life that the Polish people hated. He was a Pole, but beyond the regime’s reach. By identifying with him, Poles would have the chance to cleanse themselves of the compromises they had to make to live under the regime. And so they came to him by the millions. They listened. He told them to be good, not to compromise themselves, to stick by one another, to be fearless, and that God is the only source of goodness, the only standard of conduct. ‘Be not afraid,’ he said. Millions shouted in response, ‘We want God! We want God! We want God!’ The regime cowered. Had the Pope chosen to turn his soft power into the hard variety, the regime might have been drowned in blood. Instead, the Pope simply led the Polish people to desert their rulers by affirming solidarity with one another. The Communists managed to hold on as despots a decade longer. But as political leaders, they were finished. Visiting his native Poland in 1979, Pope John Paul II struck what turned out to be a mortal blow to its Communist regime, to the Soviet Empire, [and] ultimately to Communism.”[92]

According to John Lewis Gaddis, one of the most influential historians of the Cold War, the trip led to the formation of Solidarity and would begin the process of Communism’s demise in Eastern Europe:

When Pope John Paul II kissed the ground at the Warsaw airport he began the process by which Communism in Poland—and ultimately elsewhere in Europe—would come to an end.[93]

On later trips to Poland, he gave tacit support to the Solidarityorganisation.[65] These visits reinforced this message and contributed to the collapse of East European Communism that took place between 1989/1990 with the reintroduction of democracy in Poland, and which then spread through Eastern Europe (1990–1991) and South-Eastern Europe (1990–1992).[73][78][91][94][95]


A 1980 photo of John Paul II in Rome, Italy

As pope, John Paul II wrote 14 papal encyclicals and taught aboutsexuality in what is referred as the “Theology of the Body”. Some key elements of his strategy to “reposition the Catholic Church” were encyclicals such as Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Reconciliatio et paenitentiaand Redemptoris Mater. In his At the beginning of the new millennium(Novo Millennio Ineunte), he emphasised the importance of “starting afresh from Christ”: “No, we shall not be saved by a formula but by a Person.” In The Splendour of the Truth(Veritatis Splendor), he emphasised the dependence of man on God and His Law (“Without the Creator, the creature disappears”) and the “dependence of freedom on the truth”. He warned that man “giving himself over to relativism and scepticism, goes off in search of an illusory freedom apart from truth itself”. In Fides et Ratio (On the Relationship between Faith and Reason) John Paul promoted a renewed interest in philosophy and an autonomous pursuit of truth in theological matters. Drawing on many different sources (such as Thomism), he described the mutually supporting relationship between faith and reason, and emphasised that theologians should focus on that relationship. John Paul II wrote extensively about workers and thesocial doctrine of the Church, which he discussed in three encyclicals: Laborem exercens, Sollicitudo rei socialis, and Centesimus annus. Through his encyclicals and many Apostolic Letters and Exhortations, John Paul II talked about the dignity of women and the importance of the family for the future of humanity.[65] Other encyclicals include The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae) and Ut Unum Sint (That They May Be One). Though critics accused him of inflexibility in explicitly re-asserting Catholic moral teachings against abortion and euthanasia that have been in place for well over a thousand years, he urged a more nuanced view of capital punishment.[65] In his second encyclical Dives in misericordia he stressed that divine mercy is the greatest feature of God, needed especially in modern times.

Moral stances

During a visit to Germany, 1980

John Paul II was considered a conservative on doctrine and issues relating to human sexual reproduction and the ordination of women.[96]

While the Pope was visiting the United States of America he said, “All human life, from the moments of conception and through all subsequent stages, is sacred.”[97]

A series of 129 lectures given by John Paul II during his Wednesday audiences in Rome between September 1979 and November 1984 were later compiled and published as a single work titled Theology of the Body, an extended meditation onhuman sexuality. He extended it to the condemnation of abortion, euthanasia and virtually all capital punishment,[98] calling them all a part of the “culture of death” that is pervasive in the modern world. He campaigned for world debt forgiveness andsocial justice.[65][96] He coined the term “social mortgage“, which related that all private property had a social dimension, namely, that “the goods of this are originally meant for all.”[99] In 2000, he publicly endorsed the Jubilee 2000 campaign on African debt relief fronted by Irish rock stars Bob Geldof and Bono, once famously interrupting a U2 recording session by telephoning the studio and asking to speak to Bono.[100]

Pope John Paul II, who was present and very influential at the 1962–65 Second Vatican Council, affirmed the teachings of that Council and did much to implement them. Nevertheless, his critics often wished that he would embrace the so-called “progressive” agenda that some hoped would evolve as a result of the Council. In fact, the Council did not advocate “progressive” changes in these areas; for example, they still condemned abortion as an unspeakable crime. Pope John Paul II continued to declare that contraception, abortion, and homosexual acts were gravely sinful, and, with Joseph Ratzinger (future Pope Benedict XVI), opposedliberation theology.

Following the Church’s exaltation of the marital act of sexual intercourse between a baptised man and woman within sacramental marriage as proper and exclusive to the sacrament of marriage, John Paul II believed that it was, in every instance, profaned by contraception, abortion, divorce followed by a ‘second’ marriage, and by homosexual acts. In 1994, John Paul II asserted the Church’s lack of authority to ordain women to the priesthood, stating that without such authority ordination is not legitimately compatible with fidelity to Christ. This was also deemed a repudiation of calls to break with the constant tradition of the Church by ordaining women to the priesthood.[101] In addition, John Paul II chose not to end the discipline of mandatory priestly celibacy, although in a small number of unusual circumstances, he did allow certain married clergymen of other Christian traditions who later became Catholic to be ordained as Catholic priests.

Apartheid in South Africa

Pope John Paul II was an outspoken opponent of apartheid in South Africa. In 1985, while visiting the Netherlands, he gave an impassioned speech condemning apartheid at the International Court of Justice, proclaiming that “No system of apartheid or separate development will ever be acceptable as a model for the relations between peoples or races.”[102] In September 1988, Pope John Paul II made a pilgrimage to ten Southern African countries, including those bordering South Africa, while demonstratively avoiding South Africa. During his visit to Zimbabwe, John Paul II called for economic sanctions against South Africa’s government.[103] After John Paul II’s death, both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu praised the Pope for defending human rights and condemning economic injustice.[104]

Capital punishment

Pope John Paul II was an outspoken opponent of the death penalty, although previous popes had accepted the practice. At a papal mass in St. Louis, Missouri, in the United States he said:

A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform. I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.[105]

During that visit, John Paul II convinced the then governor of Missouri, Mel Carnahan, to reduce the death sentence of convicted murderer Darrell J. Mease to life imprisonment without parole.[106]John Paul II’s other attempts to reduce the sentence of death-rowinmates were unsuccessful. In 1983, John Paul II visitedGuatemalaand unsuccessfully asked the country’s president, Efraín Ríos Montt, to reduce the sentence for six left-wing guerrillas sentenced to death.[107]

In 2002, John Paul II again traveled to Guatemala. At that time, Guatemala was one of only two countries in Latin America (the other being Cuba) to apply capital punishment. John Paul II asked to the Guatemalan president, Alfonso Portillo, for a moratorium on executions.[108]

European Union

Pope John Paul II pushed for a reference to Europe’s Christian cultural roots in the draft of the European Constitution. In his 2003apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Europa, John Paul II wrote that he “fully (respected) the secular nature of (European) institutions”. However, he wanted the EU Constitution to enshrine religious rights, including acknowledging the rights of religious groups to organise freely, recognise the specific identity of each denomination and allow for a “structured dialogue” between each religious community and the EU, and extend across the European Union the legal status enjoyed by religious institutions in individual member states. “I wish once more to appeal to those drawing up the future European Constitutional Treaty so that it will include a reference to the religion and in particular to the Christian heritage of Europe,” John Paul II said. The pope’s desire for a reference to Europe’s Christian identity in the Constitution was supported by non-Catholic representatives of the Church of England and Orthodox Churches from Russia, Romania, and Greece.[109] John Paul II’s demand to include a reference to Europe’s Christian roots in the European Constitution was supported by some non-Christians, such as Joseph Weiler, a practising Orthodox Jew and renowned constitutional lawyer, who said that the Constitution’s lack of a reference to Christianity was not a “demonstration of neutrality,” but, rather, “a Jacobin attitude”.[110]

At the same time, however, John Paul II was an enthusiastic supporter of European integration; in particular, he supported his native Poland’s entry into the bloc. On 19 May 2003, three weeks before a referendum was held in Poland on EU membership, the Polish pope addressed his compatriots and urged them to vote for Poland’s EU membership at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City State. While some conservative, Catholic politicians in Poland opposed EU membership, John Paul II said:

I know that there are many in opposition to integration. I appreciate their concern about maintaining the cultural and religious identity of our nation. However, I must emphasise that Poland has always been an important part of Europe. Europe needs Poland. The Church in Europe needs the Poles’ testimony of faith. Poland needs Europe.[111]

The Polish pope compared Poland’s entry into the EU to the Union of Lublin, which was signed in 1564 and united the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania into one nation and created an elective monarchy.[112]


On 22 October 1996, in a speech to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences plenary session at the Vatican, John Paul II said of evolution that “this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favour of this theory.” John Paul II’s embrace of evolution was enthusiastically praised by American paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould,[113] with whom he had an audience in 1984.[114]

Although generally accepting the theory of evolution, John Paul II made one major exception—the human soul. “If the human body has its origin in living material which pre-exists it, the spiritual soul is immediately created by God.”[115][116][117]

Iraq War

In 2003 John Paul II criticised the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, saying in his State of the World address “No to war! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity.”[118] He sent Pío Cardinal Laghi, the former Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to the United States, to talk with George W. Bush, the American President, to express opposition to the war. John Paul II said that it was up to the United Nations to solve the international conflict through diplomacy and that a unilateral aggression is acrime against peace and a violation of international law. The Pope’s opposition to the Iraq War led to him being a candidate to win the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, which was ultimately awarded to Iranian attorney/judge and noted human rights advocate, Shirin Ebadi.[119][120]

Liberation theology

In 1984 and 1986, through the Cardinal Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the FaithCardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), John Paul II officially condemned aspects of liberation theology, which had many followers in South America. Visiting Europe, Óscar Romero unsuccessfully attempted to obtain a Vatican condemnation of El Salvador’s regime, for violations of human rights and its support of death squads. In his travel to Managua, Nicaragua, in 1983, John Paul II harshly condemned what he dubbed the “popular Church”[121] (i.e. “ecclesial base communities” supported by the CELAM), and the Nicaraguan clergy’s tendencies to support the leftist Sandinistas, reminding the clergy of their duties of obedience to the Holy See.[121] During that visit Ernesto Cardenal, a priest and minister in the Sandinista government, knelt to kiss his hand. John Paul withdrew it, wagged his finger in Cardenal’s face, and told him, “You must straighten out your position with the church.”[122]

Organised crime

Pope John Paul II was the first pontiff to actively fight against Mafiaviolence in Southern Italy. In 1993, during a pilgrimage to Agrigento,Sicily, he appealed to the Mafiosi: “I say to those responsible: Convert! One day, the judgment of God will arrive!” In 1994, John Paul II visited Catania and told victims of Mafia violence to “rise up and cloak yourself in light and justice!”[123] In 1995, the Mafia bombed two historical churches in Rome. Some believed that this was the mob’s vendettaagainst the pope for his denounciations of organised crime.[124]

Persian Gulf War

Between 1990 and 1991, a 34-nation coalition led by the United States waged a war against Saddam Hussein‘s Iraq, which had invaded and annexed Kuwait. Pope John Paul II was a staunch opponent of the Gulf War. Throughout the conflict, he appealed to the international community to stop the war, and after it was over led diplomatic initiatives to negotiate peace in the Middle East.[125]In his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus, John Paul II harshly condemned the conflict:

No, never again war, which destroys the lives of innocent people, teaches how to kill, throws into upheaval even the lives of those who do the killing and leaves behind a trail of resentment and hatred, thus making it all the more difficult to find a just solution of the very problems which provoked the war.[126]

In April 1991, during his Urbi et Orbi Sunday message at St. Peter’s Basilica, John Paul II called for the international community to “lend an ear” to “the long-ignored aspirations of oppressed peoples”. He specifically named the Kurds, a people who were fighting a civil war against Saddam Hussein’s troops in Iraq, as one such people, and referred to the war as a “darkness menacing the earth”. During this time, the Vatican had expressed its frustration with the international ignoring of the Pope’s calls for peace in the Middle East.[127]

Rwandan genocide

John Paul II was the first world leader to describe as genocide the massacre by Hutus of Tutsis in the mostly Catholic country of Rwanda, which started in 1990 and reached its height in 1994. He called for a ceasefire and condemned the massacres on 10 April and 15 May 1990.[128] In 1995, during his third visit to Kenya before an audience of 300,000, John Paul II pleaded for an end to the violence in Rwanda and Burundi, pleading for forgiveness and reconciliation as a solution to the genocide. He told Rwandan and Burundian refugees that he “was close to them and shared their immense pain”. He said:

What is happening in your countries is a terrible tragedy that must end. During the African Synod, we, the pastors of the church, felt the duty to express our consternation and to launch an appeal for forgiveness and reconciliation. This is the only way to dissipate the threats of ethnocentrism that are hovering over Africa these days and that have so brutally touched Rwanda and Burundi.[129]

Views on sexuality

While taking a traditional position on human sexuality, maintaining the Church’s moral opposition to homosexual acts, John Paul II asserted that people with homosexual inclinations possess the same inherent dignity and rights as everybody else.[130] In his bookMemory and Identity he referred to the “strong pressures” by theEuropean Parliament to recognise homosexual unions as an alternative type of family, with the right to adopt children. In the book, as quoted by Reuters, he wrote: “It is legitimate and necessary to ask oneself if this is not perhaps part of a new ideology of evil, more subtle and hidden, perhaps, intent upon exploiting human rights themselves against man and against the family.”[65][131] A 1997 study determined that 3% of the pope’s statements were about the issue of sexual morality.[132]

Role in the collapse of dictatorships

Pope John Paul II has been credited with inspiring political change that not only led to the collapse of Communism in his native Poland and eventually all of Eastern Europe, but also in many countries ruled by dictators. In the words of Joaquín Navarro-Valls, John Paul II’s press secretary:

The single fact of John Paul II’s election in 1978 changed everything. In Poland, everything began. Not in East Germany or Czechoslovakia. Then the whole thing spread. Why in 1980 did they lead the way in Gdansk? Why did they decide, now or never? Only because there was a Polish pope. He was in Chile and Pinochet was out. He was in Haiti and Duvalier was out. He was in the Philippines and Marcos was out. On many of those occasions, people would come here to the Vatican thanking the Holy Father for changing things.[133]


Before John Paul II’s pilgrimage to Latin America, during a meeting with reporters, he criticised Augusto Pinochet‘s regime as “dictatorial”. In the words of The New York Times, he used “unusually strong language” to criticise Pinochet and asserted to journalists that the Church in Chile must not only pray, but actively fight for the restoration of democracy in Chile.[134]

During his visit to Chile in 1987, John Paul II asked Chile’s 31 Catholic bishops to campaign for free elections in the country.[135]According to George Weigel and Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, he encouraged Pinochet to accept a democratic opening of the regime, and may even have called for his resignation[136] According to Monsignor Sławomir Oder, the postulator of John Paul II’sbeatification cause, John Paul’s words to Pinochet had a profound impact on the Chilean dictator. The Pope confided to a friend: “I received a letter from Pinochet in which he told me that as a Catholic he had listened to my words, he had accepted them, and he had decided to begin the process to change the leadership of his country.”[137]

During his visit to Chile, John Paul II supported the Vicariate of Solidarity, the Church-led pro-democracy, anti-Pinochet organisation. John Paul II visited the Vicariate of Solidarity’s offices, spoke with its workers, and “called upon them to continue their work, emphasizing that the Gospel consistently urges respect for human rights”.[138] While in Chile, Pope John Paul II made gestures of public support of Chile’s anti-Pinochet democratic opposition. For instance, he hugged and kissedCarmen Gloria Quintana, a young student burned alive by Chilean police and told her that “We must pray for peace and justice in Chile.”[139] Later, he met with several opposition groups, including those that had been declared illegal by Pinochet’s government. The opposition praised John Paul II for denouncing Pinochet as a “dictator”, for many members of Chile’s opposition were persecuted for much milder statements. BishopCarlos Camus, one of the harshest critics of Pinochet’s dictatorship within the Chilean Church, praised John Paul II’s stance during the papal visit: “I am quite moved, because our pastor supports us totally. Never again will anyone be able to say that we are interfering in politics when we defend human dignity.” He added: “No country the Pope has visited has remained the same after his departure. The Pope’s visit is a mission, an extraordinary social catechism, and his stay here will be a watershed in Chilean history.”[140]

Some have erroneously accused John Paul II of affirming Pinochet’s regime by appearing with the Chilean ruler in public. However, Cardinal Roberto Tucci, the organiser of John Paul II’s visits, revealed that Pinochet tricked the pontiff by telling him he would take him to his living room, while in reality he took him to his balcony. Tucci claims that the pontiff was “furious”.[141]


Pope John Paul II visited Haiti on 9 March 1983, when the country was ruled by Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. He bluntly criticised the poverty of the country, directly addressing Baby Doc and his wife, Michèle Bennett in front of a large crowd of Haitians:

Yours is a beautiful country, rich in human resources, but Christians cannot be unaware of the injustice, the excessive inequality, the degradation of the quality of life, the misery, the hunger, the fear suffered by the majority of the people.[142]

John Paul II spoke in French and occasionally in Creole, and in the homily outlined the basic human rights that most Haitians lacked: “the opportunity to eat enough, to be cared for when ill, to find housing, to study, to overcome illiteracy, to find worthwhile and properly paid work; all that provides a truly human life for men and women, for young and old.” Following John Paul II’s pilgrimage, the Haitian opposition to Duvalier frequently reproduced and quoted the Pope’s message. Shortly before leaving Haiti, John Paul II called for social change in Haiti by saying: “Lift up your heads, be conscious of your dignity of men created in God’s image….”[143]

John Paul II’s visit inspired massive protests against the Duvalier dictatorship. In response to the visit, 860 Catholic priests and Church workers signed a statement committing the Church to work on behalf of the poor.[144] In 1986, Duvalier was deposed in an uprising.


The collapse of the dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner of Paraguay was linked, among other things, to Pope John Paul II’s visit to the South American country in 1989. Since Stroessner’s taking power through a coup d’état in 1954, Paraguay’s bishops increasingly criticised the regime for human rights abuses, rigged elections, and the country’s feudal economy. During his private meeting with Stroessner, John Paul II told the dictator:

Politics has a fundamental ethical dimension because it is first and foremost a service to man. The Church can and must remind men—and in particular those who govern—of their ethical duties for the good of the whole of society. The Church cannot be isolated inside its temples just as men’s consciences cannot be isolated from God.[145]

Later, during a Mass, Pope John Paul II criticised the regime for impoverishing the peasants and the unemployed, claiming that the government must give people greater access to the land. Although Stroessner tried to prevent him from doing so, Pope John Paul II met opposition leaders in the one-party state.[145]

Role in the fall of Communism

Russian President Vladimir Putinmeeting John Paul II in June 2000

John Paul II has been credited with being instrumental in bringing down Communism in Central and Eastern Europe,[65][73][78][94][95][146] by being the spiritual inspiration behind its downfall and catalyst for “a peaceful revolution” in Poland. Lech Wałęsa, the founder of ‘Solidarity’, credited John Paul II with giving Poles the courage to demand change.[65]According to Wałęsa, “Before his pontificate, the world was divided into blocs. Nobody knew how to get rid of Communism. In Warsaw, in 1979, he simply said: ‘Do not be afraid’, and later prayed: ‘Let your Spirit descend and change the image of the land … this land’.”[146] It has also been widely alleged that the Vatican Bank covertly funded Solidarity.[147][148]

U.S. President George W. Bush presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to John Paul II in June 2004

US President Ronald Reagan‘s correspondence with the pope reveals “a continuous scurrying to shore up Vatican support for U.S. policies. Perhaps most surprisingly, the papers show that, as late as 1984, the pope did not believe the Communist Polish government could be changed.”[149]

The British historian Timothy Garton Ash, who describes himself as an “agnostic liberal”, said shortly after John Paul II’s death:

No one can prove conclusively that he was a primary cause of the end of communism. However, the major figures on all sides—not just Lech Wałęsa, the Polish Solidarity leader, but also Solidarity’s arch-opponent, General Wojciech Jaruzelski; not just the former American president George Bush Senior but also the former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev—now agree that he was. I would argue the historical case in three steps: without the Polish Pope, no Solidarity revolution in Poland in 1980; without Solidarity, no dramatic change in Soviet policy towards eastern Europe under Gorbachev; without that change, no velvet revolutions in 1989.[150]

Graffiti showing Pope John Paul II with quote “Do not be afraid” inRijeka,Croatia

In December 1989, John Paul II met with the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at the Vatican and each expressed his respect and admiration for the other. Gorbachev once said “The collapse of theIron Curtain would have been impossible without John Paul II.”[73][94] On John Paul II’s death, Mikhail Gorbachev said: “Pope John Paul II’s devotion to his followers is a remarkable example to all of us.”[95][146]

On 4 June 2004 U.S. President George W. Bush presented thePresidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honour, to John Paul II during a ceremony at the Apostolic Palace. The president read the citation that accompanied the medal, which recognised “this son of Poland” whose “principled stand for peace and freedom has inspired millions and helped to topple communism and tyranny”.[151] After receiving the award, John Paul II said, “May the desire for freedom, peace, a more humane world symbolised by this medal inspire men and women of goodwill in every time and place.”[152]

Communist attempt to humiliate John Paul II

In 1983 Poland’s Communist government unsuccessfully tried to humiliate John Paul II by falsely saying he had fathered an illegitimate child. Section D of Służba Bezpieczeństwa (SB), the security service, had an action named “Triangolo” to carry out criminal operations against the Catholic Church; the operation encompassed all Polish hostile actions against the Pope.[153] Captain Grzegorz Piotrowski, one of the murderers of Jerzy Popiełuszko, was the leader of section D. They drugged Irena Kinaszewska, the secretary of the Kraków-based weekly Catholic magazine Tygodnik Powszechny where Karol Wojtyła had worked, and unsuccessfully attempted to make her admit to having had sexual relations with him.[154]

The SB then attempted to compromise Cracow priest Andrzej Bardecki, an editor of Tygodnik Powszechny and one of the closest friends of Cardinal Karol Wojtyła before he became pope, by planting false memoirs in his dwelling, but Piotrowski was exposed and the forgeries were found and destroyed before the SB could “discover” them.[154]

Relations with other churches and religions

John Paul II travelled extensively and met with believers from many divergent faiths. At the World Day of Prayer for Peace, held in Assision 27 October 1986, more than 120 representatives of different religions and denominations spent a day of fasting and prayer.[155]


John Paul II had good relations with the Church of England. He was the first reigning pope to travel to the United Kingdom, in 1982, where he met Queen Elizabeth II, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. He preached in Canterbury Cathedral and received Robert Runcie, the Archbishop of Canterbury. He said that he was disappointed by the Church of England’s decision to ordain women and saw it as a step away from unity between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church.[156]

In 1980 John Paul II issued a Pastoral Provision allowing married former Episcopal priests to become Catholic priests, and for the acceptance of former Episcopal Church parishes into the Catholic Church. He allowed the creation of the Anglican Use form of theLatin Rite, which incorporates the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. He helped establish Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church, together with Archbishop Patrick Flores of San Antonio, Texas, as the inaugural parish for the Anglican Use liturgy.[157]


In his book-length interview Crossing the Threshold of Hope with the Italian journalist Vittorio Messori published in 1995, John Paul II praises animism, drawing parallels with Christianity. He says:

… it would be helpful to recall … the animist religions which stress ancestor worship. It seems that those who practice them are particularly close to Christianity, and among them, the Church’s missionaries also find it easier to speak a common language. Is there, perhaps, in this veneration of ancestors a kind of preparation for the Christian faith in the Communion of Saints, in which all believers—whether living or dead—form a single community, a single body? […] There is nothing strange, then, that the African and Asian animists would become believers in Christ more easily than followers of the great religions of the Far East.[158]

In 1985, the pope visited the African country of Togo, where 60 per cent of the population espouses animist beliefs. To honour the pope, animist religious leaders met him at a Catholic Marian shrine in the forest, much to the pontiff’s delight. John Paul II proceeded to call for the need for religious tolerance, praised animism, and emphasised common elements between animism and Christianity, saying:

Nature, exuberant and splendid in this area of forests and lakes, impregnates spirits and hearts with its mystery and orients them spontaneously toward the mystery of He who is the author of life. It is this religious sentiment that animates you and one can say that animates all of your compatriots.[159]

During the investiture of President Thomas Boni Yayi of Benin as a titled Yoruba chieftain on 20 December 2008, the reigning Ooni ofIle-Ife, Nigeria, Olubuse II, referred to Pope John Paul II as a previous recipient of the same royal honour.[160]

Armenian Apostolic Church

John Paul II had good relations with the Armenian Apostolic Church. In 1996, he brought the Catholic Church and the Armenian Church closer by agreeing with Armenian Archbishop Karekin II on Christ’s nature.[161] During an audience in 2000, John Paul II and Karekin II, by then the Catholicos of All Armenians, issued a joint statement condemning the Armenian genocide. Meanwhile, the pope gave Karekin the relics of St. Gregory the Illuminator, the first head of the Armenian Church that had been kept in Naples, Italy, for 500 years.[162] In September 2001, John Paul II went on a three-day pilgrimage to Armenia to take part in an ecumenical celebration with Karekin IIin the newly consecrated St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in Yerevan. The two Church leaders signed a declaration remembering the victims of the Armenian genocide. [163]


Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, visited John Paul II eight times. The two men held many similar views and understood similar plights, both coming from nations affected by communism and both serving as heads of major religious bodies.[164][165] As Archbishop of Kraków, long before the 14th Dalai Lama was a world-famous figure, Wojtyła held special Masses to pray for the Tibetan people’s non-violent struggle for freedom from Maoist China.[166] During his 1995 visit to Sri Lanka, a country where a majority of the population adheres to Theravada Buddhism, John Paul II expressed his admiration for Buddhism:

In particular I express my highest regard for the followers of Buddhism, the majority religion in Sri Lanka, with its … four great values of … loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity; with its ten transcendental virtues and the joys of the Sangha expressed so beautifully in the Theragathas. I ardently hope that my visit will serve to strengthen the goodwill between us, and that it will reassure everyone of the Catholic Church’s desire for interreligious dialogue and cooperation in building a more just and fraternal world. To everyone I extend the hand of friendship, recalling the splendid words of theDhammapada: “Better than a thousand useless words is one single word that gives peace….”[167]

Eastern Orthodox Church

In May 1999, John Paul II visited Romania on the invitation from Patriarch Teoctist Arăpaşu of the Romanian Orthodox Church. This was the first time a pope had visited a predominantly Eastern Orthodox country since the Great Schism in 1054.[168] On his arrival, the Patriarch and the President of Romania, Emil Constantinescu, greeted the Pope.[168] The Patriarch stated, “The second millennium of Christian history began with a painful wounding of the unity of the Church; the end of this millennium has seen a real commitment to restoring Christian unity.”[168]

On 23–27 June 2001 John Paul II visited Ukraine, another heavily Orthodox nation, at the invitation of the President of Ukraine and bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.[169] The Pope spoke to leaders of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organisations, pleading for “open, tolerant and honest dialogue”.[169] About 200 thousand people attended the liturgies celebrated by the Pope in Kiev, and the liturgy in Lviv gathered nearly one and a half million faithful.[169] John Paul II said that an end to the Great Schism was one of his fondest wishes.[169] Healing divisions between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churchesregarding Latin and Byzantine traditions was clearly of great personal interest. For many years, John Paul II sought to facilitate dialogue and unity stating as early as 1988 in Euntes in mundum, “Europe has two lungs, it will never breathe easily until it uses both of them.”

During his 2001 travels, John Paul II became the first pope to visit Greece in 1291 years.[170][171] In Athens, the Pope met withArchbishop Christodoulos, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church.[170] After a private 30-minute meeting, the two spoke publicly. Christodoulos read a list of “13 offences” of the Catholic Church against the Eastern Orthodox Church since the Great Schism,[170]including the pillaging of Constantinople by crusaders in 1204, and bemoaned the lack of apology from the Catholic Church, saying “Until now, there has not been heard a single request for pardon” for the “maniacal crusaders of the 13th century”.[170]

The Pope responded by saying “For the occasions past and present, when sons and daughters of the Catholic Church have sinned by action or omission against their Orthodox brothers and sisters, may the Lord grant us forgiveness”, to which Christodoulos immediately applauded. John Paul II said that the sacking of Constantinople was a source of “profound regret” for Catholics.[170] Later John Paul II and Christodoulos met on a spot where Saint Paul had once preached to Athenian Christians. They issued a ‘common declaration’, saying “We shall do everything in our power, so that the Christian roots of Europe and its Christian soul may be preserved…. We condemn all recourse to violence, proselytism and fanaticism, in the name of religion.”[170] The two leaders then said the Lord’s Prayertogether, breaking an Orthodox taboo against praying with Catholics.[170]

The Pope had said throughout his pontificate that one of his greatest dreams was to visit Russia, but this never occurred. He attempted to solve the problems that had arisen over centuries between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches, and in 2004 gave them a 1730 copy of the lost icon of Our Lady of Kazan.


John Paul II made considerable efforts to improve relations between Catholicism and Islam.[172]

On 6 May 2001 he became the first Catholic pope to enter and pray in a mosque. Respectfully removing his shoes, he entered the Umayyad Mosque, a formerByzantine era Christian church dedicated to John the Baptist (who was believed to be interred there) in Damascus, Syria, and gave a speech including the statement: “For all the times that Muslims and Christians have offended one another, we need to seek forgiveness from the Almighty and to offer each other forgiveness.”[87] He kissed theQur’an in Syria, an act that made him popular among Muslims but that disturbed many Catholics.[173]

In 2004 Paul II hosted the “Papal Concert of Reconciliation“, which brought together leaders of Islam with leaders of the Jewish community and of the Catholic Church at the Vatican for a concert by the Kraków Philharmonic Choir from Poland, the London Philharmonic Choir from the United Kingdom, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra from the United States, and the Ankara State Polyphonic Choir of Turkey.[174][175][176][177] The event was conceived and conducted by SirGilbert Levine, KCSG and was broadcast throughout the world.[174][175][176][177]

John Paul II oversaw the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which makes a special provision for Muslims; therein, it is written, “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in ‘the first place amongst whom are the Muslims’; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”[178]


In 1995, Pope John Paul II held a meeting with 21 Jains, a sect that broke away from mainstream Hinduism in 600 BC, organized by thePontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. He praised Mahatma Gandhi for his “unshakeable faith in God”, ensured the Jains that the Catholic Church will continue to engage in dialogue with their religion and spoke of the common need to aid the poor. The Jain leaders were impressed with the pope’s “transparency and simplicity”, and the meeting received much attention in the Gujaratstate in western India, home to many Jains.[179]


Relations between Catholicism and Judaism improved dramatically during the pontificate of John Paul II.[65][89] He spoke frequently about the Church’s relationship with the Jewish faith.[65]

In 1979 John Paul II visited the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland where many of his compatriots (mostly Jews) had perished during the Nazi occupation in World War II, the first pope to do so. In 1998 he issued We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah, which outlined his thinking on the Holocaust.[180] He became the first pope known to have made an official papal visit to a synagogue, when he visited the Great Synagogue of Rome on 13 April 1986.[181][182]

On 30 December 1993 John Paul II established formal diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel, acknowledging its centrality in Jewish life and faith.[181]

On 7 April 1994 he hosted the Papal Concert to Commemorate the Holocaust. It was the first-ever Vatican event dedicated to the memory of the six million Jews murdered in World War II. This concert, which was conceived and conducted by American conductor Gilbert Levine, was attended by the Chief Rabbi of RomeElio Toaff, the President of Italy Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, and survivors of the Holocaust from around the world. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, actor Richard Dreyfuss and cellist Lynn Harrell performed on this occasion under Levine’s direction.[183][184] On the morning of the concert, the Pope received the attending members of survivor community in a special audience in the Apostolic Palace.

In March 2000 John Paul II visited Yad Vashem, the national Holocaust memorial in Israel, and later made history by touching one of the holiest sites in Judaism, the Western Wall in Jerusalem,[89] placing a letter inside it (in which he prayed for forgiveness for the actions against Jews).[88][89][181] In part of his address he said: “I assure the Jewish people the Catholic Church … is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place,” he added that there were “no words strong enough to deplore the terrible tragedy of the Holocaust.”[88][89] Israeli cabinetminister Rabbi Michael Melchior, who hosted the Pope’s visit, said he was “very moved” by the Pope’s gesture.[88][89]

It was beyond history, beyond memory.[88]

We are deeply saddened by the behaviour 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.[185]

In October 2003, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued a statement congratulating John Paul II on entering the 25th year of his papacy. In January 2005, John Paul II became the first pope known to receive a priestly blessing from a rabbi, when RabbisBenjamin Blech, Barry Dov Schwartz, and Jack Bemporad visited the Pontiff at Clementine Hall in the Apostolic Palace.[186]

Immediately after John Paul II’s death, the ADL said in a statement that he had revolutionised Catholic-Jewish relations, saying, “more change for the better took place in his 27-year Papacy than in the nearly 2,000 years before.”[187] In another statement issued by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, Director Dr Colin Rubenstein said, “The Pope will be remembered for his inspiring spiritual leadership in the cause of freedom and humanity. He achieved far more in terms oftransforming relations with both the Jewish people and the State of Israel than any other figure in the history of the Catholic Church.”[181]

With Judaism, therefore, we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers, and in a certain way, it could be said that you are ourelder brothers.[188]

In an interview with the Polish Press Agency, Michael Schudrich, chief rabbi of Poland, said that never in history did anyone do as much for Christian-Jewish dialogue as Pope John Paul II, adding that many Jews had a greater respect for the late pope than for some rabbis. Schudrich praised John Paul II for condemning anti-Semitism as a sin, which no previous pope had done.[189]

On John Paul II’s beatification the Chief Rabbi of Rome Riccardo Di Segni said in an interview with the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano that “John Paul II was revolutionary because he tore down a thousand-year wall of Catholic distrust of the Jewish world.” Meanwhile, Elio Toaff, the former Chief Rabbi of Rome, said that:

Remembrance of the Pope Karol Wojtyła will remain strong in the collective Jewish memory because of his appeals to fraternity and the spirit of tolerance, which excludes all violence. In the stormy history of relations between Roman popes and Jews in the ghetto in which they were closed for over three centuries in humiliating circumstances, John Paul II is a bright figure in his uniqueness. In relations between our two great religions in the new century that was stained with bloody wars and the plague of racism, the heritage of John Paul II remains one of the few spiritual islands guaranteeing survival and human progress.[190]


From 15 to 19 November 1980, John Paul II visited West Germany[191] on his first trip to a country with a large Lutheranpopulation. In Mainz, he met with leaders of the Lutheran and other Protestant Churches, and with representatives of other Christian denominations.

On 11 December 1983, John Paul II participated in an ecumenical service in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rome,[192] the first papal visit ever to a Lutheran church. The visit took place 500 years after the birth of Martin Luther, the German Augustinian monk who initiated the Lutheran reformation.

In his apostolic pilgrimage to Norway, Iceland, Finland, Denmark and Sweden of June 1989,[193] John Paul II became the first pope to visit countries with Lutheran majorities. In addition to celebrating Mass with Catholic believers, he participated in ecumenical services at places that had been Catholic shrines before the 16th-century Lutheran reformation: Nidaros Cathedral in Norway; near St. Olav’s Church at Thingvellir in Iceland; Turku Cathedral in Finland;Roskilde Cathedral in Denmark; and Uppsala Cathedral in Sweden.

On 31 October 1999, (the 482nd anniversary of Reformation Day, Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses), representatives of the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) signed a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, as a gesture of unity. The signing was a fruit of a theological dialogue that had been going on between the LWF and the Vatican since 1965.

Assassination attempts and plots

The Fiat Popemobile that carried John Paul II during the 1981 assassination attempt on his life in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City

As he entered St. Peter’s Square to address an audience on 13 May 1981,[194] Pope John Paul II was shot and critically wounded byMehmet Ali Ağca,[16][78][195] an expert Turkish gunman who was a member of the militant fascist group Grey Wolves.[196] The assassin used a Browning 9 mm semi-automatic pistol,[197] shooting the pope in the abdomen and perforating his colon and small intestinemultiple times.[73] John Paul II was rushed into the Vatican complex and then to theGemelli Hospital. On the way to the hospital, he lost consciousness. Even though the two bullets missed his mesenteric artery and abdominal aorta, he lost nearly three-quarters of his blood. He underwent five hours of surgery to treat his wounds.[198]Surgeons performed a colostomy, temporarily rerouting the upper part of the large intestine to let the damaged lower part heal.[198]When he briefly gained consciousness before being operated on, he instructed the doctors not to remove his Brown Scapular during the operation.[199] The pope stated that Our Lady of Fátima helped keep him alive throughout his ordeal.[78][195][200]

Small marble tablet in St. Peter’s Square indicating where the shooting of John Paul II occurred. The tablet bears John Paul’spersonal papal armsand the date of the shooting in Roman numerals.

Could I forget that the event in St. Peter’s Square took place on the day and at the hour when the first appearance of the Mother of Christ to the poor little peasants has been remembered for over sixty years at Fátima, Portugal? For in everything that happened to me on that very day, I felt that extraordinary motherly protection and care, which turned out to be stronger than the deadly bullet.[201]

Ağca was caught and restrained by a nun and other bystanders until police arrived. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. Two days after Christmas in 1983, John Paul II visited Ağca in prison. John Paul II and Ağca spoke privately for about twenty minutes.[78][195]John Paul II said, “What we talked about will have to remain a secret between him and me. I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust.″

On 2 March 2006 the Italian parliament’s Mitrokhin Commission, set up by Silvio Berlusconi and headed by Forza Italiasenator Paolo Guzzanti, concluded that the Soviet Union was behind the attempt on John Paul II’s life,[196][202] in retaliation for the pope’s support of Solidarity, the Catholic, pro-democratic Polish workers’ movement, a theory that had already been supported by Michael Ledeen and theUnited States Central Intelligence Agency at the time.[196][202] The Italian report stated that Communist Bulgarian security departments were utilised to prevent the Soviet Union’s role from being uncovered.[202]The report stated that Soviet military intelligence (Glavnoje Razvedyvatel’noje Upravlenije), not the KGB, were responsible.[202] Russian Foreign Intelligence Service spokesman Boris Labusov called the accusation “absurd”.[202] The Pope declared during a May 2002 visit to Bulgaria that the country’s Soviet-bloc-era leadership had nothing to do with theassassination attempt.[196][202] However, his secretary, Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, alleged in his book A Life with Karol, that the pope was convinced privately that the former Soviet Union was behind the attack.[203] It was later discovered that many of John Paul II’s aides had foreign-government attachments;[204] Bulgaria and Russia disputed the Italian commission’s conclusions, pointing out that the Pope had publicly denied the Bulgarian connection.[202]

A second assassination attempt was made on 12 May 1982, just a day before the anniversary of the first attempt on his life, in Fátima, Portugal when a man tried to stab John Paul II with a bayonet.[205][206][207] He was stopped by security guards. Stanisław Dziwisz later said that John Paul II had been injured during the attempt but managed to hide a non-life-threatening wound.[205][206][207] The assailant, a traditionalist Catholic Spanish priest named Juan María Fernández y Krohn,[205] had been ordained as a priest by ArchbishopMarcel Lefebvre of the Society of Saint Pius X and was opposed to the changes made by the Second Vatican Council, claiming that the pope was an agent of Communist Moscow and of the MarxistEastern Bloc.[208] Fernández y Krohn subsequently left the priesthood and served three years of a six-year sentence.[206][207][208] The ex-priest was treated for mental illness and then expelled from Portugal to become a solicitor in Belgium.[208]

The Al-Qaeda-funded Bojinka plot planned to kill John Paul II during a visit to the Philippines during World Youth Day 1995 celebrations. On 15 January 1995 asuicide bomber was planning to dress as a priest and detonate a bomb when the Pope passed in his motorcadeon his way to the San Carlos Seminary in Makati City. The assassination was supposed to divert attention from the next phase of the operation. However, a chemical fire inadvertently started by the cell alerted police to their whereabouts, and all were arrested a week before the Pope’s visit, and confessed to the plot.[209]

In 2009 John Koehler, a journalist and former army intelligence officer, published Spies in the Vatican: The Soviet Union’s Cold War Against the Catholic Church.[210]Mining mostly East German and Polish secret police archives, Koehler says the assassination attempts were “KGB-backed” and gives details.[211] During John Paul II’s papacy there were many clerics within the Vatican who on nomination, declined to be ordained, and then mysteriously left the church. There is wide speculation that they were, in reality, KGBagents.


John Paul II apologised to many groups that had suffered at the hands of the Catholic Church through the years.[65][212] Before becoming pope he had been a prominent editor and supporter of initiatives such as the Letter of Reconciliation of the Polish Bishops to the German Bishops from 1965. As pope, he officially made public apologies for over 100 wrongdoings, including:[213][214][215][216]

On 20 November 2001, from a laptop in the Vatican, Pope John Paul II sent his first e-mail apologising for the Catholic sex abuse cases, the Church-backed “Stolen Generations” of Aboriginal children in Australia, and to China for the behaviour of Catholic missionaries incolonial times.[219]


An ailing John Paul II riding in thePopemobile in September 2004 inSt. Peter’s Square

When he became pope in 1978 at the age of 58, John Paul II was an avid sportsman. He was extremely healthy and active, jogging in theVatican gardens, weight training, swimming, and hiking in the mountains. He was fond of football. The media contrasted the new Pope’s athleticism and trim figure to the poor health of John Paul I and Paul VI, the portliness of John XXIII and the constant claims of ailments of Pius XII. The only modern pope with a fitness regimen had been Pope Pius XI(1922–1939), who was an avid mountaineer.[220][221] An Irish Independent article in the 1980s labelled John Paul II the keep-fit pope.

However, after over twenty-five years as pope, two assassination attempts, one of which injured him severely, and a number of cancer scares, John Paul’s physical health declined. In 2001 he was diagnosed as suffering from Parkinson’s disease.[222]International observers had suspected this for some time, but it was only publicly acknowledged by the Vatican in 2003. Despite difficulty speaking more than a few sentences at a time, trouble hearing, and severeosteoarthrosis, he continued to tour the world although rarely walking in public.

Death and funeral

Final months

Pope John Paul II was hospitalised with breathing problems caused by a bout of influenza on 1 February 2005.[223] He left the hospital on 10 February, but was subsequently hospitalised again with breathing problems two weeks later and underwent a tracheotomy.[224]

Final illness and death

On 31 March 2005 following a urinary tract infection,[225] he developed septic shock, a form of infection with a high fever and lowblood pressure, but was not hospitalised. Instead, he was monitoredby a team of consultants at his private residence. This was taken as an indication that the pope and those close to him believed that he was nearing death; it would have been in accordance with his wishes to die in the Vatican.[225] Later that day, Vatican sources announced that John Paul II had been given the Anointing of the Sick by his friend and secretary Stanisław Dziwisz. During the final days of the Pope’s life, the lights were kept burning through the night where he lay in the Papal apartment on the top floor of the Apostolic Palace. Tens of thousands of people assembled and held vigil in St. Peter’s Square and the surrounding streets for two days. Upon hearing of this, the dying pope was said to have stated: “I have searched for you, and now you have come to me, and I thank you.”[226]

On Saturday, 2 April 2005, at approximately 15:30 CEST, John Paul II spoke his final words in Polish, “Pozwólcie mi odejść do domu Ojca”(“Allow me to depart to the house of the Father”), to his aides, and fell into a coma about four hours later.[226][227] The Mass of the vigil of the Second Sunday of Easter commemorating thecanonisation of Saint Maria Faustina on 30 April 2000, had just been celebrated at his bedside, presided over by Stanisław Dziwisz and two Polish associates. Present at the bedside was a cardinal from Ukraine, who served as a priest with John Paul in Poland, along with Polish nuns of the Congregation of the Sisters Servants of the Most Sacred Heartof Jesus, who ran the papal household.

On 2 April 2005, Pope John Paul II died in his private apartment at 21:37 CEST (19:37 UTC) of heart failure from profound hypotensionand complete circulatory collapse from septic shock, 46 days before his 85th birthday.[227][228][229] He had no close family by the time of his death; his feelings are reflected in his words written in 2000 at the end of his Last Will and Testament.[230] Stanisław Dziwisz later said he had not burned the pontiff’s personal notes despite the request being part of the will.[231]

(l-r) George W. Bush, Laura Bush,George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton,Condoleezza Rice, and Andrew Card, U.S. dignitaries paying respects to John Paul II on 6 April 2005 at St. Peter’s Basilica,Vatican City


The death of the pontiff set in motion rituals and traditions dating back to medieval times. The Rite of Visitation took place from 4 April 2005 to 7 April 2005 at St. Peter’s Basilica. John Paul II’s testament, published on 7 April 2005,[232]revealed that the pontiff contemplated being buried in his native Poland but left the final decision to The College of Cardinals, which in passing, preferred burial beneath St. Peter’s Basilica, honouring the pontiff’s request to be placed “in bare earth”.

The Requiem Mass held on 8 April 2005 was said to have set world records both for attendance and number of heads of state present at a funeral.[217][233][234][235] (See: List of Dignitaries.) It was the single largest gathering of heads of state in history, surpassing the funerals of Winston Churchill (1965) and Josip Broz Tito (1980). Four kings, five queens, at least 70 presidents and prime ministers, and more than 14 leaders of other religions attended alongside the faithful.[233] It is likely to have been the largest single pilgrimage of Christianity ever with numbers estimated in excess of four million mourners gathering in and around Vatican City.[217][234][235][236]Between 250,000 and 300,000 watched the event from within the Vatican’s walls.[235]

The Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, conducted the ceremony. John Paul II was interred in the grottoesunder the basilica, the Tomb of the Popes. He was lowered into a tomb created in the same alcove previously occupied by the remains of John XXIII. The alcove had been empty since Pope John’s remains had been moved into the main body of the basilica after his beatification.

Posthumous recognition

John Paul II Brazil 1997 3.jpg
BORN 18 May 1920
Wadowice, Poland
DIED 2 April 2005
Apostolic Palace, Vatican City
VENERATED IN Catholic Church
BEATIFIED 1 May 2011, St. Peter’s Square,Vatican City by Pope Benedict XVI
CANONIZED 27 April 2014, St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City by Pope Francis
FEAST 22 October
ATTRIBUTES Papal ferula, Papal vestments
PATRONAGE Kraków, Poland, World Youth Day, young Catholics, Świdnica, families, World Meeting of Families 2015

Title “the Great”

Upon the death of John Paul II, a number of clergy at the Vatican and laymen throughout the world[73][217][237] began referring to the late pontiff as “John Paul the Great”—only the fourth pope to be so acclaimed, and the first since thefirst millennium.[73][237][238][239]Scholars of Canon Law say that there is no official process for declaring a pope “Great”; the title simply establishes itself through popular and continued usage,[217][240][241] as was the case with celebrated secular leaders (for example, Alexander III of Macedon became popularly known as Alexander the Great). The three popes who today commonly are known as “Great” are Leo I, who reigned from 440–461 and persuaded Attila the Hunto withdraw from Rome; Gregory I, 590–604, after whom the Gregorian Chant is named; and Pope Nicholas I, 858–867.[237]

His successor, Benedict XVI, referred to him as “the great Pope John Paul II” in his first address from the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica, andCardinal Angelo Sodano referred to John Paul as “the Great” in his published written homily for the pope’s funeral Mass of Repose.[242][243]

The tomb of John Paul II in theVatican Chapel of St. Sebastian withinSt. Peter’s Basilica

Since giving his homily at the funeral of Pope John Paul, Pope Benedict XVI continued to refer to John Paul II as “the Great”. At the20th World Youth Day in Germany 2005, Pope Benedict XVI, speaking in Polish, John Paul’s native language, said, “As the Great Pope John Paul II would say: Keep the flame of faith alive in your lives and your people.” In May 2006, Pope Benedict XVI visited John Paul’s native Poland. During that visit, he repeatedly made references to “the great John Paul” and “my great predecessor”.[244]

Two newspapers have called him “the Great” or “the Greatest”. The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera called him “the Greatest”[citation needed] and the South African Catholic newspaper, The Southern Cross, called him “John Paul II the Great”.[245] Some Catholic institutions changed their names to incorporate “the Great”, including John Paul the Great Catholic University and schools called some variant ofJohn Paul the Great High School.

Institutions named for John Paul the Great


1.5 million St. Peter’s Square attendees witness the beatification of John Paul II on 1 May 2011 in Vatican City[246][247]

A monument to John Paul II in Poznań, Poland

Inspired by calls of “Santo Subito!” (“[Make him a] Saint Immediately!”) from the crowds gathered during the funeral Mass that he performed,[248][249][250][251] Benedict XVI began the beatification process for his predecessor, bypassing the normal restriction that five years must pass after a person’s death before beginning the beatification process.[249][250][252][253]In an audience with Pope Benedict XVI, Camillo Ruini, Vicar General of the Diocese of Rome, who was responsible for promoting the cause for canonisation of any person who died within that diocese, cited “exceptional circumstances”, which suggested that the waiting period could be waived.[17][217][254] This decision was announced on 13 May 2005, the Feast of Our Lady of Fátima and the 24th anniversary of the assassination attempt on John Paul II at St. Peter’s Square.[255]

In early 2006 it was reported that the Vatican was investigating a possible miracle associated with John Paul II. Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, a French nun and member of the Congregation of Little Sisters of Catholic Maternity Wards, confined to her bed by Parkinson’s disease,[250][256] was reported to have experienced a “complete and lasting cure after members of her community prayed for the intercession of Pope John Paul II”.[147][217][248][250][257][258] As of May 2008, Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre, then 46,[248][250] was working again at a maternity hospital run by her religious institute.[253][256][259][260]

“I was sick and now I am cured,” she told reporter Gerry Shaw. “I am cured, but it is up to the church to say whether it was a miracle or not.”[256][259]

On 28 May 2006, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass before an estimated 900,000 people in John Paul II’s native Poland. During hishomily, he encouraged prayers for the early canonisation of John Paul II and stated that he hoped canonisation would happen “in the near future”.[256][261]

In January 2007 Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz announced that the interview phase of the beatification process, in Italy and Poland, was nearing completion.[217][256][262] In February 2007, relics of Pope John Paul II—pieces of white papal cassocks he used to wear—were freely distributed with prayer cards for the cause, a typical pious practice after a saintly Catholic’s death.[263][264] On 8 March 2007, the Vicariate of Rome announced that the diocesan phase of John Paul’s cause for beatification was at an end. Following a ceremony on 2 April 2007—the second anniversary of the Pontiff’s death—the cause proceeded to the scrutiny of the committee of lay, clerical, and episcopal members of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, to conduct a separate investigation.[249][256][262] On the fourth anniversary of Pope John Paul’s death, 2 April 2009, Cardinal Dziwisz, told reporters of a presumed miracle that had recently occurred at the former pope’s tomb in St. Peter’s Basilica.[259][265][266][267] A nine-year-old Polish boy from Gdańsk, who was suffering from kidney cancer and was completely unable to walk, had been visiting the tomb with his parents. On leaving St. Peter’s Basilica, the boy told them, “I want to walk,” and began walking normally.[265][266][267][268] On 16 November 2009, a panel of reviewers at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints voted unanimously that Pope John Paul II had lived a life of heroic virtue.[269][270]On 19 December 2009, Pope Benedict XVI signed the first of two decrees needed for beatification and proclaimed John Paul II “Venerable”, asserting that he had lived a heroic, virtuous life.[269][270] The second vote and the second signed decree certifying the authenticity of the first miracle,the curing of Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, a French nun, from Parkinson’s disease. Once the second decree is signed, the positio(the report on the cause, with documentation about his life and writings and with information on the cause) is complete.[270] He can then be beatified.[269][270] Some speculated that he would be beatified sometime during (or soon after) the month of the 32nd anniversary of his 1978 election, in October 2010. As Monsignor Oder noted, this course would have been possible if the second decree were signed in time by Benedict XVI, stating that a posthumous miracle directly attributable to his intercession had occurred, completing the positio.

Candles around monument to Pope John Paul in Zaspa, Gdańsk at the time of his death

The Vatican announced on 14 January 2011 that Pope Benedict XVI had confirmed the miracle involving Sister Marie Simon-Pierre and that John Paul II was to be beatified on 1 May, the Feast of Divine Mercy.[271] 1 May is commemorated in former communist countries, such as Poland, and some Western European countries as May Day, and John Paul II was well known for his contributions to communism’s relatively peaceful demise.[73][94] In March 2011 the Polish mint issued a gold 1,000 Polish złoty coin (equivalent to US$350), with the Pope’s image to commemorate his beatification.[272]

On 29 April 2011 John Paul II’s coffin was exhumed from the grotto beneath St. Peter’s Basilica ahead of his beatification, as tens of thousands of people arrived in Rome for one of the biggest events since his funeral.[273] John Paul II’s remains (in a closed coffin) were placed in front of the Basilica’s main altar, where believers could pay their respect before and after the beatification mass in St. Peter’s Square on 1 May 2011. On 3 May 2011 his remains were reinterred in the marble altar in Pier Paolo Cristofari’s Chapel of St. Sebastian, where Pope Innocent XI was buried. This more prominent location, next to the Chapel of the Pietà, the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, and statues of Popes Pius XI and Pius XII, was intended to allow more pilgrims to view his memorial.

Marco Fidel Rojas, the mayor of Huila, Colombia, testified that he was “miraculously cured” of Parkinson’s disease through the intercession of John Paul II. Mr. Rojas’ doctor certified his cure, and the documentation has been sent to the sainthood cause’s Vatican office.[274]


The canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII.

To be eligible for canonisation (being declared a saint) by the Catholic Church, two miracles must be attributed to a candidate, the first having been his healing a case of Parkinson’s disease, which was recognized during the beatification process.

According to an article on the Catholic News Service (CNS) dated 23 April 2013, a Vatican commission of doctors concluded that a healing had no natural (medical) explanation, which is the first requirement for an alleged miracle to be officially documented. [275][276][277]

The miracle was deemed to have taken place shortly after the late Pope’s beatification on 1 May 2011; it was reported to be the healing of Costa Rican woman Floribeth Mora of an otherwise terminal brain aneurysm.[278] A Vatican panel of expert theologians examined the evidence, determined that it was directly attributable to the intercession of John Paul II, and recognised it as miraculous.[276][277] The next stage was for Cardinals who compose the membership of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to give their opinion to Pope Francis to decides whether to sign and promulgate the decree and set a date for canonisation.[276][277][279]

On 4 July 2013, Pope Francis confirmed his approval of John Paul II’s canonisation, formally recognising the second miracle attributed to his intercession. He was canonised together with Pope John XXIII.[12][280] The date of the canonisation was on 27 April 2014, Divine Mercy Sunday.[281][282]

The canonisation Mass for Blessed Popes John Paul II and John XXIII, was celebrated by Pope Francis (with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI), on 27 April 2014 in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican (Pope John Paul had died on vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005). About 150 cardinals and 700 bishops concelebrated the Mass, and at least 500,000 people attended the Mass, with an estimated 300,000 others watching from video screens placed around Rome.[283]

Criticism and controversy

John Paul II was widely criticised for,[284] among other things, his views against the ordination of women and contraception,[16][285] his support for the Second Vatican Council and its reform of the Liturgy, his stance on the sanctity of marriage, and his alleged lack of action against child sexual abuse within the Church.

Opposition to his beatification

Some Catholic theologians disagreed with the call for beatification of John Paul II. Eleven dissident theologians, including Jesuitprofessor José María Castillo and Italian theologian Giovanni Franzoni, raised seven religiously liberal, unorthodox points of contention including the Pope’s stance against contraception and the ordination of women as well as the Church scandals that presented “facts which according to their consciences and convictions should be an obstacle to beatification.” These objections were not sustained, and his beatification (and eventual canonisation) moved forward.[citation needed]

Child sex abuse scandals

John Paul II was criticised[by whom?][citation needed] for failing to respond quickly enough to the Catholic sex abuse crisis. In his response, he stated that “there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young.”[286] The Church instituted reforms to prevent future abuse by requiring background checks for Church employees[287] and, because a significant majority of victims were teenage boys, disallowing ordination of men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies”.[288][289] They now require dioceses faced with an allegation to alert the authorities, conduct an investigation and remove the accused from duty.[287][290]In 2008, the Church asserted that the scandal was a very serious problem and estimated that it was “probably caused by ‘no more than 1 per cent’ ” (or 5,000) of the over 500,000 Catholic priests worldwide.[291][292]

In April 2002, John Paul II, despite being frail from Parkinson’s disease, summoned all the American cardinals to the Vatican to discuss possible solutions to the issue of sexual abuse in the American Church. He asked them to “diligently investigate accusations”. John Paul II suggested that American bishops be more open and transparent in dealing with such scandals and emphasised the role of seminary training to prevent sexual deviance among future priests. In what The New York Times called “unusually direct language”, John Paul condemned the arrogance of priests that led to the scandals:

Priests and candidates for the priesthood often live at a level both materially and educationally superior to that of their families and the members of their own age group. It is therefore very easy for them to succumb to the temptation of thinking of themselves as better than others. When this happens, the ideal of priestly service and self-giving dedication can fade, leaving the priest dissatisfied and disheartened.[293]

The pope read a statement intended for the American cardinals, calling the sex abuse “an appalling sin” and said the priesthood had no room for such men.[294]

In 2002, Archbishop Juliusz Paetz, the Catholic Archbishop ofPoznań, was accused of molesting seminarians.[295] Pope John Paul II accepted his resignation, and placed sanctions on him, prohibiting Paetz from exercising his ministry as bishop.[296] These restrictions were lifted in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI.[297][298]

In 2003 John Paul II reiterated that “there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young.”[286] and in April 2003, the Pontifical Academy for Lifeorganised a three-day conference, titled “Abuse of Children and Young People by Catholic Priests and Religious”, where eight non-Catholic psychiatric experts were invited to speak to near all Vatican dicasteries’ representatives. The panel of experts overwhelmingly opposed implementation of policies of “zero-tolerance” such as was proposed by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. One expert called such policies a “case of overkill” since they do not permit flexibility to allow for differences among individual cases.[299]

In 2004 John Paul II recalled Bernard Francis Law to be Archpriest of the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome. Law had previously resigned as archbishop of Boston in 2002 in response to the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal after Church documents were revealed that suggested he had covered up sexual abuse committed by priests in his archdiocese.[300] Law resigned from this position in November 2011.[294]

John Paul II was a firm supporter of the Legion of Christ, and in 1998 discontinued investigations into sexual misconduct by its leader Marcial Maciel, who in 2005 resigned his leadership and was later requested by the Vatican to withdraw from his ministry.

Opus Dei controversies

John Paul II was criticised for his support of the Opus Dei prelature and the 2002 canonisation of its founder, Josemaría Escrivá, whom he called ‘the saint of ordinary life.’[301][302] Other movements and religious organisations of the Church went decidedly under his wingLegion of Christ, the Neocatechumenal Way,Schoenstatt, thecharismatic movement, etc.) and he was accused repeatedly of taking a soft hand with them, especially in the case of Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ.[303]

In 1984 Paul II appointed Joaquín Navarro-Valls, a member of Opus Dei, as Director of the Vatican Press Office. An Opus Dei spokesman says “the influence of Opus Dei in the Vatican has been exaggerated.”[304] Of the nearly 200 cardinals in the Catholic Church, only two are known to be members of Opus Dei.[305]

Banco Ambrosiano scandal

Main article: Banco Ambrosiano

Pope John Paul was alleged to have links with Banco Ambrosiano, an Italian bank that collapsed in 1982.[147] At the centre of the bank’s failure was its chairman,Roberto Calvi, and his membership in the illegal Masonic Lodge Propaganda Due (aka P2). The Vatican Bank was Banco Ambrosiano’s main shareholder, and the death of Pope John Paul I in 1978 is rumoured to be linked to the Ambrosiano scandal.[148]

Calvi, often referred to as “God’s Banker”, was also involved the Vatican Bank, Istituto per le Opere di Religione, in his dealings, and was close to Bishop Paul Marcinkus, the bank’s chairman. Ambrosiano also provided funds for political parties in Italy, and for both the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua and its Sandinista opposition. It has been widely alleged that the Vatican Bank provided money for Solidarity in Poland.[147][148]

Calvi used his complex network of overseas banks and companies to move money out of Italy, to inflate share prices, and to arrange massive unsecured loans. In 1978, the Bank of Italy produced a report on Ambrosiano that predicted future disaster.[148] On 5 June 1982, two weeks before the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano, Calvi had written a letter of warning to Pope John Paul II, stating that such a forthcoming event would “provoke a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions in which the Church will suffer the gravest damage”.[306]On 18 June 1982 Calvi’s body was found hanging from scaffolding beneath Blackfriars Bridge in the financial district of London. Calvi’s clothing was stuffed with bricks, and contained cash valued at US$14,000, in three different currencies.[307]

Problems with traditionalists

In addition to all the criticism from those demanding modernisation, traditionalist Catholics sometimes denounced him as well. These issues included demanding a return to the Tridentine Mass[308] and repudiation of the reforms instituted after the Second Vatican Council, such as the use of the vernacular language in the formerly Latin Roman Rite Mass, ecumenism, and the principle of religious liberty. He also was criticized for allowing and appointing liberal bishops in their sees and thus silently promoting Modernism, which was firmly condemned as the “synthesis of all heresies” by his predecessor Pope St. Pius X. In 1988, the controversial traditionalist Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the Society of St. Pius X (1970), was excommunicated under John Paul II because of the unapproved ordination of four bishops, which was called by the Holy See a “schismatic act”.

The World Day of Prayer for Peace,[309] with a meeting in Assisi, Italy, in 1986, in which the Pope prayed only with the Christians,[310]was heavily criticised as giving the impression that syncretism andindifferentism were openly embraced by the Papal Magisterium. When a second ‘Day of Prayer for Peace in the World’[311] was held, in 2002, it was condemned as confusing the laity and compromising to false religions. Likewise criticised was his kissing[312] of the Qur’an in Damascus, Syria, on one of his travels on 6 May 2001. His call for religious freedom was not always supported; bishops likeAntônio de Castro Mayer promoted religious tolerance, but at the same time rejected the Vatican II principle of religious liberty as being liberalist and already condemned by Pope Pius IX in his‘Syllabus errorum’ (1864) and at the First Vatican Council.[313]

Some Catholics oppose his beatification and canonisation for the above reasons.[314]

Religion and AIDS

Main article: Religion and AIDS

John Paul’s position against artificial birth control, including the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV,[285] was harshly criticised by doctors and AIDS activists, who said that it led to countless deaths and millions of AIDS orphans.[315] Critics have also claimed that large families are caused by lack of contraception and exacerbate Third World poverty and problems such as street children in South America. The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development published a paper stating, “Any strategy that enables a person to move from a higher-risk towards the lower end of the continuum, [we] believe, is a valid risk reduction strategy.”[316]

Social programmes

There was strong criticism of the pope for the controversy surrounding the alleged use of charitable social programmes as a means of converting people in the Third World to Catholicism.[317][318] The Pope created an uproar in the Indian subcontinent when he suggested that a great harvest of faith would be witnessed on the subcontinent in the third Christian millennium.[319]

Ian Paisley

In 1988, when Pope John Paul II was delivering a speech to the European Parliament, Ian Paisley, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party and Moderator of theFree Presbyterian Church of Ulster, shouted “I denounce you as the Antichrist!”[320][321] and held up a red banner reading “Pope John Paul II ANTICHRIST”. Otto von Habsburg, an MEP for Germany, snatched Paisley’s banner, tore it up and, along with other MEPs, helped eject him from the chamber.[320][322][323][324][325] The Pope continued with his address after Paisley had been ejected.[322][326][327]

Međugorje apparitions

A number of quotes about the apparitions of Međugorje, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, have been attributed to John Paul II.[328] In 1998, when a certain German gathered various statements that were supposedly made by the Pope and Cardinal Ratzinger, and then forwarded them to the Vatican in the form of a memorandum, Ratzinger responded in writing on 22 July 1998: “The only thing I can say regarding statements on Međugorje ascribed to the Holy Father and myself is that they are complete invention.”[329]

Stolen relic

On 27 January 2014, it was reported that a relic of John Paul II, a vial containing drops of his blood, had been stolen from the church of San Pietro della Ienca north of L’Aquila in the mountainousAbruzzo region of central Italy, an area where he had loved to go on skiing vacations. Cardinal Dziwisz had previously given the vial to the church in recognition of its connections to the Pontiff. Because there are only three relics containing his blood, few or no other items were disturbed, and it would be difficult to sell, the investigating Italian police believe it was a commissioned theft, and speculated that the blood might be used in satanic rites. The theft sparked a major search for the culprits.[330] Two men confessed to the crime, and an iron reliquary and a stolen cross, but not the relic, were recovered from the grounds of a drug treatment facility inL’Aquila on 30 January; the blood was recovered shortly after from garbage near where the reliquary had been found.[331]

See also


  1. Jump up^ English: Charles Joseph Wojtyła


  1. Jump up^ “St. John Paul II, the patron saint of families”. 27 April 2014. Retrieved 2 May2014.
  2. Jump up^ “John Paul II proclaimed the patron saint of Świdnica”. 9 May 2012. Retrieved2 May 2014.
  3. Jump up^ “John Paul the Great Catholic University”.
  4. Jump up^ Evert, Jason (2014). Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves. Ignatius Press.
  5. Jump up^ About John Paul the Great Catholic University
  6. Jump up^ Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School: Our History
  7. Jump up^ Welcome :: John Paul the Great Academy (Lafayette, LA)
  8. Jump up^ Lenczowski, John. “Public Diplomacy and the Lessons of the Soviet Collapse”, 2002
  9. Jump up^ “Pope John Paul II (St. Karol Józef Wojtyła)”. David M. Cheney. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  10. Jump up^ Odone, CristinaCatholic Herald“, 1991
  11. ^ Jump up to:a b Geller, UriThe Jewish Telegraph, 7 July 2000
  12. ^ Jump up to:a b “Report: Pope Francis Says John Paul II to Be Canonized April 27”.National Catholic Register. 3 September 2013. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
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  24. Jump up^ Pope John Paul II 2005, p. 99.
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  30. ^ Jump up to:a b c Weigel 2001, p. 71.
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  45. Jump up^ Accessed 6 October 2012. Even though his doctoral work was unanimously approved in June 1948, he was denied the degree because he could not afford to print the text of his dissertation in accordance with an Angelicumrule. In December 1948 a revised text of his dissertation was approved by the theological faculty of Jagiellonian University in Kraków, and Wojtyła was finally awarded the degree.
  46. Jump up^ “Karol Wojtyla: A Pope Who Hails from the Angelicum (Città Nuova, Roma 2009)”. Retrieved 23 October 2014.
  47. Jump up^ “30Giorni” 11 December 2002, Accessed 19 February 2013
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  84. Jump up^ “BBC on This Day | 29 | 1982: Pope makes historic visit to Canterbury”. BBC News. 29 May 1982. Retrieved 23 June 2013.
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  99. Jump up^ article 42, Solicitudo Rei Socialis
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  103. Jump up^ Pope’s “South Africa Visit Honors 2 Vows” The New York Times, 13 May 1995
  104. Jump up^ Mandela ‘deeply inspired’ by Pope [South Africa Info], 5 April 2005
  105. Jump up^ “Religious Views: Pope John Paul II’s Statements on the Death Penalty”. Death Penalty Information Center. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
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  119. Jump up^ Pope Mooted for Nobel Peace Prize The Age, 9 October 2003
  120. Jump up^ Pope John Paul II is the Favorite to Win Nobel Peace Prize Deseret News, 10 October 2003
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  129. Jump up^ Donatella Lorch (20 September 1995). “Pope Calls for End to Killings in Rwanda”. The New York Times. Retrieved 9 November2013.
  130. Jump up^ William Frank Smith (November 2010). Catholic Church Milestones: People and Events That Shaped the Institutional Church. Dog Ear Publishing. p. 86.ISBN 978-1-60844-821-0. Retrieved 25 January 2012.
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  132. Jump up^ Weigel, George (2001). The Truth of Catholicism. New York: Harper Collins. p. 3.ISBN 978-0-06-621330-9.
  133. Jump up^ Jonathan Kwitny, Man of the Century: The Life and Times of Pope John Paul II, p. 592, Henry Holt and Co. (1997), ISBN 978-0-8050-2688-7
  134. Jump up^ Pope, on Latin Trip, Attacks Pinochet Regime The New York Times, 1 April 1987
  135. Jump up^ Pope Tells Chile’s Bishops To Press for Free Elections; Pontiff Joins Pinochet on Palace Balcony The Washington Post, 3 April 1987
  136. Jump up^ George Weigel. Biografía de Juan Pablo II—Testigo de Esperanza [Biography of John Paul II—Witness to Hope] (in Spanish). Editorial Plaza & Janés year=2003.ISBN 978-84-01-01304-1.;Heraldo Munoz (2008). The Dictator’s Shadow: Life under Augusto Pinochet. Basic Books. p. 183. ISBN 978-0-465-00250-4.
  137. Jump up^ Slawomir Oder, Why He Is a Saint: The Life and Faith of Pope John Paul II and the Case for Canonisation, p. 107–108, Rizzoli International Publications (2010),ISBN 978-0-8478-3631-4
  138. Jump up^ Timmerman, Jacobo Chile: Death in the South, p. 114, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1987 ISBN 978-0-517-02902-2
  139. Jump up^ Papal Mass In Chile Erupts In Violence Chicago Tribune, 4 April 1987
  140. Jump up^ Pionchet’s Foes Cheered by the Pope’s Presence The New York Times, 3 April 1987
  141. Jump up^ “Dlaczego Jan Paweł II wyszedł z Pinochetem na balkon” [Why John Paul II went to the balcony of Pinochet]. Gazeta Wyborcza(in Polish). 24 December 2009. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
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  149. Jump up^ Mark Riebling (7 April 2005). “Reagan’s Pope: The Cold War Alliance of Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II”. National Review. Retrieved 12 September2010.
  150. Jump up^ “The first world leader”. The Guardian. 4 April 2005. Retrieved 4 November2013.
  151. Jump up^ “Poles worried, proud of Pope John Paul II 10/13/03”. The Topeka Capital-Journal. Associated Press. 3 April 2012. Archived fromthe original on 4 April 2004. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  152. Jump up^ “Address of Pope John Paul II to the Honorable George W. Bush President of the United States of America”. 4 June 2004. Retrieved 19 August 2011.
  153. Jump up^ “Polish secret services played key part in criminal plot to kill John Paul II”.Canada Free Press. 13 October 2006. Retrieved 23 October 2014.
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  155. Jump up^ Andrea Riccardi. La Pace Preventiva. Milan: San Paolo 2004.
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  157. Jump up^ “An Introduction to the Parish Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church”. Our Lady of the Atonement. Retrieved 1 January2009.
  158. Jump up^ John Paul II. Crossing the Threshold of Hope, p. 82, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1994ISBN 978-0-307-76457-7
  159. Jump up^ Pope Visits Palace in Togo, Then a Woman’s Mud HutThe New York Times, 10 August 1985
  160. Jump up^ “His Imperial Majesty, Alayeluwa Oba Okunade Sijuwade, Olubuse ll- The Ooni of Ife”. 20 December 2008. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
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  163. Jump up^ George Weigel, The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II – The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy, p. 283, Doubleday Religion (2010), ISBN 978-0-385-52480-3
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Time for Christians to Unplug from Our Secular Culture

Time for Christians to Unplug from Our Secular Culture


Editor’s note: The following talk, originally titled “Remembering Who We Are and the Story We Belong To,” was delivered October 19, 2016 at the 2016 Bishops’ Symposiumco-sponsored by the USCCB Committee on Doctrine and the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame and is published here with permission of the author.

Much of what I say today you probably already know. But that doesn’t prevent a good discussion, so I hope you’ll bear with me.

As I sat down to write my talk last week, a friend emailed me a copy of a manuscript illustration from the thirteenth century. It’s a picture of Mary punching the devil in the nose. She doesn’t rebuke him. She doesn’t enter into a dialogue with him. She punches the devil in the nose. So I think that’s the perfect place to start our discussion.

When most Catholics think about Mary, we have one of two images in our heads: the virginal Jewish teen from Galilee who says yes to God’s plan; or the mother of Jesus, the woman of mercy and tenderness, “our life, our sweetness and our hope.” We can too easily forget that Mary is also the woman clothed in the sun who crushes the head of the serpent. She embodies in her purity the greatness of humanity fully alive in God. She’s the mother who intercedes for us, comforts us and teaches us—but who also defends us.

And in doing that, she reminds us of the great line from C.S. Lewis that Christianity is a “fighting religion”—not in the sense of hatred or violence directed at other persons, but rather in the spiritual struggle against the evil in ourselves and in the world around us, where our weapons are love, justice, courage and self-giving.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem described our spiritual struggle this way: “There is a serpent [the devil] by the wayside watching those who pass by: beware lest he bite thee with unbelief. He sees so many receiving salvation and is seeking whom he may devour.” The great American writer Flannery O’Connor added that whatever form the serpent may take, “it is of this mysterious passage past him, or into his jaws, that stories of any depth will always be concerned to tell, and this being the case, it requires considerable courage at any time, in any country,” not to turn away from God’s story or the storyteller.

If our theme as a meeting this week is reclaiming the Church for the Catholic imagination, we can’t overlook the fact that the flesh and blood model for our Church—Mary as mater et magistra—is quite accomplished at punching the devil in the nose. And as Mary’s adopted sons, we need to be bishops who lead and teach like the great Cyril of Jerusalem.

The People We Have Become
Having said all that, my thoughts today come in three parts. I want to speak first about the people we’ve become as American Catholics. Then I’ll turn to how and why we got where we are. Finally I’ll suggest what we need to do about it, not merely as individuals, but more importantly as a Church. We need to recover our identity as a believing community. And I think a good way to begin doing that is with the “catechetical content” of our current political moment.

My focus today isn’t politics. And I won’t waste our time weighing one presidential candidate against the other. I’ve already said elsewhere that each is a national embarrassment, though for different reasons. But politics involves the application of power, and power always has a moral dimension. So we can’t avoid dealing with this election at least briefly. Here’s what I find curious. Given Mr. Trump’s ugly style and the hostility he sparks in the media, Mrs. Clinton’s lead should be even wider than it is. But it’s not. And there’s a lesson in that. It’s this. Even many people who despise what Mr. Trump stands for seem to enjoy his gift for twisting the knife in America’s leadership elite and their spirit of entitlement, embodied in the person of Hillary Clinton.

Americans aren’t fools. They have a good sense of smell when things aren’t right. And one of the things wrong with our country right now is the hollowing out and retooling of all the key words in our country’s public lexicon; words like democracy, representative government, freedom, justice, due process, religious liberty and constitutional protections. The language of our politics is the same. The content of the words is different. Voting still matters. Public protest and letters to members of Congress can still have an effect. But more and more of our nation’s life is governed by executive order, judicial overreach and administrative agencies with little accountability to Congress.

People feel angry because they feel powerless. And they feel powerless because in many ways they are. When Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America, he assumed that only two basic social structures were possible in the modern era, democracy and aristocracy. Because of its mass appeal, democracy would be the winner. Once we assume that power flows from the people, the ordinary citizen, not some self-styled nobility, obviously has the right to rule.

Or at least that’s the theory. Reality is more complex. Tocqueville noted that even in America, both “aristocratic [and] democratic passions are found at the bottom of all parties.” These passions might be hidden from view. But they’re very much alive and well. It’s worth noting that aristoi is just the Greek word for “the best,” and in practice, social elites come in all shapes and sizes.

The 2016 election is one of those rare moments when the repellent nature of both presidential candidates allows the rest of us to see our nation’s pastoral terrain as it really is. And the view is unpleasant. America’s cultural and political elites talk a lot about equality, opportunity and justice. But they behave like a privileged class with an authority based on their connections and skills. And supported by sympathetic media, they’re remaking the country into something very different from anything most of us remember or the Founders imagined.

The WikiLeaks email release last week from the Clinton entourage says a lot about how the merit-class elite views orthodox Christians. It’s not friendly.

But what does any of this have to do with our theme? Actually quite a lot. G.K. Chesterton once quipped that America is a nation that thinks it’s a Church. And he was right. In fact, he was more accurate than he could have guessed. Catholics came to this country to build a new life. They did exceptionally well here. They’ve done so well that by now many of us Catholics are largely assimilated to, and digested by, a culture that bleaches out strong religious convictions in the name of liberal tolerance and dulls our longings for the supernatural with a river of practical atheism in the form of consumer goods.

To put it another way, quite a few of us American Catholics have worked our way into a leadership class that the rest of the country both envies and resents. And the price of our entry has been the transfer of our real loyalties and convictions from the old Church of our baptism to the new “Church” of our ambitions and appetites. People like Nancy Pelosi, Anthony Kennedy, Joe Biden and Tim Kaine are not anomalies. They’re part of a very large crowd that cuts across all professions and both major political parties.

During his years as bishop of Rome, Benedict XVI had the talent of being very frank about naming sin and calling people back to fidelity. Yet at the same time he modeled that fidelity with a kind of personal warmth that revealed its beauty and disarmed the people who heard him. He spoke several times about the “silent apostasy” of so many Catholic laypeople today and even many priests; and his words have stayed with me over the years because he said them in a spirit of compassion and love, not rebuke.

Apostasy is an interesting word.  It comes from the Greek verb apostanai—which means to revolt or desert; literally “to stand away from.” For Benedict, laypeople and priests don’t need to publicly renounce their baptism to be apostates. They simply need to be silent when their Catholic faith demands that they speak out; to be cowards when Jesus asks them to have courage; to “stand away” from the truth when they need to work for it and fight for it.

It’s a word to keep in mind in examining our own hearts and hearts of our people. And while we do that, we might reflect on what assimilating has actually gained for us when Vice President Biden conducts a gay marriage, and Senator Kaine lectures us all on how the Church needs to change and what kind of new creature she needs to become.

So how did we get to this moment, and when did the process begin?

How Did We Get Here?
I suppose 1960 is a good place to date the start of our current troubles. That’s when candidate John Kennedy promised Houston Baptist ministers that—if elected—he’d keep his Catholic faith separate from his presidential leadership. Or we could use 1984 as a start date. That’s when Mario Cuomo gave his widely praised but finally incoherent defense of Kennedy’s approach to public life—the “I’m personally opposed to evils like abortion, but” tactic—in a speech here at Notre Dame.

Or we could use 1962 as another reasonable start date. That’s when President Kennedy told a group of policy advisers that “The fact of the matter is that most of the problems, or at least many of them that we now face, are technical problems … administrative problems. They are very sophisticated judgments which do not lend themselves to the great sort of ‘passionate movements’ which have stirred this country so often in the past. Now they deal with questions which are beyond the comprehension of most men.”

That last Kennedy line—describing our problems as “beyond the comprehension of most men”—sums up the spirit of today’s leadership classes. Briefly put, their message is this: “Smart people should run things, and most people aren’t smart enough to qualify. But the country shouldn’t worry as long as the really smart people like us—in other words, the technologically and managerially gifted—stay in charge. So don’t rock the boat with a lot of useless noise from the deplorables.”

In effect, technology and its comforts are now our substitute horizon for the supernatural. Technology gets results. Prayer, not so much—or at least not so immediately and obviously. So our imaginations gradually bend toward the horizontal, and away from the vertical.

Religion can still have value in this new dispensation by helping credulous people do socially useful things. But religion isn’t “real” in the same way that science and technology are real. And if, as John Kennedy said, our main social problems today are practical and technical, then talking about heaven and hell starts to sound a lot like irrelevant voodoo. The Church of our baptism is salvific. The Church where many Americans really worship, the Church we call our popular culture, is therapeutic.

Let me put our situation this way. The two unavoidable facts of life are mortality and inequality. We’re going to die. And—here I’m committing a primal American heresy—we’re not created “equal” in the secular meaning of that word. We’re obviously not equal in dozens of ways: health, intellect, athletic ability, opportunity, education, income, social status, economic resources, wisdom, social skills, character, holiness, beauty or anything else. And we never will be. Wise social policy can ease our material inequalities and improve the lives of the poor. But as Tocqueville warned, the more we try to enforce a radical, unnatural, egalitarian equality, the more “totalitarian” democracy becomes.

For all its talk of diversity, democracy is finally monist. It begins by protecting the autonomy of the individual but can easily end by eliminating competing centers of authority and absorbing civil society into the state. Even the family, seen through secular democratic eyes, can be cast as inefficient, parochial and a potential greenhouse of social problems. Parental authority can become suspect because it escapes the scrutiny and guidance of the state. And the state can easily present itself as better able to educate the young because of its superior resources and broader grasp of the needs of society.

Clearly our civil liberties and our equality before the law are hugely important premises for a decent society. They’re vital principles for our common public life. But they’re also purely human constructs, and in a sense, fictions.

What Christians mean by “freedom” and “equality” is very different from the secular content of those words. For the believer, freedom is more than a menu of choices or the absence of oppression. Christian freedom is the liberty, the knowledge and the character to do what’s morally right. And the Christian meaning of “equality” is much more robust than the moral equivalent of a math equation. It involves the kind of love a mother feels for each of her children, which really isn’t equality at all. A good mother loves her children infinitely and uniquely—not “equally,” because that would be impossible. Rather, she loves them profoundly in the sense that all of her children are flesh of her flesh, and have a permanent, unlimited claim on her heart.

So it is with our Catholic understanding of God. Every human life, no matter how seemingly worthless, has infinite dignity in his eyes. Every human life is loved without limits by the God who made us. Our weaknesses are not signs of unworthiness or failure. They’re invitations to depend on each other and become more than ourselves by giving away our strengths in the service of others, and receiving their support in return. This is the truth in the old legend about heaven and hell. Both have exactly the same tables. Both have exactly the same rich foods. But the spoons in both places are much too long. In hell people starve because they try to feed themselves. In heaven they thrive because they feed each other.

For all of its greatness, democratic culture proceeds from the idea that we’re born as autonomous, self-creating individuals who need to be protected from, and made equal with, each other. It’s simply not true. And it leads to the peculiar progressive impulse to master and realign reality to conform to human desire, whereas the Christian masters and realigns his desires to conform to and improve reality.

I want to turn now in my last few minutes to what we need to do.

What Must Be Done?
Talks like mine today are always a mixed experience. In describing a hard time, the words can easily sound dark and distressing. That’s not my intention at all. Optimism and pessimism are twin forms of self-deception. We need instead to be a people of hope, which means we don’t have the luxury of whining.

There’s too much beauty in people and in the world to let ourselves become bitter. And by reminding us of that in The Joy of the Gospel, his first apostolic exhortation, Pope Francis gives us a great gift. One of his strongest qualities—and I saw this at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia—is his power to inspire confidence and joy in people while speaking candidly about the problems we face in a suffering world.

Serenity of heart comes from consciously trying to live on a daily basis the things we claim to believe. Acting on our faith increases our faith. And it serves as a magnet for other people. To reclaim the Church for the Catholic imagination, we should start by renewing in our people a sense that eternity is real, that together we have a mission the world depends on, and that our lives have consequences that transcend time. Francis radiated all these things during his time in Philadelphia.

If men and women are really made for heroism and glory, made to stand in the presence of the living God, they can never be satisfied with bourgeois, mediocre, feel-good religion. They’ll never be fed by ugly worship and shallow moralizing. But that’s what we too often give them. And the reason we do it is because too many of us have welcomed the good news of Vatican II without carving its demand for conversion onto the stone of our hearts. In opening ourselves to the world, we’ve forgotten our parts in the larger drama of our lives—salvation history, which always, in some way, involves walking past St. Cyril’s serpent.

In Philadelphia I’m struck by how many women I now see on the street wearing thehijab or even the burqa. Some of my friends are annoyed by that kind of “in your face” Islam. But I understand it. The hijab and the burqa say two important things in a morally confused culture: “I’m not sexually available;” and “I belong to a community different and separate from you and your obsessions.”

I have a long list of concerns with the content of Islam. But I admire the integrity of those Muslim women. And we need to help Catholics recover their own sense of distinction from the surrounding secular meltdown. The Church and American democracy are very different kinds of societies with very different structures and goals. They can never be fully integrated without eviscerating the Christian faith. An appropriate “separateness” for Catholics is already there in the New Testament. We’ve too often ignored it because Western civilization has such deep Christian roots. But we need to reclaim it, starting now.

Catholics today—and I’m one of them—feel a lot of unease about declining numbers and sacramental statistics. Obviously we need to do everything we can to bring tepid Catholics back to active life in the Church. But we should never be afraid of a smaller, lighter Church if her members are also more faithful, more zealous, more missionary and more committed to holiness. Making sure that happens is the job of those of us who are bishops.

Losing people who are members of the Church in name only is an imaginary loss. It may in fact be more honest for those who leave and healthier for those who stay. We should be focused on commitment, not numbers or institutional throw-weight. We have nothing to be afraid of as long as we act with faith and courage.

We need to speak plainly and honestly. Modern bureaucratic life, even in the Church, is the enemy of candor and truth. We live in an age that thrives on the subversion of language. And here’s one example. “Accompaniment,” when Pope Francis uses the word, is a great and obvious good. Francis rightly teaches us the need to meet people where they are, to walk with them patiently, and to befriend them on the road of life. But the same word is widely misused by others. Where the road of life leads does make a difference—especially if it involves accompanying someone over a cliff.

Here’s another example: A theologian in my own diocese recently listed “inclusivity” as one of the core messages of Vatican II. Yet to my knowledge, that word “inclusivity” didn’t exist in the 1960s and appears nowhere in the council documents.

If by “inclusive” we mean patiently and sensitively inviting all people to a relationship with Jesus Christ, then yes, we do very much need to be inclusive. But if “inclusive” means including people who do not believe what the Catholic faith teaches and will not reform their lives according to what the Church holds to be true, then inclusion is a form of lying. And it’s not just lying but an act of betrayal and violence against the rights of those who do believe and do seek to live according to God’s Word. Inclusion requires conversion and a change of life; or at least the sincere desire to change.

Saying this isn’t a form of legalism or a lack of charity. It’s simple honesty. And there can be no real charity without honesty. We need to be very careful not to hypnotize ourselves with our words and dreams. The “new evangelization” is fundamentally not so different from the “old evangelization.” It begins with personal witness and action, and with sincere friendships among committed Catholics—not with bureaucratic programs or elegant sounding plans. These latter things can be important. But they’re never the heart of the matter.

When I was ordained a bishop, a wise old friend told me that every bishop must be part radical and part museum curator—a radical in preaching and living the Gospel, but a protector of the Christian memory, faith, heritage and story that weave us into one believing people over the centuries.

I try to remember that every day. Americans have never liked history. The reason is simple. The past comes with obligations on the present, and the most cherished illusion of American life is that we can remake ourselves at will. But we Christians are different. We’re first and foremost a communion of persons on mission through time—and our meaning as individuals comes from the part we play in that larger communion and story.

If we want to reclaim who we are as a Church, if we want to renew the Catholic imagination, we need to begin, in ourselves and in our local parishes, by unplugging our hearts from the assumptions of a culture that still seems familiar but is no longer really “ours.” It’s a moment for courage and candor, but it’s hardly the first moment of its kind.

This is why Mary—the young Jewish virgin, the loving mother, and the woman who punches the devil in the nose—was, is, and always will be the great defender of the Church. And so we can say with confidence: Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us. And St. Cyril of Jerusalem, patron of bishops, be our model and brother in our service to Mary’s son, Jesus Christ.

 So be it: Amen.

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Archbishop Chaput urges bishops to embrace Catholic identity in face of ‘secular meltdown’

BY Claire Chretien, October 20,2016

October 20, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – American Catholics must rediscover their distinct identity and separate themselves from a culture increasingly at odds with the faith, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said in a monumental speech at the University of Notre Dame.

In his lecture, delivered at Notre Dame’s 2016 Bishops’ Symposium, Chaput outlined how many Americans Catholics became willing to disconnect their “private” faith from their “public” lives and what the Church should do about this.

“We need to recover our identity as a believing community,” he said.

“During his years as bishop of Rome, Benedict XVI had the talent of being very frank about naming sin and calling people back to fidelity,” said Chaput. “Yet at the same time he modeled that fidelity with a kind of personal warmth that revealed its beauty and disarmed the people who heard him. He spoke several times about the ‘silent apostasy’ of so many Catholic laypeople today and even many priests; and his words have stayed with me over the years because he said them in a spirit of compassion and love, not rebuke.”

This silent apostasy doesn’t mean Catholics need to “publicly renounce their baptism”–it just means “they simply need to be silent when their Catholic faith demands that they speak out; to be cowards when Jesus asks them to have courage; to ‘stand away’ from the truth when they need to work for it and fight for it,” Chaput explained.

Politicians like John F. Kennedy who promised to keep his Catholic faith separate from his leadership as President and those who claim to be “personally” but not publicly pro-life have led the way for this silent apostasy, Chaput argued.

“Quite a few of us American Catholics have worked our way into a leadership class that the rest of the country both envies and resents,” he explained. “And the price of our entry has been the transfer of our real loyalties and convictions from the old Church of our baptism to the new ‘Church’ of our ambitions and appetites. People like Nancy Pelosi, Anthony Kennedy, Joe Biden and Tim Kaine are not anomalies. They’re part of a very large crowd that cuts across all professions and both major political parties.”

Additionally, Chaput said, as society has become more focused on technology, it has found less of a use for religion.

“In effect, technology and its comforts are now our substitute horizon for the supernatural,” he said. “Technology gets results. Prayer, not so much—or at least not so immediately and obviously. So our imaginations gradually bend toward the horizontal, and away from the vertical.”

“Religion can still have value in this new dispensation by helping credulous people do socially useful things,” Chaput continued. “But religion isn’t ‘real’ in the same way that science and technology are real…The Church of our baptism is salvific. The Church where many Americans really worship, the Church we call our popular culture, is therapeutic.”

Chaput blasted “the hollowing out and retooling of all the key words in our country’s public lexicon; words like democracy, representative government, freedom, justice, due process, religious liberty and constitutional protections.” He said that words like equality and freedom mean one thing to practicing Catholics but a very different thing to the leaders of modern society.

Christian freedom, Chaput said, “is the liberty, the knowledge and the character to do what’s morally right” and the definition of equality is “much more robust than the moral equivalent of a math equation.”

The future of the Catholic Church in America may not boast booming numbers, Chaput warned. But, he said, “we should never be afraid of a smaller, lighter Church if her members are also more faithful, more zealous, more missionary and more committed to holiness…Losing people who are members of the Church in name only is an imaginary loss. It may in fact be more honest for those who leave and healthier for those who stay. We should be focused on commitment, not numbers or institutional throw-weight.”

Chaput said that he appreciates the witness of Philadelphia Muslim women who wear the hijab to distinguish themselves as not participating in an overly sexualized culture. Catholics need to make themselves more distinct from the rest of secular society, he said.

“We need to help Catholics recover their own sense of distinction from the surrounding secular meltdown,” he said. “The Church and American democracy are very different kinds of societies with very different structures and goals. They can never be fully integrated without eviscerating the Christian faith. An appropriate ‘separateness’ for Catholics is already there in the New Testament. We’ve too often ignored it because Western civilization has such deep Christian roots. But we need to reclaim it, starting now.”

Read Chaput’s whole speech here.

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Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.

Holy See’s Statement on Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space

Holy See’s Statement on Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space

‘In the digital age, humanity has become ever more dependent on space technology for the conduct of everyday life and safeguarding the future.’

The majestic spiral galaxy NGC 4414 imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995


Below is the text of the Holy See’s intervention given by Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, at the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly, regarding the “First Committee Agenda Item 96 (A): Prevention Of An Arms Race In Outer Space”It was published on Oct. 19, on The Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nation website:


Mr Chair,

In the digital age, humanity has become ever more dependent on space technology for the conduct of everyday life and safeguarding the future. From banking to telecommunications, from navigation and traffic control to regulating water supplies and electrical grids, the peoples of the earth are dependent on satellite technology. These same technologies have led to rapid advances in the developing world, such as improvements in communications, banking and agriculture. Space technology, once the province of a few powers, has become a universal common good, essential for the survival and well-being of all humanity.

Given the universal dependence on these technologies, their vulnerability to attacks is a risk not just for a few nations but for all humanity. At a time when basic resources, like water and power, are tied to control systems linked by satellite communications, the very life blood of societies is vulnerable to attacks in outer space. The humanitarian consequences of a war in space would be devastating for populations far beyond those of adversary states. With fundamental activities dependent on space-based technology, the impact on civilian life would be calamitous.

It is imperative that our efforts to outlaw the use of weapons in outer space be sufficiently broad to take into account the changed conditions of contemporary life and the increase of risks to human civilization represented by the danger of war in space. Given the growing body of humanitarian law and increased concern for the humanitarian consequences of war, the integration of prohibitions designed for the protection of human infrastructure should become an essential component of outer space law.

Given the potential breadth and depth of the impact of armed conflict in space on life on earth, moreover, preservation of the principles of noncombatant immunity and discrimination will both be more important than ever and also more difficult to ensure. Armed conflict in space, especially with the ever-advancing weapons technology, may make it more difficult to contain war within the bounds of law. Therefore every effort must be made to prevent the expansion of state conflict to space. The risk of counter-population warfare through attacks on satellite technology must be checked by concerted international action.

The Conference on Disarmament should overcome its frustrating, years-long impasse and agree now to begin negotiations dealing with conventional weapons use in space, bearing in mind that weapons of various kinds might be launched from outside outer space.  The United Nations Disarmament Commission should begin consideration of transparency-and confidence-building measures for space as proposed earlier this year by a number of States.

Our delegation reiterates our recommendation, made last year, that the adoption of an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities should be accomplished promptly, taking into account the availability of a draft Code.  As we noted then, the Code would make an important contribution to international peace and security.

Collaboration in the peaceful development of outer space will provide further protection against armed conflict there. To this end, more attention ought to be given to the promotion of multilateral and international projects in space.

Space is a common heritage of all, an environment that we all depend on.  We should ensure that we deal with it accordingly, and not make it another source or place of conflict.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Pope Francis’ recipe for avoiding fights at home

Pope Francis’ recipe for avoiding fights at home

Published on Oct 21, 2016


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During Mass at Casa Santa Marta, he said we should be more tolerant with the things that bother us.

Pope’s Morning Homily: No Peace Without Humility

At Casa Santa Marta, Francis Tells 3 Attitudes Needed for Creating Unity

Pope Francis celebrating Mass in Santa Marta


You cannot have peace without humility and where there’s arrogance, you’ll always have war.

According to Vatican Radio, this was at the heart of Pope Francis’ homily today during his daily morning Mass at his residence Casa Santa Marta, as he gave three attitudes necessary to building unity in the Church, and also in daily life.

Drawing inspiration from the greeting at Mass “peace be with you,” Francis’ homily examined what is required to nurture peace and unity: humility, gentleness and magnanimity

Francis noted that our Lord’s greeting “creates a bond” of peace and unites us, to create a unity of spirit. He warned that if there’s no peace and if we aren’t able to greet each other in the widest sense of the word, there will never be unity.

This concept, the Holy Father explained, applies for unity in the world, in the town, in the district and in the family.

“The evil spirit always sows wars,” he said, noting, “Jealousy, envy, conflicts, gossip…. are things that destroy peace and therefore there cannot be unity.”

“And how should a Christian behave to promote unity, to find this unity?” the Jesuit Pontiff went on to ask. “Paul tells us clearly: ‘live in a manner worthy, with all humility, gentleness and magnanimity.’

“These three attitudes: humility – we cannot sow peace without humility.  Where there is arrogance, there is always war and the desire to defeat the other and believing one is superior. Without humility, there is no peace and without peace, there is no unity.”

Nowadays, the Holy Father lamented, we have lost the ability to speak gently and instead tend to shout at each other or speak badly about other people. Rather than this, Francis encouraged, rediscover gentleness, and “be patient and put up with the faults of others, or the things we don’t like.”

“First: humility, second: gentleness with this mutual support, and third: magnanimity: a big heart, a wide-open heart that can accommodate everybody and that does not condemn, that does not become smaller because of trifling things: ‘who said that,’ ‘I heard that,’ ‘who…’ no, a large heart, there is room for everybody.”

These three elements, Francis reiterated, “creates the bond of peace” and are the right way to respond to that call to the mystery of the Church and of Christ.

“The mystery of the Church is the mystery of the Body of Christ: ‘one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all’ and who works ‘through all and in all:’ this is the unity that Jesus asked the Father to grant us and we must help create this unity with the bond of peace.  And the bond of peace grows with humility, with gentleness and mutual support and with magnanimity.”

Pope Francis concluded, praying, “Let us pray for the shepherds who are at the end of their lives and who are waiting for the Lord to take them with Him. And let us pray so that the Lord may give them strength, consolation and the certainty that, although they feel sick and alone, the Lord is with them, close to them.”



by Stefan Farrar  •  •  October 21, 2016

KELKHEIM, Germany ( – A new report from an alliance of Christian groups in Germany is finding that there were 743 attacks against Christians in refugee camps in Germany this year. The report shows that the situation for Christians in refugee shelters and camps is far from safe. In fact, Christian groups in the country believe their figures are on the low side, as they believe many cases go unreported.

“It must be assumed that there is a high number of unreported cases,” the report stated. “Effective measures for the protection of religious minorities (in refugee camps) have yet to be implemented.”

The study compiled figures from particular cases of discrimination and assault towards Christians owing to their faith, and conclusively shows that refugee shelters aren’t safe for Christians. “The documented cases confirm that the situation of Christian refugees in German refugee shelters is still unbearable,” the report concludes.

Assault and death threats are the most common forms of attack, as 416 people have reported being assaulted, and 314 have reported being threatened with death. This doesn’t include insults, intimidation, general threats and various forms of persecution.

In one example, a Syrian Christian said, “A Macedonian woman attacked me with a knife, insulting me and shouting: ‘You are not allowed to come into the kitchen or cook here, because you are a disgusting, pork-eating Christian infidel. It is forbidden for you to enter the kitchen, and if I see you here once more then I will stab you to death.'”

In other cases, Christians are also deliberately woken up at night and sexually harassed, with as many as 65 people reporting such crimes.

One female refugee from Iran commented, “In the beginning they were all good to us. They then realized that I am a Christian. From that moment on they treated me and my children very badly. They even forbade their children to talk to my children.”

The examples show a clear pattern of violence and discrimination against Christians, forced to hide Bibles out of fear of being targeted by Muslims.

Multiple Christian migrants have filed complaints to no avail, their complaints often ignored, and no action taken. In one example, an Iranian Christian explained, “I reported the death threats I received to the Info point several times in Persian but they did not react. I reported it two to three times.” Often, the staff at refugee centers are Muslim themselves and show solidarity with their fellow Muslims when presented with complaints by Christians.

Pastor Gottfried Martens, a German pastor well acquainted with the situation on the ground, confirmed the failure of staff to act. “There is not a single case in which Christian refugees in my church had been attacked and injured in their accommodation where the investigation was not dismissed in the end,” he said. “In every case the attacked Christians word stood against the word of the attackers, who were always in the large majority. … In the end, each of the criminal charges only leads to further humiliation of the victims and a loss of confidence in the constitutional state.”

Stefan Farrar is a staff writer for

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NEW YORK ( – Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton gathered Thursday night, October 20, at the Al Smith Dinner charity event in New York hosted by Cdl. Timothy Dolan. It is their fourth and last public appearance together before the presidential election on November 8.

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She commented, “Appeals to fear and division can cause us to treat each other as ‘The Other.’ Rhetoric like that makes it harder for us to see each other, to respect each other, to listen to each other — and certainly a lot harder to love our neighbor as ourselves.”

Clinton maintained that although she is not Catholic, she believes that “in order to achieve salvation we need both faith and good works,” and added that she was inspired by Pope Francis’ message “rejecting a mindset of hostility, his calls to reduce inequality, his warnings about climate change, his appeal that we build bridges, not walls.” She did not address the Pope’s condemnation of abortion, contraception, gender ideology and other intrinsic evils she promotes as public policy.

She referred to the Jesuit concept of “magis,” interpreted as “the more universal good.” She noted that her vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine spoke to her about this Jesuit word, saying, “I’ve taken this concept of ‘magis’ to heart in this campaign, as best as one can in the daily heat, the back and forth of a presidential campaign, to ask how we can do more for each other, and better for each other.”

She continued, “Because I believe that for each of us, our greatest monument on this earth won’t be what we build, but the lives we touch.”

Historically, U.S. presidents and presidential candidates have been invited to spend time with their political opponents in a more lighthearted atmosphere at the Al Smith dinner. The audience — especially this year — is made up of the political, financial and media elite of the last few decades.

Although the dinner is organized by the Alfred E. Smith Foundation, named after the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee in the 1928 race and the first Catholic nominated, the archbishop of New York has significant input as to who is there and who isn’t.

Cardinal Dolan invited Hillary Clinton despite recent public revelations of her campaign showing disrespect towards Catholicism and conservative Catholics. The first in a series of emails exposed by Wikileaks shows some of Clinton’s campaign members calling conservative Catholics wedded to “severely backwards gender relations.”

Clinton also went on record at the third presidential debate on October 20 saying, “I strongly support Roe v. Wade.” In April she referred to unborn babies as people but said they don’t have constitutional rights. At the debate she reinforced that she believes women should be able to abort their babies up until the time they are born.

In 1996 Abp. John O’Connor refused to invite President Bill Clinton to the Al Smith dinner because of his support for late-term abortion.

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Rodney Pelletier is a staff writer for Follow Rodney on Twitter: @RodPelletier


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by Christine Niles, M.St. (Oxon.), J.D.  •  •  October 21, 2016

Refuses to follow the script

NEW YORK ( – Refusing to follow the usual script, Donald Trump used Thursday night’s Al Smith fundraising dinner in New York to hammer his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. A normally lighthearted affair, where politicians are expected to lay down their swords for the evening and trade jokes over drinks and dinner, Trump departed from routine, taking the opportunity to again highlight Clinton’s criminality and deceit.

The evening started out with an icy reception from both candidates, who entered from opposite sides of the room and, as in the previous night’s debate, did not shake hands. After introductory remarks peppered with quips by Al Smith IV, great-grandson of Governor Al Smith, the first Catholic to run for president and after whom the annual charity dinner is named, Trump took to the podium. He began with some well-delivered lines that brought laughter and applause.

“It’s great to be here with a thousand wonderful people, or as I call it, a small, intimate dinner with some friends,” he joked, “or as Hillary calls it, her largest crowd of the season.”

Another zinger also drew applause. “Just before taking the dais, Hillary accidentally bumped into me, and she very civilly said, ‘Pardon me,'” Trump said. After laughter from the crowd, he continued, “And I very politely replied, ‘Let me talk to you about that after I get into office.'”

Alluding to the millions Hillary has made off speaker’s fees to wealthy bankers and businessmen, Trump continued, “This is the first time ever — ever — that Hillary is sitting down and speaking to major corporate leaders and not getting paid for it.”

Trump also took the opportunity to call out media bias, which he has openly referred to in the past as “dishonest” and “corrupt.” After talking about both campaigns meeting each others’ teams, he remarked, “I got the chance to meet the people who are working so hard to get her elected.” Pointing to the back of the room, he said, “There they are — the heads of NBC, CNN, CBS, ABC. There’s the New York Times right over there and the Washington Post. They’re working overtime. True.” The remark drew cheers and whistles.

Things took a serious turn, however, when Trump highlighted Hillary’s fraudulent behavior. “Hillary is so corrupt she got kicked off the Watergate Commission,” he said. “How corrupt do you have to be to get kicked off the Watergate Commission? Pretty corrupt.” Loud boos followed the remarks — only the second time a candidate has been booed at the event. Jimmy Carter faced heckling in 1980 when he attended the Catholic charity dinner opposite Ronald Reagan, but the boos came from Catholics angered by Carter’s pro-abortion rhetoric.

Trump later made reference to Clinton’s private emails, in particular one where she admitted to Wall Street bankers that she takes different public and private positions on matters. “We’ve learned so much from WikiLeaks,” he said. “For example, Hillary believes it’s vital to deceive the people by having one public policy and a totally different policy in private.”

After more boos, he interjected, “I don’t know who they’re angry with — you or I.” A heckler shouted, “You!”

He continued, “For example, here she is in public pretending not to hate Catholics,” referring to recent WikiLeaks emails showing Clinton staffers denigrating Catholics — remarks for which Clinton has refused to apologize. The remark was especially pointed, given the Catholic nature of the fundraiser hosted by the New York archdiocese.

“Now if some of you haven’t noticed, Hillary isn’t laughing as much as the rest of us,” Trump continued. “That’s because she knows the jokes, and all of the jokes were given to her in advance of the dinner by Donna Brazile.”

Recent WikiLeaks revelations show that Brazile as moderator of a debate between Clinton and Bernie Sanders unethically passed along a question in advance to the Clinton camp. Brazile continues to deny the veracity of the emails. In response to Brazile’s denials, WikiLeaks published atweet Thursday hinting at further revelations: “We have a suprise in store for @TimKaine and @DonnaBrazile.”

After Trump made a jab at the Clinton Foundation’s allegedly corrupt dealings in Haiti, drawing more jeers, Cdl. Dolan could be seen leaning in to Hillary in an attempt to calm her and smooth over the tension.

Cardinal Dolan himself ended the night with a short speech touching on generalities about immigration and other social justice tropes, but failed to offer any direct challenge to Clinton’s radical pro-abortion policies — the same policies that caused Dolan’s predecessor Cdl. John O’Connor to refuse to invite former presidential candidate Bill Clinton to the Al Smith Dinner.

Although Trump’s speech ended on a lighter note and was followed by polite applause, the awkward atmosphere continued, and Trump did not linger long after Cdl. Dolan’s speech, exiting the event early with his wife. Clinton, on the other hand, spent about 20 minutes afterward mingling with the Democrat-heavy crowd, shaking hands with politicians, wealthy donors and media elites.

Cardinal Dolan ended the night with a brief speech emphasizing ecumenism and unity, with two mild references to the unborn and to immigration. He ended the night with a prayer seeking blessing for the candidates.

As has reported, the Al Smith Memorial Foundation’s board of directors is filled with wealthy supporters of Democrat lawmakers, including the Foundation’s chairman Al Smith IV, former head of NBC Robert Wright, CEO of Mutual of America Thomas Moran, and New York Private Bank & Trust president Howard Milstein, among others. Federal Elections Commission records show they’ve donated thousands to various Democratic politicians, including to Obama himself.

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Christine Niles is an executive producer at Follow Christine on Twitter: @ChristineNiles1


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by Michael Voris, S.T.B.  •  •  October 21, 2016

Cardinal Dolan, Clinton and the Al Smith Dinner

The cardinal-archbishop of New York is visibly agitated by Donald Trump’s remarks at the Catholic fundraiser, and offers a tepid response to the Republican presidential candidate’s pro-life comments.


Michael Voris is a multiple Emmy-award winning TV producer/reporter with more than 20 years experience in broadcast journalism. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame (’83) with a degree in Communications and also received his theologian’s credentials with an S.T.B. (magna cum laude) from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome (The Angelicum) in 2009. 

Follow Michael on Twitter: @Michael_Voris

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