Friday, April 01, 2005

"He is living his via crucis."

During his illness, all sorts of questions have been raised. Would the Pope consider abdication? What would happen if he were to become gravely incapacitated for a long period?

The questions are not without interest. But they miss the more compelling point in this drama. Contemporary Western culture doesn't have much truck with suffering. We avoid it if possible. We sequester it when it becomes unavoidable: how many of us will die at home?

Embracing suffering is a concept alien to us. And yet suffering embraced in obedience to God's will is at the centre of Christianity.


His recent hospitalisations and his struggle to live out the commitment to service he made at his election in 1978 should remind everyone that he is, first and foremost, a Christian pastor who is going to challenge us with the message of the cross - the message of Good Friday and Easter - until the end.

As Hanna Suchocka, the former Polish prime minister, described the Pope to me recently, "He is living his via crucis", his way of the cross.

It's not something the world has watched a Pope do for a very long time. We should recognise it for what it is and be grateful for the example.

Read the whole thing. This, too.

Whatever your feelings on John Paul II, you absolutely cannot deny his strength of character and courage. I remember as a kid being so impressed by his visiting with and forgiving the young Turkish man - Agha - who attempted to assassinate him. I remember reading about what he'd gone through in Poland both during the Nazi and the Soviet occupations. We're seeing more of that here.

I'll be very sad when he passes, but also happy that his suffering will be over.

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