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Sunday, April 3, 2005

His Holiness Pope John Paul II is no more, but his legacy of fighting evil should be carried forward by his successor who faces the challenge of Islamic terrorism. The spirit of Pope Urban II is needed at the papacy now

His Holiness Pope John Paul II will always be remembered for the role he played in the demise of Communism. He helped to save Europe from the brutal threat of Communist totalitarianism.

Pope John Paul II had many firsts to his credit. Use of a laptop was the least important of them. He tried to reduce the cleavage between the Orthodox and Catholic churches. He apologized for the atrocities on the Jews during the Middle Ages and during WW2. He held out an olive branch to the Muslims. But as the religious leader of Christendom, the Pope was looked upon by the Muslim laity as a threat even in the days of the Cold War. This was evident from the assassination attempt on him by Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turk who shot at the Pope in 1981. In those days the attempt to murder the topmost religious leader of Christendom by a Muslim did not create any anti-Muslim sentiment in the West. But then that was two decades before 9/11. An attempt to murder the Pope today would create altogether reactions. The reaction to the murder of the Dutch film maker Theo Van Gough is an indication of what could have happened with it being multiplied manifold.

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His tenure as Pope from 1978 up to 2005 was a witness to a world-changing event, the fall of communism. The communists also saw it coming when a Polish priest was elected the pope. One such person was Yuri Andropov, then head of the KGB, warned that a Polish Pope would likely destabilize the Soviet Union by giving hope to the nations held captive within it. Eleven years later the evil empire crumbled and the captive nations emerged blinking into the light of freedom.

Others played vital roles in that liberation Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, the heroic dissidents behind the Iron Curtain but the Pope had provided its spiritual impulse.

Within months of his 1979 papal visit to Poland, during which he called upon Poles to "recognize evil", there were riots by Polish workers, the rise of Solidarity and the spread of anti-communist dissidence throughout eastern Europe.

In fact he was a world-changing figure in many other ways too. He finally interred the restless ghost of Christian anti-Semitism, declaring it to be a serious sin and famously referring to Jews as "our elder brothers".

He did not fully succeed with the leaders of Orthodox Christianity and he was believed to be privately distressed that Muslim leaders have been often frightened by their own extremists into remaining silent about attacks on Christians and Christianity.

Most significantly due to 9/11 and its aftermath, the seeds of a brutal Christian-Muslim conflict have been planted for later generations to harvest. Unfortunately Pope John Paul II could not adequately give strength and hope to traditional Christian believers of all denominations in their battle with the Islamic challenge to Western civilization.

In spite of his pacifist approach, he was an object of derision among the laity in the Muslim world. That the Pope was looked upon as a threat even in the days of the Cold War, was evident from the assassination attempt on him by Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turk who shot at the Pope in 1981. In those days the attempt to murder the topmost religious leader of Christendom by a Muslim did not create any anti-Muslim sentiment in the West. But then that was two decades before 9/11. An attempt to murder the Pope today would create altogether reactions. The reaction to the murder of the Dutch film maker Theo Van Gough is an indication of what could have happened with it being multiplied manifold.

The next person to occupy the papacy would face the full brunt of the Islamic challenge. It is up to him to rise up to the occasion to unite the Western world against the civilizational threat we face.

The next Pope needs to have an iron will and vision of Pope Urban II (1042-1099 C.E.) to provide the theological lubricant that would enable the defense of Western civilization to proceed effectively and smoothly.

Communism was the existential challenge of the 20th century, as Islam is emerging to be that of the 21st. Can the next Pope address himself to challenge Islam resolutely?

This will decide on the future of the papacy.

Story Credits: Benadorassociates

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