Monday, April 04, 2005
Okay, I can't resist an excerpt:
I was six when he was elected the Pope, but I can still remember first the disbelief and then the euphoria that after four and a half centuries of Italian pontiffs the cardinals have chosen an outsider, and not just any outsider but one of ours. His first trip to Poland as the Pope, in 1979, had energized our society, demoralized and worn out after more than three decades of shadow life in workers' paradise. When Solidarity erupted onto the world scene a year later (and in some ways, as a result of his visit), he let us know that he was with us. When he came back in 1983, during the dark winter of our history, with the opposition suppressed and the country suffocated by the Martial Law and the dreary rule of the colonels, he made us realize that there was future. In that, he was similar to Ronald Reagan with his fervent belief about communism being consigned to the ash heap of history; he made us believe that no matter what temporary setbacks, the right and the history were on our side, that the seemingly monolithic edifice of the Soviet Empire would crumble one day - perhaps sooner than we thought - and that we would be free at last.
When Stalin sneered "The Pope? How many divisions does he have?", he did not understand that we were the Pope's divisions, and that - contra Orwell's dystopic vision - there is no such thing as a boot stomping on human face forever.
Everyone will have their own Pope; this is mine. I did not agree with some of his political and economic views, particularly later on in his pontificate, but then I did not have to. For me, he would remain great on the account of those amazing eleven years from when he ascended to the throne of St Peter to when Poland had her democratic election in 1989 and the empire well and truly started to come apart. It doesn't really matter what came before or what came after that.
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