What would the late Pope John Paul II make of some of today's world problems, and his own beatification?
To obtain a few insights, Newsmax asked probably the best-known biographer of the Polish pontiff, George Weigel.
Author of “Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II”, the most comprehensive study of Karol Wojtyla's life, Weigel recently published its sequel, “The End and the Beginning” which tells the dramatic story of John Paul II's battles with communism as well as the late pontiff's final years.
On the global economic crisis, and in particular the vast fiscal deficits affecting the United States and Europe, Weigel believes John Paul would have clear insights into some of the causes.
“He would quickly grasp the demographic character of the fiscal crisis in Europe: when you stop creating the human future through self-induced infertility, bad things are likely to happen,” Weigel said.
And rather than focus on America's own fiscal problems, Weigel believes he might have actually turned to the United States to offer some leadership.
“I like to think he would hope the U.S. could show a way forward for developed societies, all of whom are grappling with the fact that the welfare state as we have known it is simply unaffordable if it remains a preserve of the state,” he said.
When it comes to the rights and wrongs of military action in Libya, speculating John Paul II's probable response is less straightforward. Weigel stressed that John Paul II “did not understand his role as Pope as that of global referee, determining when the use of armed force was legitimate; that was the responsibility of statesmen, as he understood things.”
But he added: “I think he would be saddened by a maniac like Gadhafi, as he was saddened by other maniacs, including Saddam Hussein. He did speak to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) in 1992 about the "duty" of "humanitarian intervention" in cases of impending or actual genocide, but without specifying on whom that duty fell, or how it was to be met.”
Weigel pointed out that Benedict XVI also has said similar things, “without making the analysis of "who" and "how" any more precise.”
But he believes this is “a major hole in the Church's thinking that badly needs filling,” and he added that “saying that "war doesn't solve anything," as the bishops of Libya recently said, is not a serious analysis of anything.”
On Europe's ever-increasing spiritual and moral malaise, Weigel said John Paul would be doing “just what he tried to do for decades, and what Benedict XVI has tried to do since 2005: rouse Europe from its spiritual torpor, which is killing it.”
To offer further insight, the American biographer suggested looking at one of John Paul II's last major statements on the continent: his 2003 apostolic exhortation called “Ecclesia in Europa” (The Church in Europe).
Almost 10 years on, the document still remains relevant and contains some striking passages. John Paul II wrote of Europe's “growing need for hope” that had grown out of a “kind of practical agnosticism and religious indifference whereby many Europeans give the impression of living without spiritual roots and somewhat like heirs who have squandered a patrimony entrusted to them by history.”
The late Pope observed an “inner emptiness that grips many people,” a widespread “existential fragmentation [in which] a feeling of loneliness is present,” a weakening of the family and a “selfishness that closes individuals and groups in upon themselves.”
He also noted “a growing lack of concern for ethics and an obsessive concern for personal interests and privileges [leading to] the diminished number of births.”
“One of the roots of the hopelessness that assails many people today is their inability [to] allow themselves to be forgiven,” he wrote, adding “an inability often resulting from the isolation of those who, by living as if God did not exist, have no one from whom they can seek forgiveness.”
But he stressed it was through “the biblical conception of man” that Europe had once drawn “the best of its humanistic culture, found inspiration for its artistic and intellectual creations, created systems of law and, not least, advanced the dignity of the person as the subject of inalienable rights.” It was the Church, as the bearer of the Gospel, “that helped spread and consolidate these values which have made European culture universal,” he said.
John Paul II believed Europe had a future, but it wasn't guaranteed; rather Europeans must choose to have one. “That would mean choosing to have children,” writes Weigel, reflecting on the document's final passage. “That would mean, above all, a Europe reclaiming the spiritual and moral patrimony of its biblical and Christian heritage, a crucial and irreducible part of Europe being Europe.”
Finally, what would John Paul II make of his own beatification, to take place on May 1 — a liturgical celebration that puts him just one step away from becoming a saint?
“Karol Wojtyla spent his entire adult life conforming himself to the will of God as that manifested itself through the Church,” Weigel said.
“He didn't want to be a bishop, but he accepted the task; he didn't want to be Pope, but he accepted that. I expect that, with that characteristic twinkle in his eye, he'll accept what is being done to him on May 1.”
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