Pope Recalled as a Man of Unity, Peace — and More

Accolades From Lutherans, Anglicans, Jews and Others

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NEW YORK, APRIL 4, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Praise for John Paul II has been swift since his death last Saturday. Here are excerpts from what various groups and religious denominations have said about the Pope.

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Dr. Gian Luigi Gigli, president of the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations (FIAMC):

For more than 26 years, he led the Church in the midst of events which not only marked the history of the world, but were also responsible for deep transformations in science and in medical practice. During this long time, the word of the Pope enlightened the minds and the hearts of health professionals and of the people of God on issues concerning health, life, health care assistance, biomedical sciences, bioethics, and profession to doctors and the other health care workers. …

We appreciated the abundance of his magisterium on the issues related to our profession, starting from «Salvifici Doloris,» the first pontifical document on the theological value of suffering, and from the great encyclical «Evangelium Vitae,» a true magna charta for all those who put their profession at the service of human life. …

We admired his love for the sick in the many meetings he had with the sick and disabled and in the visits to Hospitals in Rome and in many parts of the world, starting with the first day after his election, when he left the Vatican to visit a friend of him, Monsignor Deskur, in a Roman hospital.

We rejoiced in receiving the «motu proprio» «Dolentium Hominum» with which, for the first time in the history of the Church, an organic and coordinated work was started on a worldwide scale in the field of […] health pastoral care, and the motu proprio «Vitae Mysterium,» with which the Pontifical Academy for Life was established. …

Above all, the Holy Father has been for us a Teacher on the desk of suffering, since the days when someone attempted to take his life in 1981, when, together with so many people from all over the world, we prayed that Divine Mercy and Mary’s intercession could save his life for the good of the Church, and, thanks to God, our prayers were answered.

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Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE):

Europe is indebted to Pope John Paul II’s vision and drive. As a son of Poland, he experienced the horrors of war and the subsequent painful division of Europe. His involvement in the grass-roots struggle for freedom from the shackles of oppression influenced his papacy from the beginning. He envisaged a Europe which transcended the divisions of the Cold War. Fully recognizing the significance of the process of European integration, he often expressed the desire that this free organization of peoples and nations in solidarity, as achieved in the European Union, would one day encompass the countries of central and eastern Europe, so that Europe might acquire «the dimension given to it by geography and more so by its history» (Address to the European Parliament, 1989). …

For John Paul II, the humus of Christian civilization, kept alive and nourished by Christian citizens, is the source of value-based choices for the organization of life in society, human dignity, human rights, justice and peace, and the rule of law. He continuously encouraged Europeans to recognize «how Christianity can offer to the European continent a determinative and substantial support for renewal and hope, proposing with renewed fervor the ever pertinent proclamation of Christ the Redeemer» (COMECE Plenary meeting in Rome, 2001). …

To address the challenges facing European society and the Church in Europe at the turn of the millennium, he called a second Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The Apostolic Exhortation, «Ecclesia in Europa,» signed by Pope John Paul II on 28 June 2003 which followed from the second Synod, proclaimed Jesus Christ as the true and ultimate hope for Europe. For the first time, the Holy Father used the phrase «Church in Europe» («Ecclesia in Europa,» Nos. 45, 65, 69, 105), as a subject and agent, thus calling upon the local Churches and Christians to think and act continentally, to transcend the confines of borders and to reach for new horizons of community. His tireless efforts to reconstitute a Europe built through solidarity will be a living testament to his papacy.

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Claudette Habesch, secretary-general of Caritas Jerusalem

Pope John Paul II was to us such a special example of the timeless virtues of Christianity: faith, hope and love. His steadfast and unwavering faith in God’s power to touch the lives of all people in the whole world; his constant hope for a better tomorrow for all of God’s children and his undying love for the whole world gave all of us, who were honored to have been a part of his holy ministry, a model of Christian action whose memory to us is indeed blessed.

Pope John Paul II showed us by his example that Christians should «walk, even as He (Christ) walked» (1 John 2:6). His constant example by his actions to »Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness» (Ephesians 4:1,2) inspired us all. He chose to «walk by faith,» (2 Corinthians 5:7) «in the light» (1 John 1:7), «in love» (Ephesians 5:2), and «in the spirit.» (Galatians 5:16) May we all learn from this special servant of God so that our world can be a better place for all of God’s children.

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Rowan Williams, Anglican archbishop of Canterbury:

Pope John Paul was a leader of manifest holiness and a faithful and prayerful friend of the Anglican Church. There will be time in the days ahead for the proper tributes to be paid; for now we remember his life and ministry with thankfulness and hold the church that he led in our thoughts and prayers.

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From an Anti-Defamation League analysis:

In his tenure as Pope, John Paul II revolutionized Catholic-Jewish relations. It is safe to say that more change for the better took place in his 27-year papacy than in the nearly 2,000 years before.

One small indicator of the change is an ADL program called Bearing Witness, in which Catholic school teachers from around the country spend a week in Washington with ADL, the Archdiocese of Washington and the Holocaust Museum staff to learn about Anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, and Israel. This and so many other wonderful interfaith activities could never have happened without the remarkable contributions of the Pope who opened so many Catholics to a whole new way of looking at Jews.

The Pope did this by the way he wrote and spoke about the evil of anti-Semitism. He did this by visiting the Rome synagogue, the first Pope to do so. He did it by the opening ten years ago of full relations with the State of Israel and then capped it off with his historic visit to Israel, including a moving stop at the Western wall. He did it by issuing a report on the Holocaust and by raising questions of Christian responsibility. …

The consequences of this remarkable revolution from the top of the Catholic Church have been significant. It doesn’t mean that all problems are resolved, far from it. …

But because of the vision, because of the understanding of the suffering associated with Catholic doctrine toward Jews, that the Pope possessed, the prism through which problems are seen is completely different.

For all of us who appreciate the Pope’s contributions the challenge is to make sure that his vision will continue to resonate and to deepen. That would be the best tribute to this exceptional religious leader.

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Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation:

The death of Pope John Paul II marks the end not only of a truly remarkable human life but also of a highly significant pontificate of the Roman Catholic Church at a crucial stage of human history.

John Paul II was elected pope at a time when the Communist systems of Easter
n Europe were still firmly in place. His role in the changes that would lift the Iron Curtain and open up Europe’s borders remains a significant contribution to the region’s and global history.

The conservative stance of John Paul II has raised questions about this pope’s dedication to the ecumenical movement. It must be recognized, however, that the Roman Catholic Church throughout his pontificate has contributed substantially to major ecumenical processes, particularly to the network of bilateral doctrinal dialogues, of which the Roman Catholic Church has been a strong advocate since the Second Vatican Council.

Pope John Paul II will be remembered for his strong focus on personal relationships and for his deep spirituality in the exercise of daunting responsibilities. In his constant search for the most appropriate ways for the Roman Pontiff to serve the unity of the church, John Paul II, in his encyclical «Ut Unum Sint,» invited bishops from different Christian traditions worldwide to participate in discussing how the papacy could best fulfill the ministry of Christian unity. While for many churches the very institution of the papacy lies beyond what they could adopt for themselves, many Christians would at the same time recognize that John Paul II truly exemplified a pastoral ministry of unity.

For the Lutheran World Federation, which has been in international theological dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church since 1967, the bilateral relations between our worldwide church bodies have continued to develop fruitfully in the course of John Paul II’s pontificate.

The achievement of the «Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification,» and its signing celebration in Augsburg, Germany, on 31 October 1999, represent a milestone in this relationship. The Joint Declaration expresses agreement in basic truths pertaining to the biblical doctrine of justification, which was a central area of contention at the time of the Reformation. It represents a significant ecumenical breakthrough reaching beyond the bilateral relationship of the signing partners directly involved.<br>
At the present stage of the ecumenical movement, it is not easy to see how substantial further progress can be achieved globally and how communion relations can be established between the Roman Catholic Church and other churches. In this area new initiatives from the side of the Roman Catholic Church will be required in the future.

From the beginning of his pontificate, John Paul II was deeply involved with issues of social justice, and has actively promoted the free and common exercise of religious faith as a fundamental human right. As the enormous social challenges of globalization have become increasingly clear, John Paul II has appropriately warned the world of the dangerous consequences of liberal market forces.

The pontificate of John Paul II has been one of relentless search for ways in which the Roman Catholic Church, in different regions of the world, could help to alleviate suffering from political and economic oppression, from racial and social discrimination, and from poverty, hunger and illness. He has never shunned away from difficult and high-risk challenges, often against the advice of his entourage. Until the last days of his life, he personally involved himself in attempts to resolve conflicts especially where religious motives were involved. Indeed, the pope has voiced great concern about current global tensions, portrayed by some as conflict between the Muslim-Arab world and the Christian West.

Recognizing the potential for peace in a faith-based approach, John Paul II was able to bring together, in ways no one else has managed, different religious leaders in common reflection and prayerful commitment to the cause of peace, focusing openly on the world’s excruciating suffering as a result of wars and countless conflicts.

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Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the World Council of Churches:

Pope John Paul II has been among the most outstanding personalities during these last decades, with an impact far beyond the Roman Catholic Church and the Christian community worldwide. During his pontificate, the Roman Catholic Church affirmed its universal vocation and strengthened its internal coherence.

His commitment to social justice and reconciliation, to human rights and the dignity of the human person, as well as to Christian unity and interreligious understanding, will be gratefully remembered.

In the first half of his pontificate, John Paul II focused on the situation of people living under communist rule. With a combination of quiet diplomacy and strong denunciation, he developed an ecclesial and political «Ostpolitik» and strengthened those taking a stand against Marxist ideology, particularly in his native Poland.

During this period, an intentional focus on human rights (particularly in «Redemptor Hominis») and religious liberty provided a strong basis for challenging Marxist ideology and communist practice.

During the second half of his reign, Pope John Paul II sought to challenge the predominant values in Western culture, to question what he saw as permissive trends in human sexuality, and to affirm «the culture of life» over and against «the culture of death.» This was most evident in the various social encyclicals published during his time — «Laborem Exercens,» «Solicitudo Rei Socialis» and «Centesimus Annus.» In this restatement and development of Roman Catholic social thought, he was able to initiate a dialogue on appropriate structures and foundations for human life in society. …

Of particular interest is his attempt to offer a vision of unity; his encyclical «Ut Unum Sint» draws on the insights and experiences of Roman Catholic involvement in the ecumenical movement, and offers substantial reflections on the nature of dialogue and unity. Indeed, this encyclical is unusual in citing reports from the wider ecumenical movement — notably that of the WCC Faith and Order Commission. …

His strong proclamations and actions for peace, particularly in the two Gulf wars and in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have been particularly important. By lifting up this common concern of churches worldwide and the ecumenical movement as a whole, he strengthened the voices of Christians everywhere working to overcoming injustice and promote lasting peace.

The pontificate of John Paul II has bridged in a courageous way a period of profound changes and transformations in the church and in the world. A new era and a new millennium have begun, which will require fresh responses in the Roman Catholic Church and in the ecumenical movement.

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John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC):

We treasure John Paul II’s legacy to the world, which is his insistence that «The Gospel of God’s love for man, the Gospel of the dignity of the person and the Gospel of life are a single and indivisible Gospel» («Evangelium Vitae,» 2). We call on all people of good will to honor his memory by responding to his urgent call for «a general mobilization of consciences and a united ethical effort to activate a great campaign in support of life» («Evangelium Vitae,» 95).

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Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus:

Few popes in the 2,000-year history of the Catholic Church have had so momentous an impact on the Church and the world at large as the man we can now properly call John Paul the Great. …

John Paul, the successor of Peter as head of the universal church, made it into a truly global Church, traveling to nearly every nation on earth, and reaching out to the world’s 5 billion people in ways that were unprecedented. We are proud to have been at his side, in his travels around the world and as the organization that made possible his use of modern communications technology to reach literally billions of people.

His tremendous effort to reach out to people of every religious faith emb
raced one of the most important teachings of Vatican II and made it live. And his teachings on the dignity of the human person and on the sanctity of human life are immeasurable contributions to the modern world, as we contemplate the ways in which we must leave the carnage and destruction of the 20th century behind us forever. He was truly the Pope of Peace, whose commitment to the cause of peace is unmatched in our time.

We will miss him greatly. But the Catholic Church — and the world — will benefit from his legacy for generations to come.

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