Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Passing of Pope John Paul II



This is the image I love best. Over the years and particularly in the past few weeks I have opined publically my cynicisms about the Pope, but I have been greatly saddened by his passing. I am not a Catholic, so the whyfores and wherefores and whofores of this man were lost in my memory banks. I must have been in the 5th grade when he ascended to papal greatness, as it were. I have vague memories of being excited about it but only because the world was excited. I know I didn't understand anything beyond that and maybe I still don't.

Last night I sat at Roro and Lala's. The television showed an endless stream of live and archived footage about the Vatican, this Pope's historical and cultural contributions, and his current condition. Even if you missed it all, I'm sure it's easy to imagine. We watched intermitently, talking about other things when the drone became too stressful. Every once in a while a soundbyte would catch my attention or Roro would say something that would dislodge items that had been lost in my head for 27 years. "Born Karol Jozef Wojtyla ... the first non-Italian in 455 years." A small part of me murmered "oh yah...." Roro mentioned the previous Pope and how he had died after a month. I felt disoriented; I had no recollection of that. Then slowly it came back to me. Yes, his name was Pope John Paul, and this new guy chose the name John Paul II, and I, a ten-year-old, had thought that very noble. It had made me feel warm and fuzzy about him. I had loved the Pope with my decade-old heart.

So the night continued, the reports, the timelines, the failed attempts by newcasters not to appear opportunistic about having a guaranteed large-scale viewership for the evening. They continued with shots of people crying, comments by average Joes saying that losing him would be like losing his or her own father. Experts drone and speculated. People prayed for the Pope in hope that he might not suffer too much. I couldn't relate to much of it other than that certainly one always hopes for no suffering. It made me sad that he was laying there, knowing that he would die sooner rather than later. I thought of my mom and how she must have known that she was dying even if the rest of us were in denial. I thought about how I'm glad that they will meet. Isn't that odd? At the time it was a perfectly sensical thought—the Pope will die and at some point my mother will get to meet him and oh how she'll like that.

I lost myself in myself as I had more and more strange thoughts. I tried to imagine the life of someone whose destiny will lead them to be a spiritual leader of such reknowned stature. Or what it would like for his parents or childhood friends. I thought about all the irreverent comments I've made about the Pope, and I stand by them because my comments were not about the man who is the Pope, but the Pope who is a man. Think about the power with which we imbue certain roles as well as the people in them. If their power comes from us then aren't we really the powerful ones? Or is it that we give up so much of it that we leave ourselves none?

One thing I never forgot was the reaction when Sinead O'Connor tore the picture of the Pope on Saturday Night Live. I didn't understand why it was so troublesome and had such bad repercussions. I wouldn't have done it but to me it was just a picture. It wasn't like she shot him. The symbolic gesture was nothing more than that to me, but last night, when I realized that he really would die, I began to understand. The world, including the non-Catholic one, has lost a great spiritual leader. It doesn't matter if you or I agreed with his actions or stances or that for which he stood. Genuine spiritual leaders speak for all of us regardless of class, color, or creed. They speak to the one thing that we all have in common, even if we're athiests. For better or worse, we're all human, which means that ideally we share a humanity.

I always liked my impression of the man who was John Paul II. I will continue to point the finger and have my opinions about the Pope just as I do for presidents and princes, monks and ministers, supervisors and sultans, judges and the judged. We'll have a new Pope soon. He won't be Asian or Latino or Black nor will he be a woman, but he will be somebody. He will lead and many will follow. God bless the future and the past. Amen.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Phil said...

posted on Blogcritics.org on April 2, 2005 10:44 PM:
I have wondered as well O'Connor's thoughts today. I know (I think I know) at the time she was reflecting Ireland's problems re: sectarianism. Unfortunately, for her, she was playing to an audience not looking for answers to the question that has torn the fabric of that society apart for so long. She is a genuine musical talent, but will be remembered far longer for that one segment on SNL.

12:37 PM  
Anonymous Temple Stark said...

posted on Blogcritics.org on April 2, 2005 11:13 PM:
OK, U guys beat me - I expect Sinead O' Connor will be interviewed somewhere. Another person with greater integrity, a better voice - and less influence.

12:39 PM  
Anonymous Dave Nalle said...

posted on Blogcritics.org on April 2, 2005 11:38 PM:

Isn't Sinnead a nun now?

Dave

12:40 PM  
Anonymous Temple Stark said...

posted on Blogcritics.org on April 3, 2005 12:14 AM:

Yes and ...?

12:41 PM  
Anonymous HW Saxton said...

posted on Blogcritics.org on April 3, 2005 12:23 AM:
Sinnead who? I vaguely remember someone who performed under that moniker.Wasn't she the performer who bit off the head of a bat at The Alamo or something ??? Very heavy political statement there you
formerly bald headed radical you!

Hard to find something to say about The Pope that hasn't already been said. Much more eloquently than I ever could hope to anyway. But I've got to say this: The
Pope was a sharp dresser!I recall seeing a picture of the Pope sans hassock once. "Il Papa" was wearing some light beige cream colored slacks,two toned wing-tip
shoes(Light Brown & Ox Blood)and a pair of Cranberry! colored socks. The cat had had a serious sense of style! At least whoever it was who laid out his clothes for him did! After all the were in Rome,a city that seems to take it's fashion
mighty seriously.

12:43 PM  
Anonymous Tristan said...

posted on Blogcritics.org on April 3, 2005 01:02 AM:

Mmmm.....
I've always had a "thing" for bald nuns ............

And ~~~~~~

did you all know that you do not even have to be a PRIEST to be ELECTED Pope ...???

It's TRUE.

12:44 PM  
Anonymous RJ said...

posted on Blogcritics.org on April 3, 2005 03:05 AM:

I believe Ms. O'Connor is currently a "priest" in some "church" that no one seriously recognizes...

12:46 PM  
Anonymous Rugger said...

posted by Rugger on April 3, 2005 02:38 PM:
It seems to me like people are missing the point of the post. The person who wrote this didn't seem to be saying so much about the pop star as about other things like why it's easy to be cynical and make jokes about these matters but maybe we do so because we're uncomfortable or don't take the time to understand. At least that's how I'm reading it. The child loved the pope for no reason and maybe as an adult mocked the pope or didn't hold the position in serious regard--both extremes with little rhyme or reason other than innocence (child)/innocence lost (adult). That's what I took about it.

12:48 PM  
Anonymous Rugger said...

posted by Rugger on April 3, 2005 02:38 PM:
It seems to me like people are missing the point of the post. The person who wrote this didn't seem to be saying so much about the pop star as about other things like why it's easy to be cynical and make jokes about these matters but maybe we do so because we're uncomfortable or don't take the time to understand. At least that's how I'm reading it. The child loved the pope for no reason and maybe as an adult mocked the pope or didn't hold the position in serious regard--both extremes with little rhyme or reason other than innocence (child)/innocence lost (adult). That's what I took about it.

12:53 PM  
Anonymous s.p. said...

posted on Blogcritics.org on April 4, 2005 07:10 PM:

She didn't tear up the picture of the pope over sectarianism....she was responding to recent scandals in her native Ireland regarding reports of abuse committed by certain Catholic priests. She essentially warned of what came eventually to light (and finally reaction by the pope) when the same thing was discovered in the US 8 years later.


http://www.arthurstreet.com/celibacy1993.html

9:11 PM  
Anonymous Natalie Davis said...

posted on April 4, 2005 07:37 PM:

I said it when Sinead O'Connor tore up the photo and I'll say it again: She was right.

And, the disrespect of others aside, she was ordained as a priest -- not a "priest" -- in the Latin Tridentine Church, a sect that broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. You may not respect that church (and apparently, neither did she; she left after a matter of months because she could not live up to the vow of chastity), but it is characteristically arrogant and categorically wrong for anyone to say that "no one" recognizes it. There are a number of autocephalous churches that have broken away from the papists -- each may be small, but each matters to someone. And collectively, they represent a big truth that should be acknowledged and respected: Not all Catholics are on board with the dictatorship of the pope.

9:14 PM  
Blogger mpho said...

Rugger, thanks for your comments. I wasn't purposely trying to contrast innocence vs. the loss of it, but that's an interesting take. I have to think about that, actually. You're also right about my brief mention of Sinead. I mentioned her really as an afterthought kind of thought and am kind of surprised that that's become the focal point of the thread. In regards to that, I really appreciate your comments as well Natalie. They resonate with my beliefs about the whole Sinead thing and about the broad Catholic reaction to the pope, though I don't think I directly got to that in my post. I checked out your web site though--nice. Good luck non-shit job hunting. If activism is your thing, you'd find plenty of kindred spirits in the Bay Area. Unfortunately, it ain't a cheap place to live. Check out craigslist (www.craigslist.org) for jobs though, esp. in the Bay Area.

9:23 PM  

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