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Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II

October 26, 2001 Halifax Herald

Pope sets great example for world leaders to follow

With the ongoing parade of prominent religious leaders getting caught feathering their nests and committing other sins, and the spectacle of many preaching hate in God's name instead of peace, I keep growing more sceptical of the vocation. But in opposition to this drift, Pope John Paul II has become an exemplary hero in my eyes.

This has transpired in spite of the fact that he refuses to ditch papal infallibility, enact liberal divorce procedures, or permit the ordination of women and married people. However, although these are much needed reforms, his refusal to make them is far overshadowed by the great things he has accomplished in other areas by daring to innovate, and by rejecting archaic beliefs that were designed to terrorize followers into submission.

The following are the two foremost reasons I've come to view him in awe:

First, he humbly goes out into the world and with impeccable integrity, preaches to the multitudes that they must love their neighbours and have tolerance for cultural differences.

Second, in stark contrast to his predecessors, he advocates the right of all peoples to worship God as they see fit. In this, John Paul has left behind a great many fellow Christians who still believe that they are the indisputable keepers of God's true word. That is, of course, when they stop fighting among themselves about which Christian sect has been anointed the true interpreter and preacher of the scriptures.

A good dose of this type of archaic "keeper of God's true word" mindset also afflicts many among Judaism, Islamic and other religious conversions. The fundamentalists fanatics that such mindset still produces, who mindlessly believe that they have the right to inflict terror in God's name, easily hold their own with history's most blood-thirsty - for instance, the slaughter of thousands of innocents when they destroyed New York City's World Trade And Convention Centre.

In sharp contrast to the beliefs of these types, the Pope, during a recent visit to Kazakhstan, warned the faithful not to use aggressive religious conversion efforts in a land of many faiths. To drive the message home, he cited the following words of wisdom by Kazakh scholar Abai Kunanbai: "Precisely because we worship God fully and have faith in Him, we have no right to claim that we must force others to believe in Him and worship Him."

Nursultan Nazarbayev, the country's Muslim President, was so impressed that he observed of the Pope: "probably one of the first leaders of the Roman Catholic Church who preaches conciliation between civilizations and between religious confessions." I would go one further and state that the Pope is probably the first prominent leader of any religious conversion to do so.

High among the many other exceptional deeds that have marked him as a man of great heart is that he has acknowledged the horrific past sins committed against humanity by Roman Catholics and apologised for them. Western leaders should take note, before they opt not to apologize for the past sins against humanity committed by their Nations, that the Vatican has not collapsed or been inundated with lawsuits because of it. If anything, it enhanced it's stature.

The following are a few more prominent deeds that add to John Paul's revolutionary lustre: he rejected the notion that there is a hell where sinners burn for eternity (this fits right in with my belief that a God who condoned such a thing would have to be monstrous); he declared that evolution is a valid belief; he promoted brotherly love by visiting over eighty countries, including Israel and twenty Islamic countries; he forgave and prayed with the man who tried to assassinate him. A full list of his good deeds would fill a book. However, it would be remiss not to mention that he played an essential role in shaping the events that ended Communist rule in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. President Ronald Regan, as some would have us believe, did not do it alone.

One can hope that the selfless actions of this great man might someday inspire: Northern Ireland's Catholics and Protestants to stop hating one another and work together to build a better life; Israel to retreat to its founding borders and stop provoking the Palestinians by trying to take over the rest of Palestine and Gaza; fanatic Palestinian suicide bombers to give it up and stop killing innocents; (Sadat and Rabin gave their lives for peace, the slaughter now occurring in the Middle East isn't a fitting thank you.) And ultimately, all other enemies to set aside hatred and learn to work together for the betterment of humanity.

What the Pope teaches is that the Great Spirit is goodness incarnate; an ideal I subscribe to completely. Because I do so, it astounds me how religious fanatics can warp dogma to the point where they believe that God would countenance the slaughter of innocents in order to permit them to realize a goal. From my perspective, such barbarity is not something a loving Creator could ever endorse.

If the mindless ethnic hate that troubles humanity is ever to be defeated, then the world's political and other religious leaders must follow the Pope's lead and pursue with vigour the goal of tolerant interaction between civilizations and religious confessions. Itís an attainable ideal. Hats off to a humble, compassionate, inspiring, wise man who dares to reach for the stars. May the Great Spirit be with him always!

Daniel N. Paul

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