Noting The Passing Of A Great Leader
Posted: Monday, April 4, 2005
By Linda Edwards
It is not only that the Catholics have lost a great leader, but the world has. No other religious leader has done as much to bring the diverse people of the world together as John Paul 11. Perhaps coming from a small persecuted country shaped his personality and beliefs a certain way.
He apologized to the Muslims for the atrocities of the Crusades, and was the first Catholic leader to enter a mosque. He apologized to the Jews for the Church's failing to do more to stop Nazi persecution during WW 11, and for the perennial blame they have carried, incited by Catholicism, for the death of Jesus. He was the first pontiff to enter a Jewish temple. He meant it when we say that we are all people of the book. (Christians, Jews and Muslims)
When his Cardinal Archbishop Arinze of Nigeria visited Houston, one of his first meetings was with lay and religious of all faiths, including Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs. What a far cry from the priest who forbade my former husband and his friends from going to the Anglican funeral of a boy in their group, from Belmont, who had drowned as a fourteen year old. Later, at the concelebrated High Mass of the Catholic Church, Arinze baptized about four hundred babies from all over the southern USA. Women taking up the offerings were dancing up to the altar, long African skirts held high. What a joy that was about five Easters ago! John Paul 11 appointed Arinze to be the pontifical legate to other faiths, and to remind us that God is a God of joy.
As I began writing this piece, a South African religious group is singing "Humble Yourself Before the Son, and He Shall Lift You High". A comment I believe quite appropriate to John Paul 11's life.
I did not agree, and still do not, with his position on women in the Church, but I am not Catholic, so I accept this as one of his earthly failings. When he visited Trinidad in the 1980's, I did not go to see him because of this, but through radio and TV coverage, I joined in praying for the nation with him.
He was a great human being of this and the previous century, and we should all pause in respect at his passing.
We who are also of a small country, and who have the opportunity to reach out to other faiths, on a daily interactive basis, can honor his legacy, and remove the vestiges of religious prejudice that continue to infect our educational system; and re-examine our position on the death penalty, as being anti-life. He was late to speak out against the death penalty, but eventually, he did.
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