News / Europe

Papal Canonizations a Lesson in Subtle Art of Catholic Politics

The tapestries showing the late Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII hang from the facade of St. Peter's Basilica as faithful and pilgrims crowd St. Peter's Square, April 25, 2014.
The tapestries showing the late Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII hang from the facade of St. Peter's Basilica as faithful and pilgrims crowd St. Peter's Square, April 25, 2014.
Reuters
When the late Popes John XXIII and John Paul II are declared saints on Sunday, the Vatican ceremony will be both a spiritual event for Roman Catholicism and a lesson in the subtle politics of the world's largest church.
 
Most of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics will generally agree that these two men, in their own ways, were holy and charismatic pastors who helped their 2,000-year-old Church confront challenges of the modern era.
 
When it comes to details, though, opinions will diverge.

The debates are long and complex, but the popular notion of John as a liberal champion and John Paul as a conservative stalwart gives a rough outline of how they are seen.
 
As such, they symbolize two groups in the Catholic Church that have disagreed for decades, sometimes bitterly, over how to interpret the results of the reforming Second Vatican Council of 1962-1965 that John launched and John Paul largely implemented.
 
By canonizing both, Argentine-born Pope Francis will be using the symbolism of unity to urge Catholics to look beyond these divisions to join together in following the Gospel.
 
“These two popes represent different wings of the Church,” said Ashley McGuire of the Catholic Association, a Washington-based lay group that defends Catholic views on public issues.
 
“Unity is a big theme of Pope Francis's papacy,"  McGuire said. "He's saying we're all Catholics, we're on a common journey together.”
 
Unity, diversity
 
While popes symbolize the unity of the Church, each one has his own priorities. Some are put into words in sermons and encyclicals, others into deeds in appointments of bishops and cardinals or choices of candidates to declare as saints.

“Canonizing popes can be politically divisive in the Church when it is an attempt by one faction to impose its model of the papacy on the future by bolstering the legacy of its favorite pope,” Rev. Thomas Reese, a prolific U.S. Jesuit analyst of Vatican affairs, said of the canonizations.
 
“Francis's solution is brilliant ... since the men are so different, it does not canonize either model of being pope. It leaves him free to follow his own path.”
 
John, who was born in Italy in 1881 and reigned from 1958 to 1963, is best remembered for convening the Council and promoting “aggiornamento” [updating] to open the Church to modern times.
 
He died after the first of the Council's four sessions and did not witness its far-reaching changes — including the end of Latin at Mass, use of modern music and challenges to Vatican authority — that appealed to reformers but alienated those more at home with the traditional ways.
 
Polish-born John Paul, born in 1920 in Wadowice, Poland, and pope from 1978 to 2005, upheld many Council reforms, but shifted the emphasis toward a more centralized Church, with clearer condemnations of wayward theologians and sexual freedom and a more assertive expression of Catholic identity in a strongly secularized world.
 
That more conservative turn was amplified by his German successor Benedict XVI, pope from 2005 to 2013, who brought back an older liturgical style and readmitted ultra-traditionalists who reject the Council and were excommunicated by John Paul.
 
In addition to debates over the Council, the scandal of clerical sexual abuse of children hangs over the last two pontificates, creating additional fault lines within the Church.
 
Twinning popes

Twinning papal candidates for sainthood has developed in recent decades as canonizations — once less frequent and less visible to the world's Catholics — have become events immediately broadcast around the globe.
 
“It goes back to Pope Paul VI,” said church historian Massimo Faggioli, author of the new book John XXIII: The Medicine of Mercy, referring to the pontiff from 1963 to 1978.

In 1963, following John's death, several cardinals asked his successor if the Vatican Council could declare the late pope a saint by acclamation, as was the custom in the early Church.

Paul cautiously waited until the Council's end in 1965 and then started  the procedures for beatification — the step before sainthood — for John and his conservative predecessor Pius XII.
 
Pius's case bogged down in controversy over his role during the Holocaust, when critics said he ignored the fate of the Jews while defenders said he did all he could to save them.
 
When in 2000 John Paul beatified John, he twinned him with Pius IX, the pope who convened the First Vatican Council in 1869-1870 but whose long papacy (1846-1878) was marred by reactionary politics and accusations of anti-Semitism.
 
Pope Benedict put John Paul on the fast-track to beatification and canonization and had Pius XII declared “venerable,” the step before beatification -- two acts seen as  underlining the conservative emphasis of his pontificate.
 
“In 2010-2011, the rumor in Rome was that the couple [to be canonized] under Pope Benedict would be John Paul and Pius,” said Faggioli.

You May Like

Anti-Terror Drills Highlight China’s Push Into Central Asia

China, Russia, several central Asian countries wrap up massive anti terrorism military drills in Inner Mongolia More

Erdogan’s First Step: Secure More Power in New Role in Turkey

Erdogan was sworn in as Turkey's first popularly elected president on Thursday; he picked former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu as PM More

Pakistan Army Fails to Break Political Deadlock

PM Sharif claims he didn't ask army to defuse crisis; military rejects claim More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assaulti
X
Daniel Schearf
August 29, 2014 9:30 PM
After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.

AppleAndroid