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

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora