What Historians Are Saying About the Pope: Excerpts





Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern.

FACTS

• Pope John Paul II, the 264th Pope, was elected on October 16, l978. He was the first-ever Slavic pope and the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years, and was installed when he was 58 years old, on October 22 (Sunday), 1978.
• When Pope John Paul II died on April 2, 2005, he was 84 years old, the third-longest reigning Pope, his pontifcate lasted 26 years, 5 months, and 17 days, or a total of 9,665 days.
• Historians rank John Paul as either the third or fourth longest-serving pope, depending on how many years they credit to St. Peter 2,000 years ago. (Knight Ridder News Service)
• Pope John Paul II appointed nearly all of the church's top leaders, modernized and clarified the entire code of church laws, and supervised a complete revision of the catechism, the official summary of Catholic doctrine. (Knight Ridder News Service)
• In 1986, Pope John Paul II became the first pope to visit a synagogue.
• In 2001. Pope John Paul II made the first pontifical visit to a mosque in Damascus, Syria and tried to improve relations with Islamic leaders.
• Pope John Paul II 's 104 apostolic voyages outside Italy brought him to 129 different countries, and covered more than 725,000 miles.

HISTORIANS' COMMENTS

Note: All material on this page except that which is in italics was copied from media accounts.

The Pope's Legacy

Mary Segers, an expert in religion and politics who heads the political science department at Rutgers University in Newark

• "His legacy is tremendous." She also noted his quest for social justice in developing countries. "He has constantly reminded the more affluent nations about that." "He kind of modernized the papacy, he modernized the dress . . . [and] used modern media and communication to the hilt."

Sister Edwarda Barry, historian at Georgian Court University in Lakewood, an institution founded and sponsored by the Catholic order, the Sister of Mercy

• "It has changed the church in making it more open and making it more involved in social affairs and society in general. I think there is more outreach, much more [of an] attempt to dialogue with people of other faiths, to bring peace."

George Weigel, papal biographer

• " The cardinals didn‘t have geopolitics in mind when they chose John Paul. Rather, they found him an attractive candidate because he was one of the world‘s most effective bishops — "an energetic, brilliant, holy and compelling personality."
• The pope gave more attention to Africa "than any other world leader, or five world leaders," during a quarter-century when "much of the Western political leadership was resigned to simply letting Africa fall off the edge of history. He refused to believe this."

Eamon Duffy, church historian, writing in the Tablet, the international Catholic weekly newspaper

• "The tireless journeys which have made him the best-known face on the planet seem to some the self-immolation of a man consumed with evangelistic zeal and pastoral concern for all mankind – Peter strengthening his brethren."
• "To others, they have distorted a healthy church order by the cult of celebrity, focusing the church round a consummate populist, reviving an essentially 19th-century ultramontane understanding of the pope as absolute, and in the process infantilizing the laity and marginalizing the bishops."

Clodovis Boff, theologian and historian

• "He was a pope who fought for democratic liberties in Latin America. When he came to power there were many dictatorships still and he helped precipitate the re-democratization of Brazil'' and most of the region.

Bob Bast, University of Tennessee assistant professor of history and director of the Marco Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at UT

• "In a TV era, where his strengths or weaknesses would be magnified around the world, he's got a great many more strengths than weaknesses."
• "More than any other pope he has tried to heal the wounds caused by centuries of Christian anti-Semitism."
• "He is a fascinating mixture of what appear to me to be traditional, even sometimes medieval influences, and extremely modern ones, and I think the world will be very interested to see which of these two faces the Catholic church presents in the next pontificate."

Philip Jenkins, historian whose book The Next Christendom tracks the southward population shift

• Catholic baptisms in the Philippines now exceed those of France, Italy, Poland and Spain combined and that baptisms in Nigeria outnumber the total in any single European nation.
• Jenkins thinks the pope‘s main accomplishment was to consolidate Second Vatican Council reforms without either reverting to the church of the 1950s or following the path European and American liberals wanted by loosening moral tenets and taking a softer line on doctrine. The developing world‘s leverage undergirded that policy, he says."A lot of Europeans and Americans got this wrong and saw the pope as mindlessly reactionary, whereas he focused on the Southern Hemisphere," Jenkins says, citing the 2000 Vatican declaration "Dominus Iesus" that proclaimed the uniqueness of salvation through Jesus.

R. Scott Appleby, historian at the University of Notre Dame

• "The pope's stance on the world stage ensured that his would be seen as "one of the greatest pontificates." But, he added, the strength and focused vision that made the pope prophetic on some matters made him unwilling to embrace positive developments among his own faithful, such as the rise of the laity's involvement and activism in the church. "There will be, I think, a harsher or more critical judgment on his internal governance of the church."

Garry Wills, historian and author of Why I Am a Catholic among many other books

• "I think he will be seen as a failure. In many ways he undermined, gradually at first, ... the reforms of the Vatican Council."

On the Pope's Involvement in the Fall of Communism and Relation with U.S. Presidents

Allan J. Lichtman, a presidential historian at American University in Washington

• It is only natural that U.S. presidents wanted to been seen with the globe-trotting pope from Poland. "He was a very charismatic, significant world figure with tens of millions of followers in the United States and hundreds of millions of followers worldwide."
• Lichtman also said the magnetic appeal of John Paul II to U.S. presidents coincided with a lessening of anti-Catholic sentiment in the United States. "When Reagan established formal diplomatic relations with the Vatican, it was very controversial," noting that Reagan sought the Rev. Billy Graham's help in trying to smooth things over with evangelical leaders.

Timothy Garton Ash, an Oxford University historian

• “Without the pope, there probably would have been no peaceful end of communism as we saw it in 1989. Without the pope, there would have been no Solidarity movement; without Solidarity, there would have been no Gorbachev; without Gorbachev, there would have been no 1989. The pope was crucial at every stage.”

James Guth, a specialist in religion and politics at Furman University in Greenville, S.C.

• "Every American president, whether Republican or Democrat, could find elements of John Paul II's agenda to agree with.Conservative Republicans identified with his role in the downfall of the Soviet communism, his concern for moral issues like abortion and euthanasia that have become part of the Republican party platform. At the same time, Democrats recognized the pope's travels throughout the Third World, his identification with the poor of the world."

Gordon Bishop, national award-winning author, historian and syndicated columnist. He is the recipient of 8 Congressional Commendations, 12 National and 15 State Journalism Awards, including New Jersey's first "Journalist-of-the-Year" -- 1986/New Jersey Press Association

• "Pope John Paul will go down in history as one of the world’s greatest leaders and humanitarians. He was a brilliant communicator, speaking a dozen languages to audiences of a half-million at major cities throughout the world. He was the author of nine best-selling books from 1994 until his final publication, Memory & Identity, due out next month. A prolific writer, speaker and historian, Pope John Paul took 104 international trips to 129 counties, more than any other Pope. His visits to the United Nations, Yankee Stadium, Newark, NJ and other major venues gave him the stature beyond “Super Star!” He was perhaps the most recognized name and face in the world.
• "The Pope met four times with another victim of an attempted assassination that same year – President Ronald Reagan. They got together twice in the Vatican and twice in the United States. The Pope and the President had a lot in common. They both were actors and gifted communicators. They were both Christians. And they worked hand-in-hand to bring down Communism and to liberate the oppressed people ruled by dictators. And they did it 'without firing a single shot,' as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher noted. They stood up to the 'Evil Empire' – and won! Poland was liberated by the Polish Pope and the Solidarity workers union, whose leader, Lech Walesa, was given the Nobel Peace Prize. The Berlin Wall was torn down in Germany by freedom-fighting citizens. Reagan demanded that Soviet Leader Miguel Gorbachev 'tear down this wall.' And it fell. John Paul told Reagan in one of their meetings that “communism will fail in our time."
• "Although the Pope was always opposed to war, John Paul did meet with President George W. Bush three times in Italy and the Vatican in 2001, 2002, and 2003. Bush declared war on Iraq after that country violated 17 United Nations’ resolutions in 13 years over the development and use of weapons of mass destruction."

Jaroslav Pelikan, professor emeritus of history at Yale, is the author of the five-volume history The Christian Tradition, amomng other books

• "On June 3, 1979, a few months after Cardinal Karol Wojtyla became the first Slavic pope, he set out as the vision of his pontificate ''that this Polish pope, this Slav pope, should at this precise moment manifest the spiritual unity of Christian Europe,'' even though ''there are two great traditions, that of the West and that of the East,'' with roots in Old Rome and ''in the New Rome, at Constantinople.''"
•"He spoke these words at a time when all the Slavic peoples, whether Orthodox or Catholic (or Protestant) were subject to the atheist tyranny of Marxism-Leninism, and one of his principal contributions to the realization of that vision was, in his native Poland but with ripple effects throughout the Soviet empire, to help set in motion powerful impulses of the mind and spirit -- and of the Spirit --that would bring down the walls and topple the regimes."
• "The relative importance of that contribution in comparison with Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost and Ronald Reagan's defiance will continue to be debated by historians. But he did manage, by a curious form of divine irony, to answer the question attributed long before to Stalin: 'How many divisions does the pope command?' The spiritual rebirth of all the churches of Slavic Europe, which is going on even as we speak, is a major consequence of that revolution."

Relations with the Jews

Sister Margherita Marchione is a member of the Religious Teachers Filippini and holds a Ph.D from Columbia University in History, was a Fulbright scholar, and is author of more than 50 books

• "No Pope throughout history did more than Pope John Paul II to create closer relations with the Jewish community, to oppose anti-Semitism, and to make certain that the evils of the Holocaust never occur again."
• "Pope John Paul II visited the Chief Rabbi at the Synagogue in Rome in 1986 and declared that 'the Jews are our dearly beloved brothers,' and indeed 'our elder brothers in faith.' He requested forgiveness for past sins by Christians against Jews. He established full diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel. Relations between the Catholic Church and Jewish people are presently marked by mutual respect and understanding."
• "'Peace' was the clear message John Paul II gave on March 25, 2000, the last day of his stay in Jerusalem: 'The honor given to the "Just Gentiles" by the state of Israel at Yad Vashem for having acted heroically to save Jews, sometimes to the point of giving their own lives, is a recognition that not even in the darkest hour is every light extinguished. That is why the Psalms and the entire Bible, though well aware of the human capacity for evil, also proclaims that evil will not have the last word.”

James Carroll, a Catholic and author of Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews: A History, among other books

• "Despite [his] broad conservatism, he has ... initiated the single most important change in the history of Christian religion, which is the reconciliation between Christians and Jews."

On Mourning the Pope

Elena Aga Rossi, Rome historian

• "Already we can see a great mobilization of people unlike anything I've ever seen. I remember other funerals of other popes, but nothing like this. This is quite different." She said the crowds already filling St. Peter's Square are noteworthy because they represent all classes and all parts of the world. "I wouldn't have imagined so many people all speaking about the pope. Nobody is talking about anything else. All other talk has stopped. This is quite exceptional."

Father Paul Robicoht, a church historian, told CBS Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith

• "To walk through the piazza is an extraordinary experience because the whole world is down here. I would say half the people there are young." "There are groups of young people singing, praying, leading chants. They're still chanting his name. So there is a great sense of spirit and of energy in the piazza."

On Choosing the Next Pope

Christopher Bellitto, assistant professor of history at Kean University and a church historian

• "It was Paul the Sixth, elected in 1963, who realized it is a brave new world and so we need a brave new college of cardinals.” So he began to appoint cardinals from countries that had never had cardinals before. And it is John Paul II who has turned that up to the tenth degree."
• "About a quarter of the College of Cardinals are Curial cardinals, that is, they spend most of their time permanently appointed to some office in the Vatican,” he adds. “But many more of them are non-Italians, and that again dates back to Paul the Sixth. So saying someone's a Curial cardinal is not the same thing as saying someone is Italian."
• "History says that the opposite of what people are expecting is true. Whereas people are expecting a John Paul III or a John Paul II Jr., history says that the opposite will happen: There could be a reaction against the thrust of John Paul II's papacy."
• "Although the overwhelming majority of cardinals owe their red hats to John Paul II, they may be looking for a change. There is an expression in Rome that goes, 'There is nothing deader than a dead pope.'"

James Hitchcock, a historian and church expert at Saint Louis University

• "Most cardinals don't think a really long papacy will be a good idea, but with modern medicine if they elect a man who is 70, he could live until he was 95."

Related Links

  • What People Are Talking About: The Pope


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    More Comments:


    Patrick M Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    I am deeply saddened by Pope John Paul II passing. His fearless and tireless effort to bring dignity and respect to all humankind is his true legacy. His bravery and leadership in the fight to defeat communism most admirable. God Bless Karol Wojtyla.

    As a Roman Catholic I pray our next leader is of the same cloth. However, we in todays Church face a difficult struggle between the Church of John Paul II and the modern world especially, for a few Americans such as I.

    I may be what is considered a "cafeteria" Catholic. At times picking and choosing those menu items that suit my needs... issues on war, the poor, stem cell research, gay marriage, right to life/ right to die, women as priests, priests and marriage, priests and sexual abuse... there is a laundry list of issues to be considered.

    These are the issues that are left behind by Pope John Paul II as he moves on in his journey in Christ. As a Catholic am I to stand steadfast against abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, women's rights within the Church or should I go against the Church and show compassion, dignity and respect to those (and myself for that matter) who deal with these issues head-on daily in life.

    Pope John Paul II remained steadfast. I don't know if I have the same conscription.


    Patrick M Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Robert,

    Women's role refers to allowing a woman to be a priest. The priesthood refers to a multitude of issues... aging priests, few entering the order, sexual abuse/ homosexuality in the order (a major issue that the Church refuses to discuss is the number of priests who are HIV+ or Aids inflicted).

    Directives regarding right to life/die and homosexuality are clearly expressed in the Bible and Church doctrine yet, managing my personal decisions, opinions, rational and justifications on these topics is not so easy. Unquestionably following the RCC does not allow for logical, controlled dialogue about these all important issues.

    The "dark age" comment may have been somewhat unfair as The Church has made great strides to come into the 21st century. However Robert, condom use is a social issue that fits well into 21st century problems and dialogue... overpopulation, spread of disease, teen pregnancy... these are real issues with major social, economic and political repercussions. An ignored point, one of the many reasons the Church promoted life, was because it needed more Catholics. Especially, 1000 years ago when it directed some of the world's largest armies.

    Abortion is murder. Plain and simple. Yet, when rape, incest or the life of the mother hang in the balance the question takes on a whole new juxtaposition. You see Robert, not everything is as simple as the right/wrong & black/white that you pick and choose from the Bible to justify your post. If the world was as simple as you paint it please sign me up to live in your utopia.

    Yes, the Church can serve as a portal to eternal salvation but it sole mission and responsibility is to tend to the "flock". The poor will always be with us but the Church can never turn away from feeding and clothing those in need.

    I realize I may have to perform a 180 before the RCC does but these issues will not go away anytime soon. I strive daily to be a good man in Christ and a good Catholic. That does not mean I surrender my right to intellectual discourse within the body of the Church and with fellow parishioners.


    Patrick M Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Robert,

    Women's role refers to allowing a woman to be a priest. The priesthood refers to a multitude of issues... aging priests, few entering the order, sexual abuse/ homosexuality in the order (a major issue that the Church refuses to discuss is the number of priests who are HIV+ or Aids inflicted).

    Directives regarding right to life/die and homosexuality are clearly expressed in the Bible and Church doctrine yet, managing my personal decisions, opinions, rational and justifications on these topics is not so easy. Unquestionably following the RCC does not allow for logical, controlled dialogue about these all important issues.

    The "dark age" comment may have been somewhat unfair as The Church has made great strides to come into the 21st century. However Robert, condom use is a social issue that fits well into 21st century problems and dialogue... overpopulation, spread of disease, teen pregnancy... these are real issues with major social, economic and political repercussions. An ignored point, one of the many reasons the Church promoted life, was because it needed more Catholics. Especially, 1000 years ago when it directed some of the world's largest armies.

    Abortion is murder. Plain and simple. Yet, when rape, incest or the life of the mother hang in the balance the question takes on a whole new juxtaposition. You see Robert, not everything is as simple as the right/wrong & black/white that you pick and choose from the Bible to justify your post. If the world was as simple as you paint it please sign me up to live in your utopia.

    Yes, the Church can serve as a portal to eternal salvation but it sole mission and responsibility is to tend to the "flock". The poor will always be with us but the Church can never turn away from feeding and clothing those in need.

    I realize I may have to perform a 180 before the RCC does but these issues will not go away anytime soon. I strive daily to be a good man in Christ and a good Catholic. That does not mean I surrender my right to intellectual discourse within the body of the Church and with fellow parishioners.


    Patrick M Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Thanks Marte. I watched with great anticipation the funeral of Pope John Paul II. I really enjoy the Latin Mass. As a second grader in Catholic school I was a torch-boy. Not quite an alter boy yet, old enough to remember the Mass said in Latin. Why did the Latin Mass go away in the US? There are a few parishes that hold one Latin Mass a week but it is basically extinct.

    We were then left with Folk Mass, then Rock Mass and lay people giving communion and the ability to take the Host by hand. Now we can sip wine from a Chalice. Progress for the RCC by any standard. Anything to get American Roman Catholics to attend Mass. Only 46% regularly attend Mass. Hell, I am a proud RC and I don't attend... at all! Priests are aging, in short supply and so are the nuns. Many Catholic schools are closed and tuition at the few remaining is astronomical.

    American Catholics are split on the issues as never before. I hope and pray with you Marte that we both keep working, in the spirit of faith, to make change for all in our respective communities.


    Patrick M Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Judith... There are many more tragedies that occurred on John Paul's watch however, the nonsensical refusal to allow condom use and the heinous sexual abuse scandal are quite possibly the two worst.

    The Roman Catholic Church has one toe in the twenty-first century while both arms remain firmly wrapped around the middle ages. The Church needs to step forward and meet the needs of people struggling with twenty-first century burdens.

    The Church's dark ages view of right to life/ die, women's roles, homosexuality and the priesthood are not to blame on one solitary Pope but, is a much truer reflection of the whole of the Roman Catholic Church.

    As a Roman Catholic I am going to continue to express my views seeking a full 180 on Church doctrine.


    James Spence - 4/16/2005

    Let’s not forget the issue of slavery and the RCC. Although many Popes were always against it in some form or other, slavery was always present, especially in distant lands. Slavers, who were pious Christians, were everywhere, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the British, the Dutch, and Papal Bulls had no moral force on them as the essence of Christ’s teaching today still has no moral force when it comes to invading other countries like Iraq. War over peace. And those who choose to be alarmed over being challenged as the only super-power, still choose strategic concerns and alarms of "road to war" over what they profess in church on Sunday mornings.


    The attention John Paul II received before and after his death rival that of Jesus Christ. From what I read and heard of him, I liked him, but media like CNN turned the event into a drama out of proportion with the reality of the church and the man. The Pope and the Church have rules to live by, they are stuck with them which is why the Church is on its way out. The RCC is losing members everywhere, churches can no longer sustain themselves and have to be closed. Mass movements such as the RCC are finished unless they modify themselves.


    Robert H. Holden - 4/10/2005

    Patrick, I am not sure what you mean by "women's roles" or "the priesthood." Maybe you could explain.

    As for the other two matters --"right to life/ die," and homosexuality -- the Church's teachings are embedded in scripture and cannot be changed. Precisely by standing by those teachings, I would argue that the Church is indeed "step[ping] forward and meet[ing] the needs of people struggling with twenty-first century burdens."

    In any case, on these particular matters, the "dark ages view" you attribute to the Catholic Church was, until about the 1970s, the commonplace views that were held practically everywhere in the world. Your chronology is off by about 1,000 years.

    Both you and Judith evidently wish the Church would approve the use of condoms to prevent AIDS. The Church has never approved the use of condoms for any reason, so why should it approve their use now? The "dark ages" teaching that it is mortally sinful to have a sexual relationship outside of a faithful monogamous marriage between one man and one woman (see the Sixth Commandment, which the Church cannot repeal) appears to me to be an excellent AIDS prevention technique that only validates the wisdom of Christian dogma.

    Likewise, if the Fifth Commandment prohibits murder, how could the Church approve of abortion? Not even Planned Parenthood pretends anymore that abortion isn't murder.

    The Church isn't here to "meet the needs" of people but to provide them the means of eternal salvation. Of course, you are free to reject that offer; no one is forcing you to throw your condoms away. But to expect the Church to "do a 180" on these questions is pretty unrealistic and reveals a startling lack of comprehension of the Church's mission. It is much more likely that you will be doing a 180 yourself someday. And I hope (and pray) that you will.


    Robert Sean Purdy - 4/10/2005

    Hi Bonnie. The bulk of the stories you included were from mainstream news organizations and are almost exclusively favourable. There is another side to the story which needs to be told. Why not include some alternative accounts of the Pope's life and politics? You could start with the pieces by Professor Vincente Navarro, Johns Hopkins, from COunterpunch, April 8, 2005 at http://www.counterpunch.org/navarro04082005.html and Professor Terry Eagleton, Manchester University, Counterpunch, April 6, 2005 at http://www.counterpunch.org/eagleton04062005.html

    Cheers, Sean Purdy
    Assistant Professor
    Department of History
    Temple University


    Judith Ronat - 4/9/2005

    Pope John Paul II distressed people most with two actions and one inaction. His ‎refusal to allow the use of condoms exacerbated the spread of HIV AIDS in Africa ‎and Asia, causing much misery and death where he sought people’s welfare. And his ‎blatant ignoring of the widespread sexual abuses by priests and the cover-ups by the ‎Church hierarchy, especially in the Boston Archdiocese was inexcusable. Moreover, ‎after Cardinal Law resigned, Pope John Paul II gave him “a spacious apartment and a ‎prestigious although honorary post in Rome as archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary ‎Major.” These must be weighed in the balance between his achievements and his ‎failures.‎


    Jeffery Ewener - 4/9/2005

    I'm afraid Gordon Bishop's view is representative of many of John Paul's fans. Basically he's saying that the Pope brought down the Soviet Union and its satellites by the power of Magic Words. He spoke out against Communism and there was trembling in the Kremlin. (This of course is just what Reagan did -- he said, "Tear down this wall" and it fell!) It is odd that the same people who say that Pius XII could do nothing to bring down the Nazis or halt the Holocaust nevertheless believe that John Paul II overthrew the Communists merely by frowning at them. Unfortunately, most of the claims for John Paul's greatness similarly focus on his words and ignore his actions. Clodovis Boff credits him with helping to overthrow the dictators of Latin America -- yet he worked from the first moments of his papacy to undermine Church support for the continent's people's self-democratization, by silencing theologians of liberation, by maneuvering to remove Archbishop Romero at a time when he was filling his people with the spirit of justice and courage, and by forbidding clergy and religious from participating in politics (a stricture that was often relaxed if the politics were to his liking). What Boff and others cite are his words, his calls for justice and peace and brotherhood, which certainly have a role to play, but as the proverb has it, "actions speak louder than words." Or, as the Apostle James put it, "Suppose a brother or a sister is in rags with not enough food for the day, and one of you says, 'Good luck to you, keep yourselves warm, and have plenty to eat,' but does nothing to supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So with faith; if it does not lead to action, it is in itself a lifeless thing." The tragic thing is that the condemnation most frequently levelled against Christians is that of hypocrisy -- that we say one thing while we do another. The adulation now being heaped upon John Paul for his stirring words, while ignoring his often contradictory and more effective actions, does nothing to refute this.


    Mary Jane VanEsselsttyn - 4/9/2005

    The loss of a great spiritual leader at the time of world crisis and moral collapse could determine whet her human consciousess will continue follow the path of human decency or lapse into barbariism.There appears to be no great spiriual leader to take his place who radiates genuine love for ALL humanity as did Pope John Paul 11,


    Mary Jane VanEsselsttyn - 4/9/2005

    Again historians are misrepreseting the facts about the legacy of Pope John Paul in history and minimizing his accomplishments of working for world peace.His Holiness opposed US agressive Foreign policy on preemtive wars and did everything he could to prevent the disasterous war and slaughter of innocent civilians in Iraq that has brought about the loss of respect for America in the civiilized world.


    marte hall - 4/9/2005

    Hi, "'cafeteria' Catholic" -- nice image! I feel for your sense of dilemma. For myself, I'm hoping that your "laundry list of issues" will be fairly, responsibly and compassionately addressed not only by the next Pope, but by all of us -- whatever our status or activity as Roman Catholics or other religious persuasions, as active history scholars/teachers or in the ?gray zone? of semi- retirement [me :-)]. In other words, for a bit of an academic meme (is that the right word?) I hope that your last paragraph will eventually come to appear to have posed "false opposites"! Here's hoping, praying, and -- however we're given to be able to do, working, in the spirit of faith and in the practice of community. Looking forward to reading your future posts!


    marte hall - 4/9/2005

    Hi, Sudha -

    Your question caught my attention, so I've just re-skimmed the initial list of comments, where I note one quote from Timothy Garton Ash [Oxford University] and one from Elena Aga Rossi, "Rome historian". I've jotted down some of the other names and affiliations I'm not immediately familiar with and plan to Google them to see whether some of them may also be outside the U.S. Thanks for the nudge to this project; meanwhile, I imagine that in elapsing time HNN, like all of us, will be receiving and attending to lots of comments from other-than-U.S. sources. I like the implicit slant of your question and look forward to lots of "global conversations", so, once again, "thanks for the nudge"!


    Sudha Shenoy - 4/8/2005

    Was it only - or overwhelmingly - historians in the US who commented on Pope John Paul II? Did no other historians have anything to say?

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