April 14, 2005 • Volume 13 Number 15
In the final hours of Pope John Paul II, and in the days following his death, Boston College faculty members offered their expertise on the late pontiff, and his impact on Catholicism and international politics:
*Interviewed by The North Adams Transcript, Adj. Prof. Paul McNellis, SJ (Philosophy), said the pope's steady decline in health was a visible reminder of human mortality. "The hard thing is that the modern world wants to deny that it is mortal. But the way John Paul II has handled his decline in health has been a very powerful statement. He has reminded us that this life is not the only life."
*"It is hard to list all the things he will be remembered for," Prof. Harvey Egan, SJ (Theology), told the Boston Herald. "His fidelity to church doctrines. His courageous stance against communism. His incredible eloquence and firm adherence to morality. His near-rock-star status. He's a truly historic pope."
*The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, discussing doctrinal patterns in recent papacies, said John Paul II's tenure was "in many ways surprising - and least predicted - of all," and spoke with Prof. James O'Toole (History) regarding the late pontiff's key role in the defeat of communism, his global evangelism and conservative view on issues such as contraception, the ordination of women and homosexuality.
"Sharp swings of the pendulum are actually more common than not," said O'Toole, recalling the election in 1846 of Pope Pius IX, "who was thought to be a great liberal, open to new worlds, and yet within a matter of years he was denouncing democracy and freedom of religion both...
"Part of it is the nature of the papacy itself," he said. "Anyone coming into what is, not to be flip, a fairly exclusive club, will try to put his own mark on things. If his predecessor has tacked one way, the natural human tendency is to tack the other."
*Prof. Stephen Pope (Theology) spoke with the Orlando Sentinel about John Paul II's forgiveness of Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who had tried to assassinate him in 1981. ""It showed that he really believed what he was telling us about forgiveness and mercy and the dignity of each person, and extending that caring focus even to the person who tried to take his life."
*Prof. Thomas Groome (Theology), director of the Institute for Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry, was interviewed by the Boston Globe, which noted that John Paul II had died during the annual Feast of the Divine Mercy, a popular Polish religious event honoring Saint Faustina, a Polish visionary nun canonized by John Paul II.
"Some people will say [the timing] is pure coincidence," Groome said, "and some will say it's the hand of God." •