Opinion: By destroying the memory of John Paul II, we destroy our community

Many Poles still understand that if we disregard Pope John Paul II, we will lose our last and only chance at being a community, writes Jacek Wojtysiak, columnist at Catholic weekly “Gość Niedzielny”

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Jacek Wojtysiak

Let’s start with two obvious things. Firstly, Saint John Paul II is the most renowned Pole in the world. Secondly, Saint John Paul II was, for many years, the only person who united the vast majority of Poles. He was respected or had to be respected, even by communists and post-communists, apart from one cynical propagandist from the era of martial law.
Why will John Paul II remain a breakthrough character not only in the history of the Church, but of the entire 20th century? I think that three factors have decided this. The first one is that the Polish Pope contributed like no other to the intensification and deepening of inter-religious dialogue as well as to one within Christianity itself.
This dialogue gave a clear signal that despite some historical experiences and theories, the essence of religion is unity and peace. Not division and war.
The second factor is that John Paul II gave new momentum to the dialogue between the worlds of religion and science. Due to this, the conviction that there doesn’t have to be a contradiction between these two areas of culture has become common. In exchange, scientists have received unexpected support for their work: The head of the Church began to underline the massive, even sacred, importance of science in human life.
The third factor is that John Paul II, guided by the principle that “man is the way of the Church,” became one of the most important and influential defenders of human rights. Thanks to this, he truly helped shape historic processes such as the fall of communism. The open letter of Polish scholars: By rejecting and slandering John Paul II, we don’t greatly harm him, but ourselves instead. Why did this Pope unite the majority of Poles? Probably because due to his life and personality, he could become close to any one of us. He lived through the early death of his loved ones, the Second World War and Stalinism while also being able to appreciate life. He had deep faith but understood temporality. He was a worker and a poet, a mystic and an actor, provincial and a prince of the Church.
All the testimonies of those who knew him underline his sensitivity and openness to other people, no matter their social position or beliefs. He did not aspire to being all-knowing or all-powerful. What characterized him was simply kindness and holiness.
If we consider what is written above, it is hard to not understand why John Paul II became an unquestioned authority and symbol for many Poles. Thus, attempts to undermine his authority and symbolism attack our cultural community. They strip it of someone who connected us, who was the source of our greatness.
As a large group of Polish scholars wrote in their open letter: “By rejecting and slandering John Paul II, we don’t greatly harm him, but ourselves instead.”
Will the memory of John Paul II survive as a significant cultural element? I presume that the media “con-artists,” by initiating the game of insinuations surrounding him, considered three issues.
Firstly, a generation is entering adult life, who not only do not know John Paul II but also do not have the historic experiences that other generations naturally identified with the Pope. Secondly, the spirit of progress has clearly been straying away from the Holy Spirit. This is why for many, John Paul II cannot be the patron of “modernity.” Thirdly, the popular dimension of his remembrance is weakening.
This is all true. Yet, the slithering attempt of the media to assault John Paul II has been received with distaste. The majority of Poles, including a significant part of our intellectual elites, are still aware that by disregarding John Paul II, we are losing the last and only chance at being a community.
On the other hand, we must be prepared that the process of destroying the symbol of this Pope might only be beginning. Before us stands the great challenge of defending our community memory.


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