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Blessed Pope John XXIII And Pope John Paul II

刊登日期: 2013.09.21
作者: Fr. Thomas Au 區耀邦神父  

Later this month, the Vatican will announce the date when the two former Popes will be canonized. 

Most of you are too young to remember Pope John XXIII. He died in 1963. I had heard of him but I did not pay much attention since I was not Catholic then. Pope Paul VI succeeded him. He came to Hong Kong in December 1970. But by then I had already left for the United States. 

Pope John XXIII (23rd) was elected pope on 28 October 1958 at the age of 77. He is responsible for calling the Second Vatican Council ( 梵蒂岡第二屆大公會議)and is known for his encyclical Pacem in Terris – Peace on Earth(《和平通諭》). He inaugurated t h e S e c o n d Va t i c a n Council but died before its completion. This Council, commonly called Vatican II (2), abbreviated to VAT II, addressed many of the needed issues facing a post Second World War world. The world was suffering from the devastation of the war and reacted by rejecting the traditional answers of politicians and governments. Communism was on the rise and God and religion were blamed. The Council reemphasized the role that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Hope, plays in our daily lives. We are in a global world where the needs of each other are more important than nationalistic sentiments. The power play between governments that brought about the devastation of the world wars has to be replaced by a love and care for individual persons. The Council addressed the role of the Church in this time of history in the world. The message of Jesus to love one another remains the only valid rule in our daily lives, especially in a time of pain. 

It is interesting to notice that a similar message of love came into focus in the rock music of the 1960’s with the Beatles and other bands, except that they advocated the abandoning of all structures and systems, religious and cultural, for one of freedom, meaning no restrictions whatsoever. The message of the Council was mostly ignored and the world plunged into the chaos of false freedom and irresponsibility. Morality was determined by personal values, whatever that may be. Pope John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict will later condemn it as “moral relativism.” 

When Pope John Paul II inherited the responsibility of leading the Church, he came from the personal experience of having lived through the Second World War and his country being occupied by the Soviet Union. His message of hope and “solidarity” when he was bishop in his own country of Poland prepared him to guide the Church to confront the false promises of communism and other modern ideologies. His own pain in losing his parents and witnessing the cruelty of war led him to dwell deeply into the mystery of pain and the freedom that comes only in the Cross of Jesus. This was nothing new to us Catholics because it is consistently witnessed by the saints and their writings. But to the world, it seemed such a breath of fresh air. His personality and message for personal human dignity found a home, particularly in the young people, which he repeatedly emphasized during the World Youth Days which he started in 1986 in Rome. In his later years, when he was weakened by his illness, he gave witness to the courage and dignity of aging. His death was a true statement of dying with dignity. 


This is a very brief overview of history that shaped these two popes. I am sure many more can be and should be said. Maybe another time. 

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