World pays tribute to a pope who reached out to world
From Manila to Mexico City, Catholics and others paused to reflect on the pontiff's legacy.
PARIS AND ROME — Pope John Paul II's death brought to the fore one of his most heartfelt goals Sunday, connecting members of faiths around the globe as they mourned his passing and commemorated his unprecedented attempts at reconciliation with historically rival religions.
"We ... certainly feel sorrow for the passing away of the pope because he has dedicated himself all his life to humanitarian and peace efforts," said Hasyim Muzadi, a Muslim leader in the world's largest Muslim country, Indonesia.
"The pope ... bravely put an end to historic injustice by officially rejecting prejudices and accusations against Jews," said Israeli President Moshe Katsav.
"This man had no boundaries," says Robert Bailey, an American from Tampa, Fla., who had made the pilgrimage to St. Peter's Square in Rome to be there when the pope died Saturday night. "He included all people."
The pope's global appeal was evident Sunday in churches from Manila to Mexico City, as mourners crowded into Mass, many weeping as they prayed.
"We have been holding a vigil for the past two days," says one young woman outside a packed church in Manila. "People are ... chanting prayers constantly."
Korea's Myongdong Cathedral, atop a hill in central Seoul, reverberated Sunday to the prayers of more than 20,000.
"The pope showed special concern and affection for the Korean people," says Archbishop Andrew Choi, expressing "great grief" for the man who, on his first visit here in 1984, elevated to sainthood 103 Korean Catholics who were beheaded in the 19th century for refusing to give up their faith. "He had great concern about the unification of the Korean peninsula," says the Rev. Andrew Park.
"Viva el Papa," cried out a young girl before a towering bronze statue of the pontiff, near Mexico's most popular sanctuary, the Basilica of Guadalupe. "Viva," responded the crowd around her.
In Poland, birthplace of Karol Jozef Wojtyla, as he was known before being elected pope in 1978, lines of faithful stretched for blocks outside many churches, and priests gave communion on their steps, accommodating the overflow.
In Rome, some 200,000 people gathered for a Mass in St. Peter's Square. Video images of the pope smiling sent waves of applause rippling across the colonnaded piazza. Even the prisoners in Regina Coeli jail, a stone's throw from the Vatican, sang prayers to the tune of Simon and Garfunkel's "Sound of Silence."
Amid all the adulation, however, there were some doubts about the stamp that John Paul II had left on his church, after 26 years of stern rule and orthodoxy.
"The biggest problem" facing the church today, says Stephen Pope, professor of theology at Boston College, "is polarization" between liberals, who have been disappointed in the pope, and conservatives who welcomed his stands against contraception, abortion, and married priests.
One such conservative, Mexican priest Angel Aboyotes, praying at the Basilica of Guadalupe, praised John Paul for having "battled against the new and sophisticated ideas that aim to weaken our faith."
Other Catholics were more dubious. Berlin taxi driver Thomas Dieckmann, says he doesn't "see the humanity in the church any more." In the end, he adds, the pope "was an archconservative stalwart who no longer fit the changing times."
John Paul died as he lived, in touch with the crowds, with more than 130,000 gathered beneath his window on Saturday evening, anxiously awaiting news.
He also died very much in the public eye, making frail appearances until the end of his life. His body was on display Sunday, and officials expect at least a million people to pay respects before a funeral later this week. Many Catholics saw the 84-year-old pontiff's struggle in biblical terms, as a kind of modern Calvary, admiring him for sharing his suffering.
"He has taught us how to die," says Maura Renzi, one of many outside St. Peter's, wiping away tears and leaning her head on her husband's shoulder.
Others were skeptical about the way the Vatican, in their view, was "turning the Pope's pain into a show," in the words of Father Vicenzo Marras, who edits the magazine "Jesus."
That spectacle, however, was not on show everywhere in the world. In China, whose government has no diplomatic relations with the Vatican, the official media buried news of his death on inside pages.
Catholics heard the news in their own way. "At the seminary we learned about it on the Internet," says Sister Teresa, a Chinese nun, as she arrived for Mass at the South Cathedral in Beijing.
The official Chinese Catholic Church does not accept the pope's authority, though it does regard him as "our spiritual father," according to Joseph Liu, a leader of the official church. Millions of other Chinese worship in underground, illegal Catholic churches that consider themselves part of the world Catholic Church.
"In a lot of other countries, there is questioning and criticism of the pope," says Mr. Liu. "We don't criticize in China. Our adherence is unquestioning and strong."
Catholic intellectuals in China have often melded their thinking with that of the liberation theology wing of the Catholic Church. They argue it is possible to be both a communist patriot and a Catholic believer. As one put it, "the first socialist was Jesus."
Elsewhere, Catholics were looking to the future already, wondering what the papal succession holds in store for them, and how John Paul's successor will meet the challenges he will face.
In Latin America, where nearly half the world's 1 billion Catholics live, evangelical Protestant churches are making inroads as "gaps left unattended by the Catholic church are being filled by other religious groups," says Elio Masferrer, president of the Latin American Religious Studies Association, in Mexico City.
To counter this trend, says Mr. Masferrer, the next pope will have to pay more attention to the region's social shifts, and take more account of homosexuality, divorce, and women's rights.
In Africa, the continent on which Catholicism is growing fastest, some believers hope one of their own will be named by the conclave of cardinals that will meet later this month.
"It's a bit ambitious, but it's a good thought," says Yvonne, a South African woman arriving for Mass on Sunday morning at a church in Johannesburg.
In America, many liberal Catholics hope for a less authoritarian leader who will grant more freedom to local clergy and to lay members of the church. Pope John Paul II "was really good at talking," says Dr. Pope. But "he was not good at listening, especially to views that were not his own."
Even critics, however, acknowledged the pope's contribution. "If they don't agree with his positions," says Arthur Tsui, as he left a Mass at St. Andrew's church in New York, "they love him for the amount of work he did for peace and for humanity."
• Sara Miller in Boston; Abe McLaughlin in Johannesburg, South Africa; Robert Marquand in Beijing; Andreas Tzortzis in Berlin; Donald Kirk in Seoul, South Korea; and Ken Bensinger and Monica Campbell in Mexico City contributed to this report.