ChickenBones: A Journal

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 The unlikely and surprising election of the Polish Cardinal, Karol Wojtyla

on October 16, 1978  -- the first non-Italian Pope in 450 years. . . . stunned the world

 

 

Books by Rose Ure Mezu

Women in Chains: Abandonment in Love Relationships in the Fiction of Selected West African Writers (1994) / Songs of the Hearth (1993) /

Homage to My People (2004) / A History of Africana Women's Literature (2004)

 Black Nationalists: Reconsidering Du Bois, Garvey, Booker T. & Nkrumah (1999) Chinua Achebe: The Man and His Works (2006)

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Pope John Paul II: A Life with a Mission

A Mission of Grace and Moral Strength

By Rose Ure Mezu, Ph.D.

 

Our Lord Jesus Christ, and Pope John Paul 11, and Terri Schiavo, have all been condemned to death, today -- Good Friday, March 25, 2005.

The epitaph above was displayed on American TV screens on Good Friday, 2005 by Christians who support the right to life.  Because of the solemn, somber, mournful ambience of Good Friday, the linking of the three figures of suffering humanity struck a chill chord in the hearts of many -- chill, yes, but they were very aptly, mystically linked together.  

As aptly mystical as the 1997 linking together of the passing of Diana, Princess of Wales and Mother Teresa of Calcutta B the Young Lady and the Old Lady, who died one after the other.  Mother Teresa was fasting in prayer for the repose of the soul of the younger Diana who, despite her royalty championed like Mother Teresa the cause of the downtrodden and the forsaken of this world.  Terri Schiavo's case had polarized America.  Television stations continually likened her condition to that of the fast deteriorating health of Pope John Paul II. 

Prayers were said and masses offered for both Terri Schiavo and John Paul II.  Terri's fourteen-day slow death, deprived of food and water, was regarded by many moral Christians as a senseless act of cruelty, torture and murder--a condemnation to death, a type of crucifixion, a step towards an eventual societal sanctioning of a holocaust of the helpless and disabled from abortion to euthanasia - what John Paul II  called “a culture of death.”  

Schiavo's case made the news media wonder what would be done to the Pope if he went into a “vegetative” state.  Coincidentally, Good Friday also commemorated the torture, starving, unquenched thirst, and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus.  Thus, the linking of the three figures – Christ, Schiavo and John Paul II - compelled people to think profoundly on the moral / ethical questions of life and death including the quality of life in the face of old age, illnesses or disability.  

Henceforth, moral issues have dominated all news organs and when Pope John Paul II took a turn for the worse and death appeared imminent, the world stood practically still almost afraid to confront these moral and profound issues.  But confront these profound spiritual issues, the world did for both Terri Schiavo and Pope Paul II  within days of each other.

Humble Beginnings: Karol Wojtyla who would be called John Paul II  

Born on May 18, 1920, Karol Wojtyla was the second son of Karol Wojtyla and a Lithuanian mother Emilia Kaczorowska.  When he was only nine in 1929, his mother died, at childbirth and his young sister died shortly after.  In 1932, his eldest brother Edmund, a doctor, died of scarlet fever which he contracted from a patient, and his father, a non-commissioned retired army sergeant died in 1941.  And then he was on his own.  

At 24, he was nearly run over by a truck.  As a gregarious young man, he was athletic, delighting in skiing, hiking, mountain climbing and swimming, et cetera.  He was also a keen student of the stage, taking courses in 1938 at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow.  He was reputedly a gifted actor and singer and composed his own songs. Eventually, he founded the Rhapsody Theater in Krakow. 

 He secretly studied to become a priest under the Nazi occupation, being ordained on November 1, 1946 in Krakow, Poland. At the age of 38, he became the youngest bishop in modern Polish history.  He was made Archbishop of Krakow in 1964, and in 1967, he became the youngest cardinal, guiding the Polish faithful in a country that was officially atheist.  In 1978, at the age of 58, the College of Cardinals elected him Pontiff to lead the Roman Catholic Church.  His has been called the accidental papacy. 

The unlikely and surprising election of the Polish Cardinal, Karol Wojtyla on October 16, 1978 -- the first non-Italian Pope in 450 years (following the sudden death, after only 34 days, of his predecessor, the gentle, smiling Luciani who became John Paul I) stunned the world, but he is said to have won over the Italians when he addressed them in flawless, classical Italian.  Outside the Vatican, the consensus was that it was time to shrink the papacy, but this Pope expanded it into a spiritual superpower.  His pontificate has since proved to be one of the spectacularly timely, providential but controversial events of the modern age.  

He bestrode the latter one third of the Twentieth Century stage like a spiritual colossus.  Unlikely events in far-flung corners of the world intersected with his Pontificate, or more correctly, he influenced the course of world events.  Now a historical figure, his monumental legacy casts a huge shadow.

Profile in Courage   

Pope John Paul II did not come from a pampered, privileged culture, but from an oppressive regime, hence his empathy for so many laboring people worldwide.  During his years in Rome, the Pope never forgot his Polish roots, nor his working-class origins and the struggle by his countrymen to shake off communism. He restated his formation: "My experience of working life, both its positive aspects and its poverty, has influenced my entire life."  

Losing so many of his family members while still young, escaping death by automobile accident, surviving Nazis occupation, saved by Our Lady from by an assassin's bullets, death therefore held no fear, no mystery to this man of great faith, and "Do not be Afraid" became his mantra.  

He easily forgave his young would-be-assassin, visiting him in a Roman prison on December 28, 1983 and kissing him, extending to him God's mercies.  It is obvious then why he would oppose the death penalty.  Believing that everyone, even the greatest criminal had dignity, he prayed for death-row in-mates.  

Suffering a host of diseases - Parkinson's disease, cancer, surgery to remove a benign abdominal tumor, appendectomy, a fall in the bathtub when he broke his hip, he understood the helplessness of the suffering sick, and therefore felt a particular kinship to the ill, the disabled and the aged.  

In his old age, suffering a host of other ailments, he ennobled suffering and made the sufferer relevant in an age when there is a rabid cult of perennial youth, when billions of dollars are spent to discover the fountain of youth, when there is an obsession with physical beauty and a palpable lack of tolerance for infirmity and for the aged who are treated as an inconvenience or an irritation. 

And so, part of Pope John Paul II’s imperishable legacy would be the dignity he brought to suffering and to old age.  Years ago, my Internist asked me why the Holy Father would want to become a laughing stock, making a spectacle of himself since he appeared so infirm. For an answer, I had to summarize the Pope's philosophy of living.  

To the poor of the world, the infirm and people handicapped by age, through his example, he gave courage and a reason to live; to the world at large, he showed that neither age nor illness should deter anyone from living a full and productive life, from living as vigorously as if one has only the present moment.  

Since opinion polls and what a political majority thinks do not determine Church policies, John Paul II absolutely lacked fear of the world's opprobrium, fear of unpopularity, fear of being thought uncool.  To a world wondering when he would resign, he represented the many sufferings brought by ill-health, and accidents as a vocation that would not preclude the performance of his duties as the spiritual head of more than one and half billion world Catholics.  

During an April 17, 2003 Chrism Mass Homily, Pope John Paul II expatiated on his concept of human suffering and discipleship:

To preside at the Lord's Supper is therefore an urgent invitation to offer oneself in gift so that the attitude of the Suffering Servant and the Lord may continue and grow in the Church. Dear young men, nurture your attraction to those values and radical choices which will transform your lives in the service of others in the footsteps of Jesus, the Lamb of God . . . Do not be afraid to accept this call.

Thus, his disabilities become a precious love garland to be offered to the Lord Jesus Christ in union with His passion and sufferings, a sacrificial offering to be made for others' good and salvation.  John Paul rebuffed growing calls from his critics to retire, comparing the suggestion to the taunts of bystanders at the crucifixion, who said Jesus should come down from the cross. 

Therefore, on his eighth visit to his native Poland on Aug 16-19, 2002, he promised his countrymen to remain in office until his death. He would not resign from the papacy until the Creator who gave him life says it is time to go.  

And thus, nobody wondered why on June 5-6, 2004, Pope John Paul II defied health problems to visit Switzerland, the first time in eight months he had left Italy, nor why from Aug 14-15 of the same year, he performed a pilgrimage to the shrine at Lourdes in France for the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Christ by the Virgin Mary, whom he had considered his mother.

The Will to Act: “You will surely encounter difficulties and sacrifices”

 Pope John Paul II will be remembered for all of his many brushes with death, for his firm trust in the divine, mystical presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, for his soul-felt, unshakeable belief that Our Lady had been the medium of saving him, especially, from death on 13 May 1981(the anniversary of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin at Fatima in Portugal) at the hands of a would-be-assassin, the Turkish youth, Mehmet Ali Agca.  

John Paul II has been called the Marian Pope for his devotion to Mary, mother of Christ, choosing as his personal motto Totus tuus ("All yours," meaning Mary).  To her shrine in Fatima, he went to offer prayers of gratitude for her intercession. Even there at the Marian shrine in Fatima, on May 12, 1982, he escaped a stabbing from a rebel Spanish priest, Juan Fernandez Krohn’s hand of evil, who lunged at him with a knife. 

He will also be remembered for being integrally connected with two of the three secrets Our Blessed Lady entrusted to the three children of Fatima, one of which Lucia de Jesus dos Santos would eventually reveal to be the 1981 failed-assassination of the Holy Father.  On February 12, 2005, the eve of the death of the humble Sister Lucy, Pope John II sent her the very last words of comfort she heard, reassuring the dying, divinely-favored woman, with whom he shared a friendship, that the Blessed Lady she had so honored during her 97 years would usher her to the presence of God. 

 Pope John Paul II will also be remembered for influencing and shaping political events in Poland, his native land, bringing them into democracy through his support for the Solidarity Revolution movement, and for championing the dignity of man in his encyclical - Redemptor hominis -- dignity of the workers of Poland, and of the world in his encyclicals.  He will be remembered as the greatest catalyst and direct Divine instrument for the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the toppling of Communism – another of the Fatima secrets.  

In Feb 11, 2002, he created four new dioceses in Russia, following the condemnation by the Orthodox powers in Moscow of "an unfriendly act towards the Russian Church." Mikhail Gorbachev regards him as the most influential man of our times.  "I will love him forever," he proclaimed; and there are millions of other lovers of this Holy Man.   

Pope John Paul II will be remembered as the Pope and friend of the world's youth. As an evangelist traveling the world, he continually looked to find in the youth of all cultures, the Christ-like vigor and dynamism with which to re-invigorate the Catholic Church.  He believed the fate of the world resides in the hands of the young. During the 2000 World Youth Day, he told the assembled youth:

Declare to yourselves that in the new century, you will not let yourselves be made into tools of violence; you will not resign yourselves to a world where other human beings die of hunger, remain in poverty, and have no work.

 Describing the impact of the John Paul II on the World’s youth, a young woman says of him: 

He is the man of our age.  It is not just the words.  He spoke with so much passion, with his gestures, with his life.  He is showing us with his illness all the efforts he is making. . . that you have to do what you can do; you can’t just be a spectator. You have to act. It is like he is giving us the responsibility to do something, to change the world, like he did.

John Paul II avidly and fervently cultivated young people’s friendship by organizing youth congresses in every parish and diocese, thus restoring the missionary heritage of the Church.

Advocate and Voice of the Poor and Weak

 As Pope John Paul II lay dying, the world jointly acknowledged his proclamation of the culture of life. He condemned injustices all over the world from government to government, from coast to coast, from continent to continent.  Pope John Paul possessed  core  moral principles and so became a voice for traditional morality in the world.  

In particular, he prayed and spoke out for the rights of the Unborn, issuing an Encyclical against abortion -- Evangelium Vitae (the Gospel of Life).  Like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, he denounced  as a myth the claim of overpopulation, insisting that the Earth's bounties are sufficient for all. Pope John Paul II condemned violence (on May 9, 1993, denouncing the Mafia during a visit to Sicily.)  

Especially, he spoke out against the American-led Iraq war and subsequent Abu Ghraib prison abuses, calling the war unjustified.  He did not fight shy of wading into political and economic issues. His December 30, Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socis (On Social Concerns) criticizes economic and political ideologies of both the West and the East that cripple nations.  

And thus, he gave voice to the voiceless and wrote against the exploited population of the world, upheld the rights of the weak and helpless, concerned for their protection against the strong and powerful, especially the power Governments unjustly exercised over the governed, particularly the poor.  The strong, he felt, must protect the weak.

John Paul II on Abortion, Contraception and Homosexuality

The fundamentalist sexual morality taught by John Paul II - no abortions ever, an even tighter line on contraception, the use of which he once likened to atheism - has generated a lot of criticism from advocates of more liberalism in the Catholic Church.  In a 1993 letter to his bishops, John Paul II said contraception and sex before marriage were intrinsically evil. He thereafter broadened the definition of mortal sins to include euthanasia, contraception, sex before marriage, same-sex marriages, homosexuality in priesthood, and priestly abuse of children.  

The Pope equally condemns the use of condoms to prevent the spread of Aids; and he is just as inflexible over divorce and homosexuality.  Infractions of these vexing issues affecting the human search for a comfortable life, the Pope has categorized as leading to what he regularly refers to as the "culture of death."   One important feature of John Paul II’s “culture of death” rhetoric was the general moral equivalency he saw between contraception and abortion.  

These he saw as the cultural consequences of modernity that threaten the deeply core values on which Jesus Christ built his Church, which should exist to uphold the practice of virtues that lead to everlasting life rather than bend to the ever-shifting desires of an amoral age.  John Cornwell in The Pontiff in Winter explains the Pope’s basic understanding of human love and sexuality as a belief that, because each human is made in God’s image, human beings are also made for the purpose of behaving in  a manner analogous to how God behaves. 

In this way, human love between a man and a woman is analogous to that between the parts of the Holy Trinity:  a union of complimentary parts meant to create a new, single entity that in turn also creates new love  -- children.

Yet, despite his extreme  (some would say, abstract) views, the youth of the world has largely responded to John Paul II’s belief in them as people capable of great moral strength and love.  Restraint in pre-marital sex, for instance, rather than being viewed as one of  “do not, can not” ought to be seen as a way of  showing respect for the human body, waiting for the right kind of  love that will demand a complete giving of oneself – soul, heart and body - not a “withholding,” or the fear, and insecurity which  the condom implies.  

Anything that takes away from this total giving and respect, be it contraception, abortion, divorce, sexual perversions, or homosexuality, necessarily degrades our very humanity, as defined by our Creator.  Therefore, all such behaviors are to be deplored as sins against God and all of humankind.  These are uniquely core Catholic views without which there would be no Church.  As the saying goes, there is no democracy in Heaven, nor in the Church. The Pope’s position consequently sparked, and continues to generate deep and heated theological discussions.

John Paul II on Feminism and Women in Priesthood

What should be the role and status of women?  Should women be allowed to become priests?  Must women be prevented from using artificial means of birth control?  Are women equal to men in all things? These woman issues remain the most significant sources of conflict within the Catholic Church today, in addition to his upholding of priestly celibacy.   Although church leaders have long employed the language of equality and liberty, they have also spoken as well as acted in ways that encourage a view of inequality.  

These woman questions remain the most significant sources of conflict within the Catholic Church today.  On the question of women in priesthood, John Paul II stood firmly for patriarchy in Catholic Church.  In his 1981 Familiaris Consortio, John Paul II connected the themes of femininity, sexuality, motherhood, and the family in ways that can be seen to be consistent through his pontificate.  One defining feature to John Paul’s religiosity would be his devotion to the Virgin Mary, mother of God.  This influenced everything he wrote and said, and also played an important role in shaping his views on women and sexuality. To him, Mary in her complete trust in God, and selfless devotion remains the quintessential Catholic model:  

May the Virgin Mary, who is the Mother of the Church, also be the Mother in “the Church of the home.”  Thanks to her motherly aid, may each Christian family really become a “little Church” in which the mystery of the Church of Christ is mirrored and given new life.  May she, the Handmaid of the Lord, be an example of the humble and generous acceptance of the will of God.  May she, the Sorrowful Mother at the foot of the Cross, comfort the sufferings and dry the tears in distress because of the difficulties of the families.  

To feminists, this would seem to be the same millennia-old stereotype of woman as the self-sacrificing female, the outsider, Simone de Beauvoir’s “the Other” (The Second Sex).  It is no wonder that feminists would react with outrage for the Pope not giving women the respect of having a debate on the issue -- that this Pope who had so venerated a woman as the “Mother of God” would be so blatantly sexist, appearing to relegate Catholic women to a second-class status.  It sounded like the typical idealization process – putting women on a pedestal and kicking them out of decision-making Church hierarchy.  

But this Pope was far from issuing polemics against Catholic females.  In fact, he agreed with the Second Vatican’s position that "the hour has come when the vocation of women is being acknowledged in its fullness, the hour in which women acquire in the world an influence, an effect, and a power never hitherto achieved."  

Quite aware that a momentous change in male and female relationship was in progress, he also believed in the gradualness of the change, comparing it in time to slavery: "Yet how many generations were needed for such a principle to be realized in the history of humanity through the abolition of slavery!"  

One needs grace, he believed, to be true to the vocation of gender, insisting that "Grace never casts nature  aside or cancels it out, but rather perfects it and ennobles it."  John Paul II thus deplores the "masculinization" of women, which denies the "originality" of the feminine.  One could infer an idealization of the woman in his letters which, according to one commentator, are written “by one whose celibacy does not imply an indifference to the feminine enchantment.” 

And according to a National Review commentator, a disappointed feminist theorist snorted in derision, "Enchantment indeed! It's  the feminine mystique all over again."  The Pope denied that he was placing women on a pedestal, but rather, squarely at the side of man, as man is at her side. John Paul next challenged the male:  

Each man must look within himself to see whether she who was entrusted to him as a sister in humanity, as a spouse, has not become in his heart an object of adultery; to see whether she who, in different ways, is the co-subject of his existence in the world has not become for him an 'object': an object of pleasure, of exploitation. 

Woman as “co-subject of his existence,” is how John Paul II argued that man and woman are equal, although not in their sameness but in their "mutual subjection" to one another in Christ. John Paul II thus disagreed with many conservative Christians that the woman is to be subordinate to the man's rule or "headship."  While it is true that Genesis speaks of man's rule over woman, the Pope argued, but that disorder [inequality] caused by sin has now been overcome in Christ. 

When, in Ephesians, Paul says the husband is the "head" of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, he means that the husband is to follow Christ's example of self-surrendering service. Thus the equality of woman and man is not in the rights they claim against one another but in the service they render to one another. Thus, John Paul II shows himself to be quite a smart and pragmatic theologian!

Writing about Christian feminism, John Paul II warned that the Church must resist "criteria of understanding and judgment that do not pertain to her nature." He regarded as alien, and grievously wrong-headed, criteria of male-female equality. Therefore, the Pope argued that only men may be ordained priests, and celibate priests, at that.  In agreement with feminists, he detailed the ways in which Jesus, contrary to the customs of his culture, elevated the role of women.  

He then noted that it makes little sense to claim that this counter-cultural, revolutionary Jesus chose only men because he was "culturally conditioned."

These arguments, contained in "On the Dignity and Vocation of Women" proves John Paul II, sensitive but un-intimidated, believed that "True Christian feminism” should try not to appease but “to transform the other kinds.”  And so, it appears that John Paul II, believing that men and women, though equal, have different functions in life, had no wish to contend with battles and divisions within the Church, certainly not from the women.  

Much  as he has been criticized for excluding women from the priesthood, the Church under his pontificate has gradually opened up to include women as Parish / Church administrators, lectors, Eucharistic ministers, altar servers. In time, elderly widowed / single women could be admitted as deacons, and perhaps priests.

John Paul II as World Evangelist

 He has been a people's Pope, bringing the papacy closer to the peoples of all world cultures, unafraid to mix with the masses.  Fulfilling Christ's injunction to the apostles, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation" (Luke 16: 15), he was a living example of the evangelist bringing the good news of salvatory grace to all climes and all tongues. 

He had traveled to various areas of the world 104 times, and had spoken languages not attempted by any Pope before him, traveled to, and kissed foreign soils no other Pope before him had dared do.  Thus, he increased the converts to the Catholic Church by correctly perceiving that Africa, Asia and Latin America – with their teeming populations - would provide for the Church spiritual and vocational renewal in the years to come. These regions represent the Church's vibrant future. 

 Holy and humble, he had shown the selflessness of one utterly absorbed in the contemplation of Divine mercies. He had sought to be like Christ.  On March 12, 2000, the Pope made an unprecedented public statement seeking forgiveness for the sins and faults committed or condoned by the Church in the 2,000 years of its history. He was apologizing for all the centuries of wrongs and misdeeds of Christian zealots against other cultures -- dubbed pagan.  

He was apologizing for the sale sanctioned by a Pope of Africans -- what became four centuries of the sale and abuse of Africans in Slavery, for the persecution of Jews during the Inquisition and for other acts of persecution.  His last published book, Memory and Identity, raised eyebrows by drawing a comparison between the Holocaust and abortion.

The same year - 2000, he visited Egypt as part of his Jubilee 2000 pilgrimage to the lands of the Bible.  Same year, March 20-26,  John Paul II made his first visit to Israel, 36 years after Paul VI, as part of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, following the footsteps of Moses and Christ.  Frail and ailing, he climbed the hills of Calvary.  At a moving ceremony at the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem, and again at the Wailing Wall on the 26th, he repeated his plea for forgiveness of the sins committed by the Church.  

His humility / love for the Church and for Christ was boundless.  On May 4-9, 2001, he visited Greece and Syria, where, in Damascus, he becomes the first Pope to enter a mosque in an Islamic country.  All his goodwill visits helped to reassure other faiths and cultures that the Catholic Church was not out for a global domination.  His visit to Croatia became his 100th foreign trip and he was said to have traveled the equivalent of three times the distance from the Earth to the Moon. 

Since the start of his Pontificate on October 16, 1978, Pope John Paul II has completed 104 pastoral visits outside of Italy, and 146 within Italy.  As Bishop of Rome he has visited 317 of the 333 parishes.  He was indeed the peoples' Pope, well-loved by the human community. And as he lay dying, all peoples of the world to whom he had shown love, all churches, all faiths that he sought to unite have in unison poured out prayers and good wishes for this man of God -- from Europe to America, from China and Asia to Africa, from Australia to South America, and to the Islands of the seas.

The Man Called John Paul and Rose Ure Mezu -- Our Personal Encounters

I was privileged to meet John Paul 11 in 1982 when he visited Nigeria, just after recuperating from the near-assassination ordeal.  He alighted at Enugu Airport and true to his custom, prostrated and kissed the Igbo soil. Kissing the Holy Father's ring was an unforgettable experience for me.  As Commissioner for Social Welfare of the Government of Imo State of Nigeria, I was the only Catholic woman and one of only two Cabinet members who represented Imo State along with the Governor Sam Onunaka Mbakwe.  

John Paul II had come to Nigeria to beatify Blessed Fr. Tansi -- the first man (an Igbo priest at the Port Harcourt warfront during the 1967-70 Nigeria/Biafra conflicts) to be made a saint in West Africa.  Again in Baltimore 1995, I was chosen to represent Africa at the Oriole Stadium where the Pope was being received during his visit to Maryland.  His visit had been postponed a year earlier because he had fallen in a bathtub and broken his femur.  

When he did come, the holy aura, the peace, the unified presence of various peoples made the occasion seem surreal, and very spiritual. Earlier in 1993, during our Silver Jubilee celebration of our wedding, the officiating Bishop Ezeonyia of Aba diocese had unexpectedly presented my husband and me with a photograph of the Holy Father and our names -- Dr. Sebastian Mezu and Dr. Rose Mezu -- engraved beneath the Holy Father’s photo, his raised hand imparting Apostolic blessings of peace and joy.  

That Altar presentation at the Mount Carmel Church Emekuku was the highpoint of our celebration.  This gift of divine grace was totally unexpected. We really felt that the Almighty through our connection to this Pope had given us a symbolic manifestation of his presence, solidarity and love.

Tremendous love and honor were lavished on the Pope in his dying moments, because the human community credits him with the capacity to make personal contact with each and every person who encountered him.  He loved people, he was transparent and consistent in his views; he looked people in the eye and made them feel worthwhile. When my second book of poems, Homage to My People (2004) was in progress, the news media, as usual were prophesying that the Pope would not last the year.  I needed to let him know how well-loved he was.  

To honor him for his birthday on May 18, 2002, I had sent a poem composed in his honor "The Man Called John Paul II" (March 2000) to the Holy Father along with some poems on abortion, poverty, oppression, violence, faith and spirituality.  Helped by John Poland, the administrator of Holy Family Catholic Parish Church in Randallstown, where I was living at the time, I found the Vatican address, sent the poems to the Holy Father, not really certain if the address was correct, nor was I seriously expecting any reply.  

Then in March of 2002, I moved to my present house in Pikesville.  At a particularly difficult and dangerous time in the Nigerian social scene when marauding gangs of assassins and armed robbers were terrorizing the population, relatives were discouraging us from coming back to the country.  But my daughter was to wed that year and we really had to go get preparations started.  Busy packing our luggage on a July evening during a very heavy storm that had knocked off electricity, my husband Sebastian Okechukwu remarked that there was a letter addressed to me from the Vatican.  

My children were skeptical: "Who would be writing to Mummy from the Vatican City?" said one.  "And did you not know I have a special friend in the Pope!" I quipped in reply.  They found the letter and struggled for it and low and behold, the beautiful picture of the Holy Father engraved with his name -- Joannes Paulus II, fell out.  The kids rushed for it, and for the letter from the Secretariat of State, First Division B General Affairs -- and dated from the Vatican, July 25, 2002 and signed on his behalf by Monsignor Pedro Lopez Quintana.  

The Holy Father thanked me for sharing my poetry with him, and ended with:

. . . His holiness will remember you and your family in his prayers. Invoking upon you joy and peace in Our Lord Jesus Christ, he cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing. . .

Only God knows how much I believed in the invocation of joy and peace.  I practically floated home full of confidence that no harm would come to us.  And none came.  We stayed two months, did prepare our home, and started arrangements for the cultural and religious weddings to take place in December of that year.  And so, when Archbishop Harry Flynn, head of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, said Friday afternoon, April 1, 2005: "I believe that John Paul II will be known as 'John Paul the Great,' " the Archbishop is only articulating a conviction already predicted in 2000 by me:

And I can say I met the living saint called John Paul II

Of whom future age will surely call "The Great J-P II"

Four times, I remember, our paths did cross . . . 

                            ("The Man Called John Paul II," Homage To My People, 2000)

When I woke up on Friday, April 1, 2005 to learn that Pope John Paul II was dying, I felt some dread that he might be dead before I came back from work.  I hurried to school and taught with a particular passion and love – as offering to God for his sufferings, and for a pain-free death, if it was to happen.  There was a pervading sense of urgency.  Every other happening took a back seat.  The Pope was dying!  I rushed back home and started writing.  I knew this man.  

If I did not document this monumentally historic event, I know I would forever be miserable, forever feel a sense of unfulfillment.  Thus, like so many people around the globe who had received so many manifestations of this Holy Man's loving presence, and charisma,  my family and I have always loved, admired and empathized with Pope John Paul II, feeling a personal connection to him -- same connection that all who encountered the Holy Father felt for him B in many ways, he was so much like Christ, the master  he served!

John Paul II’s Visits to Africa

Of the almost 144 countries visited during his 26 years as Pope, 10 were in Africa, and two of those visits were to Nigeria, first in 1982 and again in 1998 during the regime of then military President Sani Abacha.  Perhaps his most lasting legacy to Nigeria and the continent is the appointment of two Nigerians and over 10 other Africans to the College of Cardinals. He came to Zimbabwe in 1988.

The Pope visited many African countries from Togo to La Cote d’Ivoire, et cetera.  He visited Malawi during the late Kamuzu Banda's reign. The mass service site now becomes renamed the Freedom Park, where political meetings for change  in Malawi take place. The Pope will always be remembered as a crusader for the respect of human life and hope for the suffering poor, for in Kenya, he helped to stop the demolition of houses belonging to slum dwellers.  He also initiated the Synod of Africa.

In the last two decades, the number of African Catholics has nearly doubled to over 100 million. Africa, in general, and Nigeria, in particular, sends out hundreds of priests as missionaries to all the countries of the world including the United States of America and Europe.  Even while the Holy Father was living and now following his death, speculation  has heightened that he could be succeeded by an African, Cardinal Francis Arinze, an Igbo from Onitsha, Nigeria who is fourth in the Ecclesiastical hierarchy in Rome.

In 1965, Francis Arinze at 32 years was the world’s youngest bishop.   Visiting Nigeria in 1982, Pope John Paul II was impressed with Arinze’s leadership style and proselytizing ability that brought to the Catholic Church millions of new faithful. And so, in 1984, Pope John Paul II picked Arinze, who shares the Pope’s moral positions, to be president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue in Rome. This post brought him in direct contact with leaders of other religions, particularly Islam.

Thereafter, Arinze worked hard to promote inter-religious tolerance and co-operation especially since Nigeria’s religious diversity equipped him with skills to deal with leading figures of other religions.  In  1985, Arinze was made Cardinal. Then in 2002,  he became the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments -- a post that put him in charge of liturgy.  

Should he be elected, Cardinal Francis Arinze would become the next African in 1500 years to lead the world’s Catholics after Victor (c. AD 183-203), Militiades (c. AD 311-314), and Gelasius (c. AD 492-496). 

His remarks, “I will not manoeuvre, I will not do politicking, I will not try to arrange my future" has the Pontiff’s same trust in God.  Certainly, John Paul II was a visionary and mystic who foresaw that the future of the Roman Catholic Church lay in the teeming populations of developing continents with living, vibrant cultures such as Africa, or Latin America where the people bring to Church worship their innate reverence for mysticism and the supernatural, all of their joie de vivre, passion and love for lively music and art.

Given Africa’s lopsided, problematic race relations with the West, an African candidate will no doubt have an uphill battle being elected Pope, at this time, yet Black  nations are excited at the prospect of an African Pope.  But in time, happen it must!  After all, Africa was always the proverbial refuge spot for not just the ancient Hebrews but for the Christ, the rock on which the Christian church is founded. 

Under persecution by the Tetrarch Herod, Mary and Joseph took the new born Christ to Egypt for refuge, Africa being so close to then Israel. An Ethiopian eunuch, head of treasury of the Ethiopian Queen Candace was one of the earliest to be converted and baptized Christian by the apostle Philip, at a time when Europe was still a pagan region.  And Philip is said to have gone  “on his way rejoicing” (Acts of the Apostles 8: 39).

And after all, at an age when Christians lacked intellectuals amongst them, the great St. Augustine of Hippo (Algeria), son of St. Monica was the earliest philosopher / theologian to employ his stupendous intellectual gifts of knowledge of Greek and Roman literatures and philosophies to re-interpret the teachings of Christ, the Epistles and the Old Testament, thus welding together the old and the new in honor of the Christ. 

Confessions and The City of God are Christian classics.  Africans should in the coming days reclaim their pride of place in Christian salvation story.  Above all, what a previously little-known and quiet Polish Cardinal  John Paul II had accomplished as a shaker and mover of world events serves as great example to non-Western Christians. 

John Paul II's View of Priests as Stewards and Instruments of God's Mysteries

There are so many more reasons why he is loved.  Among these is the dignity and respect he brought back to the priesthood, still standing firm on celibacy.  Speaking to the young people of Friscotti, Italy concerning the high and exalted calling of priesthood, John Paul II calls priests “stewards and instruments of God's mysteries, living instruments of forgiveness and grace, ministers of the Word that lives: (August 9, 1980). 

With zeal, John Paul II canvassed for priestly vocation, viewing that as the condition for the vitality of the Church. To the youth participants - potential priests - of the Inter-national Congress for Vocation in Rome in May 10, 1981, he posed this question: 

Who would administer, in particular, the sacrament of penance if there were no priests? And this sacrament is the means established by Christ for the renewal of the soul and for its active integration in the vital context of the community . . . You will be happy to serve.  

Thereafter, he would commence the internal cleansing of the church by first addressing the external but important issue of dressing.  The Sixties and Seventies had seen so many priests dressing like laymen, seduced by sensuous material culture, with a resulting near exodus of priests out of the ministry to marry or follow their desires.  But this Pope dressed continually in his sutan, and always won the best-dressed man award. 

Henceforth, priests were encouraged and inspired to wear the attire that proudly and unequivocally proclaims them as men of God.  The Pope’s activities brought about renewed faith in so many corners of the globe.  The Catholic Faith spread rapidly, attracting many young people into the Church.  Even though, the responsibility for the scandal of priestly abuse of young boys was laid at this Pope’s door as the head of the Church, yet one has to look at his scandal-free life to know what a sincere and devoted follower of Christ he was. 

His stand for Truth remains unequivocal as can be seen in his Aug 6, 1986 Encyclical Veritatis Splendor (the Splendor of Truth) which reaffirms the Roman Catholic Church's traditional views on morality and ethics. Priests should be happy to serve the Truth; priests are the instruments of making the kingdom of God present among the people, of bringing it to the world, he insisted:

You will be witnesses of that joy that the world cannot give. You will be living flames of an infinite and eternal love. You will know the spiritual riches of the priesthood, [its] divine gift and mystery. (World Youth Day, 2003)  

Pope John Paul II as Man of Wisdom and Humor

Called the great communicator / disseminator, Pope John Paul II was very savvy in his dealings with the media.  Perhaps, because of his theatrical background (he went to Cracow's Jagiellonian University in 1938 to study drama), he was relaxed and comfortable in his own skin, and hence his wisdom which came across in the wryness of his humor.  To an enquiry, "Holy Father, how is your health today?" he replied, "How should I know?  I have not read the papers today."  

His confession of his weakness is memorable: "I have a sweet tooth for song and music.  This is my Polish sin."  An assistant asked him why he would be going to the Netherlands when they clearly said he was not welcomed, the Pope is said to have replied that he was going because if they did not want him, there was a problem.  It was his duty to go and explain his position to them, and try to solve the problem.  His humor and gentleness communicated easily to the young, and no wonder he had such a large following of the world's youth.  

Pope John Paul had lived his life with the fullest devotion to God, with the utmost trust in God's love.  In his final hours, as the world remembers this moral man who with spiritual vigor had struck such universal chords of peace and joy, who had reached out to peoples of other faiths seeking to unite all into the oneness of the common Creator, who had demonstrated a vast compassion for the poor and the oppressed of the world in his many encyclicals proclaiming that "God Is Not God of the Dead, but of the Living," we firmly believe that the Good Lord will hear the outpouring of prayers from the whole world -- from Africa where the Church has known such resurgence in numerical growth, from Asia where even China is sending prayers of goodwill, from India where his great friend Mother Teresa of Calcutta had fulfilled her own life mission, and where in 2003, he had beatified her, from the Jews to whom he had showered  immense warmth, visiting Rome's main synagogue and praying with Rabbi Elio Toaff on April 13, 1986, making John Paul II the first ever Catholic  pope to do so;  and from the Americas; especially from his native Poland  to which he had brought democracy and where he remains their greatest gift to the world; from Cuba where his visit made such impact.   

In the Pope's final hours of trial, even the Communist leader Fidel Castro allowed the Cuban Catholic Cardinal to go on national television to brief the nation on the Pope=s state of health.  It is a testimony to his extraordinary charism.  He was able to touch all hearts.  

Pope John Paul II as Poet: Roman Triptych: Meditations

Mystic, linguist (at least, eleven (11) languages), and philosopher, John Paul II was also poet and writer.  Poetry he defined as “a great lady to whom one must completely devote oneself.”  The pains and losses of early life, the denial of liberty during the Nazi occupation, his life – its lacks and difficulties -- provided him with the sensitivity and vulnerability necessary to write poetry.  And always, it’s said that he loved the solitude and silence of nature, the mountains, the woods.

For him, poetry stepped in where logic, philosophy, even theology fell short. The challenges of failing health, the humiliations and fragility of a failing body made his poetry even poignant.  And at the end, his poetry was anchored on the love of God. Struggling to understand Him, he asks God, “Who are you?”  Written and  published during his pontificate is Roman Triptych: Meditations, containing as framework three very powerful images derived from nature, art, and scripture -- a mountain stream, the Sistine chapel, and the story of Abraham and Isaac. 

The meditation is on God as the Alpha and Omega of human life, and of all creation. The images of flowing water and shimmering light replete in his poems became metaphors of a deep longing for a soul for freedom and peace.  His faith as expressed in his poetic writings rests on the power of the Word that can cut through the layers of the world’s wickedness.  It made him unable to ignore evil.    

His doctoral thesis was on the nature of love according to St. John of the Cross whose mystical poems awakened Karol Vojtyla’s deep spirituality. Poetry for him is an encounter with God. Cardinal Franciszki Macharski describes it most eloquently:

This encounter with God, you can see it in his face, his hands, in the position of his body, even in his back; one sees a man bent over in prayer. When the Pope is praying, he looks like a rock; he cannot be moved. The world around him ceases to exist.  Suddenly, he gets up on his knees, and with a radiant smile in his face turns and asks, “Now, where are you from?”

These are two different worlds – his conversation with God, and his conversation with people, insists Fr. Andrzje Baczynski of St. Florian’s Church, Krakow. It is natural then to believe with Skwarnicki that there is a dimension of the Pope’s interior life, of his spirit, which takes place in “a world without words, beyond words, before words. The dialogue is indescribable. The deepest dimension of Pope John Paul II’s spiritual life is indescribable.” 

Mystical poet and man of prayer and faith, yet pondering on the end of his own life, as man and Pope, he shows a fear of dying that makes his humanity credible.  For Karol Wojtyla, the man called John Paul II, who believes that the beginning of wisdom is fear, he as Pope John Paul II really worked at loving God in others through concrete deeds.

Pope John Paul II’s Motto: Laborare et Orare (To Work and to Pray)

Pope John Paul II kept busy.  His activities include the following publications:  fourteen encyclicals, fifteen apostolic exhortations, eleven apostolic constitutions and forty-five apostolic letters. The Pope has also published the following books : Crossing the Threshold of Hope (October 1994); Gift and Mystery: On the 50th Anniversary of My Priestly Ordination (November 1996);  Roman Triptych, Meditations, a book of poems (March 2003);  Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way (May 2004) and Memory and Identity (Spring 2005).

John Paul II has presided at 147 beatification ceremonies (1,338 Blesseds proclaimed ) and 51 canonization ceremonies ( 482 Saints ) during his pontificate. He has held 9 consistories in which he created 231 (+ 1 in pectore) cardinals. He has also convened six plenary meetings of the College of Cardinals. From 1978 to the present, the Holy Father has presided at 15 Synods of Bishops: six ordinary (1980, 1983, 1987, 1990, 1994, 2001), one extraordinary (1985) and 8 special (1980, 1991, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998[2], 1999).

He added five (5) more mysteries of Radiance (light) to the existing 15 mysteries of the Rosary.  The Radiant Mysteries cover the period between finding the child Jesus in the Temple and His Sufferings / Crucifixion – {1}Baptism in the river Jordan, (2) The Marriage at Cana, (3) the Preaching of the Kingdom, (4)The transfiguration on the mountain, and  (5) the Last Supper or the Institution of the Holy Eucharist.  

In an Apostolic letter titled Rosarium Virginis Mariae (the Rosary of the Virgin Mary), Pope John Paul II called the Rosary “the most outstanding means of contemplating the Face of Christ,” recommending that through the Rosary, “all the faithful, in union with Mary, may grow in the understanding of the Gospel and conform their lives ever more fully to Christ.” The Rosary to the Roman Catholics remains the greatest devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary in contemplating the life, death and resurrection of her divine son, Jesus Christ.  The addition brings the Rosary mysteries to twenty (20). 

He wrote on the lives of saints – St. Catherine of Siena, St. Therese of Lisieux, et cetera. And of the present 117 Cardinals that will go into conclave to elect a new pope, John Paul II appointed 114 of them.  On his dying day, he made 17 new appointments, thus literally working to the end. Joined to his travels, the Pope had indeed a busy pontificate.  Being the third longest serving Pontiff, John Paul II has forever stamped his personality on the papacy.

John Paul II, Man of Faith and the Eucharist

To the Catholic Church, this Pope has been a revivifying source of strength, making the 2,000 year-old Church an indispensable moral force. His April 17, 2003 encyclical (his 14th), Ecclesia de Eucharistia (The Church of the Eucharist), emphasized the importance of the mass and the Eucharist, thus seeking to avoid any watering-down of Catholic belief.  Speaking to the participants of the International Congress for Vocation in Rome in May 10, 1981, John Paul II calls the Eucharist "the center and summit of all evangelization and of full sacramental life." 

Most testimonies believe his shoes are non-fillable, but then, it should be remembered that this Church has survived for so many centuries.  As a divine institution, it is able to produce when needed people with so many varied charisms and attitudes.  John Paul II’s gifts were vast and many yet  as Christians we believe the Good Lord will endow whoever succeeds him with his own set of charisms to deal with an increasingly complex, challenging and amoral age. The Church is eternal and it produce as next Pope a man able to complement and continue the work this Pope had done.

Pope John Paul II’s Die Natalis (Entry into Eternity)

 Therefore, we are pleasurably gratified that this man of prayer and moral strength, has fulfilled his earthly mission, enrobed suffering with a mystical splendor and knew how and when to surrender himself into the consoling arms of the Savior with supreme grace and serenity, as aptly shown by the Bible passage he chose to have read to him at the same hour that his Master and Lord Jesus said those words: "Father, into Your Hands I commend my spirit!" 

 We are heartened that for twenty-six years, Pope John Paul II had done his best during his lifespan of 84 years, leaving the Church in relative peace and unity. As the world waited in prayerful watch, the Pope revived somewhat to say to the young faithful gathering from all over the world to pay him last respects, "I have looked for you. Now you have come to me. And I thank you.''  As cryptic and mystical as the words Mel Gibson credits him with saying regarding the controversial movie “The Passion of the Christ” – “It is as it was.” 

As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, John Paul's close adviser attests: ''He's aware he's passing to the Lord.”  A frail, sickly eighty-four years old, he had taught the world, especially people of faith, how to grow old with grace, how to handle suffering and ill-health with patience, and finally, how to die with serenity.  He had indeed prepared to die, and to die well, showing us that death is only a passage to our true homeland.

Consequently, his passing into eternal bliss is not being seen by the faithful as a cause for sadness, but as a celebration of the life, service and accomplishments of a uniquely grand personage of God=s inscrutable designs, humble but who grew up to be a humble giant.  The Church John Paul II leaves behind can ask no more, or less, of him. The last words the Man Called John Paul II had written for him and proclaimed to the  vast number of people of all ages and from different countries watching in prayer in St. Peter’s Square were: 

"I am Happy. You should be as well. Let us pray together with Joy."  And his last word on this earth is:  "Amen!" in response to the sign of the cross made by a close aide. And we know that the Blessed Mother Mary whom he has honored devotedly (totus tuus – all yours!) has ensured that this great and splendid soul would rest forever in his Christ's bosom!  

She did; and at 9.37 p.m. April 2, 2005 (Rome time), Johannes Paulus II, formerly called Karol Josef Wojtyla passed from this earth into celestial bliss. The Salve Regina  (Hail, Holy Queen!) and also De Profundis (Out of the Depths I Cry to you, O Lord) were sung to usher him to Heaven. 

 And so, for two whole days before John Paul II died - from Friday, April 1 to Saturday April 2, the world has had a foretaste of heaven, for there had been such concern over the man called John Paul II from peoples of various faiths everywhere. Prayer messages poured in from world and church leaders.  News stations could not do any other meaningful programming.  Praises poured out and there was serene calm even amongst the multitude gathered to see him.  

And for those two days, if not a cessation of acts of violence in the world, there was a respite from reporting them; people became more contemplative and have shown oneness in acclaiming the goodness of the man called Pope John Paul II.  The praises were fulsome but the hearer and the thousands of visitors flocking to the Vatican to watch and pray felt that they were merited.  Two days of viewing his body have seen close to one million people wait for hours on end just to see him.  He had gone in search of peoples of all faith, and now they indeed have come to see him. 

The Life of John Paul II: Lessons Learnt

1.         That the purpose of human existence is not to achieve individual happiness.  We are on this earth to be useful to others, to serve through our deeds, to be reliable, compassionate and to love God in others.

2.         That patience and love provide the frame work for this service. Commitment and perseverance will see us through. That only love can convert the heart and give it peace, in a world that seems so prone to evil, egoism and fear.

3.         That every life should have a set of core moral principles to guide our actions and we should never compromise these.  This is fidelity to the truth. In spite of opposition or hatred, people will at the end recognize the shining splendor of a life lived with faithfulness to personal morality and truth.

4.         That humility and ability to forgive do not constitute weakness but strength;   That the Latin saying is true that says– Bonum est diffusivium sui  (Goodness is  diffusive of itself).

Thus, Pope John Paul II showed strength even in his humility.  As shepherd, he was consistently faithful to his core values and to the fundamental virtues on which is founded the Christian Church.  He did not compromise his integrity.  Consequently, he lacked fear in proclaiming the truth, or in chastising governments and unjust rulers, or in championing causes unpopular in the eyes of the world.  

At the end, the great outpouring of love and affection from peoples of the world, of all faiths, the homage of the world media, become a testimony that they really saw in Pope John Paul II transparent goodness, a love of peace and a love of truth. May he rest in perfect peace! 

Copyright (2005) by Dr. Rose Ure Mezu     

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Blessed Pope John Paul II (Latin: Ioannes Paulus PP. II, Italian: Giovanni Paolo II, Polish: Jan Paweł II), born Karol Józef Wojtyła (Polish: [ˈkarɔl ˈjuzɛf vɔjˈtɨwa]; 18 May 1920 – 2 April 2005), reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 16 October 1978 until his death on 2 April 2005, at 84 years and 319 days of age. His was the second-longest documented pontificate, which lasted 26 years and  168 days; only Pope Pius IX (1846–1878) who served 31 years, has reigned longer. Pope John Paul II is the only Slavic or Polish pope to date and was the first non-Italian Pope since Dutch Pope Adrian VI (1522–1523).

John Paul II has been acclaimed as one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century. It is widely held that he was instrumental in ending communism in his native Poland and eventually all of Europe. Conversely, he denounced the excesses of capitalism. John Paul II is widely said to have significantly improved the Catholic Church's relations with Judaism, Islam, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion. Though criticised by progressives for upholding the Church's teachings against artificial contraception and the ordination of women, he was also criticised by traditionalists for his support of the Church's Second Vatican Council and its reform of the Liturgy as well as his ecumenical efforts.

He was one of the most-travelled world leaders in history, visiting 129 countries during his pontificate. He spoke Italian, French, German, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Croatian, and Latin as well as his native Polish. As part of his special emphasis on the universal call to holiness, he beatified 1,340 people and canonised 483 saints, more than the combined tally of his predecessors during the last five centuries. On 19 December 2009, John Paul II was proclaimed venerable by his successor Pope Benedict XVI and was beatified on 1 May 2011.Wikipedia

Other essays by Dr. Rose Ure Mezu:

An Africana Blueprint for Living in the 3rd Millennium Global Community1: An Essay

Pope John Paul II: A Life with a Mission: A Mission of Grace and Moral Strength

A History of Africana Women's Literature   (Introduction)

Africana Women: Their Historic Past and Future Activism

Black Nationalists: Reconsidering: Du Bois, Garvey, Booker T., & Nkrumah (Introduction)

Chinua Achebe The Man and His Works (Introduction)

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Blessed Pope John Paul II (Latin: Ioannes Paulus PP. II, Italian: Giovanni Paolo II, Polish: Jan Paweł II), born Karol Józef Wojtyła (Polish: [ˈkarɔl ˈjuzɛf vɔjˈtɨwa]; 18 May 1920 – 2 April 2005), reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 16 October 1978 until his death on 2 April 2005, at 84 years and 319 days of age. His was the second-longest documented pontificate, which lasted 26 years and  168 days; only Pope Pius IX (1846–1878) who served 31 years, has reigned longer. Pope John Paul II is the only Slavic or Polish pope to date and was the first non-Italian Pope since Dutch Pope Adrian VI (1522–1523).

John Paul II has been acclaimed as one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century. It is widely held that he was instrumental in ending communism in his native Poland and eventually all of Europe. Conversely, he denounced the excesses of capitalism. John Paul II is widely said to have significantly improved the Catholic Church's relations with Judaism, Islam, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion. Though criticised by progressives for upholding the Church's teachings against artificial contraception and the ordination of women, he was also criticised by traditionalists for his support of the Church's Second Vatican Council and its reform of the Liturgy as well as his ecumenical efforts.

He was one of the most-travelled world leaders in history, visiting 129 countries during his pontificate. He spoke Italian, French, German, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Croatian, and Latin as well as his native Polish. As part of his special emphasis on the universal call to holiness, he beatified 1,340 people and canonised 483 saints, more than the combined tally of his predecessors during the last five centuries. On 19 December 2009, John Paul II was proclaimed venerable by his successor Pope Benedict XVI and was beatified on 1 May 2011.Wikipedia

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Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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The New Jim Crow

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Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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