I am a parish minister currently serving the Eliot Church of Natick MA. Eliot Church is a Community Church affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. Any statements made and postions held in "Unity," however, are solely mine(of course, they may be used with appropriate atribution). Therefore if you disagree, please do not blame the church!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Goodbye John Paul

I have a Christmas ornament that my family purchased way back when Karol Jozeph Wojtyla became Pope. It is a bit frayed and not terribly attractive even when it was new! Every year, however, it goes on the tree. It is partly because it has always been there. However, that is not the entire reason.

I am a protestant. While I was baptized in a Catholic church and attended a Catholic school for one year, I have never really considered myself a part of the Catholic faith. However, as someone who has made things spiritual and religious a life-long career, I have a great deal of respect for John Paul II. Like any religious leader, he was charged with making sense of the world through faith and also making faith make sense in light of world developments. Nowhere is that harder than in the world’s largest Christian sect.

Whatever the Pope says or does ripples throughout the world and affects how people see not just the Roman Catholic Church, but churches and religion in general. I used to be surprised when I would be asked if Congregationalists (!) and Unitarian Universalists (!!) were "followers" of the Pope. I am not any more. He has been the most prominent face of Christianity for a quarter century. I could go into the reasons, of course, but I am thinking today not so much about John Paul, but about Karol.

I have disagreed with him in so many ways. I am not just a protestant but a liberal one at that! There are issues such as abortion, gay rights, and women in the priesthood (to name just a few) where my view drastically diverges from that of the Pope. However, I have cheered him on as he campaigned for peace in the Middle East and elsewhere. Also, I have admired the faith and perseverance of a clearly devout human being.

That humanity has been obscured, somewhat, over the past few days. The retrospectives and the waiting has contributed to a remarkable amount of hype and hyperbole. I hope that now we can focus on Karol Wojtyla's humanity. If we do we will see someone who tried hard to fight for what he believed in. We will also see someone who was neither perfect, nor infallible. Soon we will be looking toward the Vatican to see what new direction they will go in. Right now, however, it is time for all of us--liberal and conservative, friend and foe--to say goodbye not to an office but to a man.