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Thomas Reese : I think canonizing popes is a dumb idea

26. april 2014

Thomas Reese  skriver i en blogpost "John XXIII and John Paul II, united in heaven" bl.a.

I think canonizing popes is a dumb idea.


Saints are supposed to be models of sanctity for Christians to imitate, but who can a pope be a model for except another pope? And that is exactly the problem.


But Francis' solution is brilliant: Canonize both popes at the same time. By canonizing them together, Pope Francis is saying that all Catholics should be able to come together to celebrate the lives of these holy men. And since the men are so different, it does not canonize either model of being pope. It leaves him free to follow his own path. 


Both popes changed the course of history, affecting both the church and the world. Pope John's encyclicals Mater et Magister and Pacem in Terris emphasized the church's role in justice and peace. His calling of the Second Vatican Council began the reforms that brought the church into the modern world.

I am old enough to remember the Latin liturgy and the days when we referred to Protestants as heretics rather than separated brothers and sisters. These things changed because of Pope John. Both John and John Paul improved relations between Catholics and Jews, a breach that had lasted for centuries.

I also remember the days of the Cold War, when we had a good chance of blowing up the world in a nuclear war. John Paul's support for the Solidarity movement in Poland began the avalanche that swept communism from Eastern Europe and ultimately brought down the Soviet empire.

For most Catholics, John XXIII is a very distant memory or someone they learned about in history books. He reigned for less than five years as opposed to John Paul's almost 27 years.

That both men are in heaven, I have no doubt. But they both had their failings. Both popes failed to reform the Roman Curia. John issued a document requiring that seminary classes be taught in Latin, one of the most ignored papal mandates of modern times.

And while John Paul changed history for the better by helping to bring down communism, his impact on the church was not as positive. True, his papal visits encouraged and defended local churches, but his episcopal appointments prized loyalty over competence and pastoral skills. And his suppression of theological debate and discussion caused division rather than unity and stifled creativity.


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Wikipedia: Thomas Reese