Tuesday, 12 April 2005
Seanad Eireann Debate
After all that has been broadcast and written about the death of the Pope, it is difficult to find fresh words to say about the passing of the Holy Father, but I wish to convey the sympathy of the House in this regard. Of all the admirable traits of the late Pope John Paul II, it was a happy coincidence that even at a time of acceleration in the growth of communications, he was himself the great communicator. His accession to the papacy coincided with a growth in international communications and his ability to communicate on a global scale with so many people was one of his wonderful traits. His late Holiness was originally an actor by profession, a fact that appealed to so many people in the communications field. We have only to think of the day he landed in Ireland when he knelt to kiss the ground with his red cloak swirling around him. That gesture had a dramatic impact then and still does today when one reflects upon it in retrospect. It was a striking gesture and I am sure he thought of that himself. I am also sure nobody in the Vatican told him to kneel and kiss the ground. It was a wonderful gesture.
In addition, his humility was the trait of which we all stood in awe. Looking at the television last week, I was struck by what appeared to be the humble origins of many of the people in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. They were very ordinary people, including the Polish with their flags, the Italians and others. Wherever they came from they were not dressed up in pomp and ceremony. We had that on the day of the funeral, which was right. After all, he was the pope who stopped a royal wedding, if only for a day. There was a wonderful display of emotion and affection by ordinary people who were genuinely saddened by the loss of a man they saw as their friend. People do not garner that kind of universal sympathy without evoking it through their own deeds.
As we all know, there were some matters concerning Pope John Paul II’s papacy with which we did not all agree. However, that is not the point in commenting generally on his papacy which transcended all of that. He was the figurehead of the church and while there are many who will comment on various aspects of his papacy, he will be remembered for his humility and his determination to travel the world and meet people. He was also determined to get close to people, a fact that is supported by endless anecdotes. It would be wrong of me, however, to go into any of them in detail. There were endless stories of how he wished to express his views to people as well as listening to their views. He exuded great warmth. People have told me that when he entered a room it lit up almost immediately. I saw that myself at close quarters. He had clever eyes. I remember the first time I saw him, when he kissed the ground. When one approached him he had those very intelligent bright eyes which, sadly, illness dimmed and dulled as time went on. Of all the actions in his life, the most telling and stark is how he met his death, which he did with courage and bravery. That conveyed a lesson. It was also notable that the windows of his apartment were left open, with the light on, so that people could see he was still alive. When he passed away, the light was turned off and the windows were closed.
I pay tribute to the media, to RTE and the other stations, and to all the newspapers. We received on the spot, vivid accounts of what was happening and did not miss a beat. That was wonderful because once again it was global communication brought into our sitting-rooms or kitchens or wherever our televisions were. We were able to see, hear, listen and absorb. Friday morning’s funeral was a wonderful spectacle. One did not need to be a highly religious person to be almost overcome by what was happening.
Mr. B. Hayes: On behalf of my colleagues on this side of the House, I second the motion. It is a mark of a republic that both Houses of the Oireachtas are today reflecting on the recent death of Pope John Paul II and are using time in Parliament without any disagreement from other faiths or denominations. It is a tremendous mark of the maturity of this republic, and the new dialogue between different faiths, that such a debate and expressions of sympathy should occur without any disagreement or disenchantment.
As the Leader said, much has been said and written about the Pope over the past week. I was struck by the image of the dying Pope on the Easter Sunday before his death, when he tried to speak. Clearly frustrated and exasperated, he struck the podium in a strong and strident manner. That was an example of his vocation to his church throughout his life, but also an example of how he handled his suffering, which was so intense and real in recent years. That is the image I retain of the Pope before his death.
Mr. B. Hayes: I was one of 5,000 altar servers. I remember vividly that great occasion when I was ten years old and the great pomp which surrounded the visit of Pope John Paul II to Ireland in September 1979. In many ways, his visit was supposed to re-evangelise the Roman Catholic Church in this country and it was in many respects the high point of an era. What followed was a very difficult and turbulent period for the church. Many would argue that it was a better and more honest period, when its problems and its authoritarianism had to be confronted, and a much more honest debate occurred. That debate has been good for the Roman Catholic Church and for the country in general.
I agree with the Leader on the role of public service broadcasters. I was very struck by the extent of the coverage on RTE in particular. I was struck by its sensitivity and reverence during the whole week which allowed so many older people to see the ceremonies in Rome and be part of the grief.
In a sense there is international grief following the death of Pope John Paul II because he was Pope for 26 years. He travelled to some 140 countries and was Pope during the explosion of a media age. In many respects it was that internationalisation of the church that allowed him to be such a striking force for so many people of faith and non-faith throughout the world that everyone was struck by his death and the circumstances of the past week.
Arising from the historical problems that have confronted Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, if there is a country in the world that needs ecumenism and a much stronger inter-faith dialogue, it is ours. I watched the mass in the Pro-Cathedral at home as I could not be there. I was struck by the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Archbishop Neill, when he spoke at the end of mass of his sense of loss following the death of Pope John Paul II. His was a personal and real account that clearly showed the respect he had for the dead pontiff. I was struck by the spontaneous applause following his comments on behalf of Church of Ireland members throughout the country, particularly Dublin where the mass took place. I wonder if that would have happened 15 or 20 years ago.
Pope John Paul II’s great legacy was his ecumenism. I think of the time he went to Israel and apologised to the Jewish faith for the way in which the Roman Catholic Church had conducted itself in the course of the Second World War. In his last testimony he recalled the strong relationship he had with the Chief Rabbi in Rome. He also reached out to the Orthodox Church in Greece and there has been some healing of the wounds between the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church. I think of the time Pope John Paul II went to Canterbury when Archbishop Robert Runcie was archbishop. Archbishop Runcie said at the time “Holy Father, we welcome you”. As a person from a background of a Protestant father and a Roman Catholic mother, this was an abiding memory for me growing up. Pope John Paul II’s legacy in the area of ecumenism is very strong.
It was very important that he was a Polish Pope. The curse of central and eastern Europe is anti-semitism, as can be seen vividly from the Holocaust and the Second World War. There has been a significant anti-semitism problem in Poland. It is significant that this Polish Pope reached out in a sensitive and honest way to those of the Jewish faith. He was also the first Pope to visit a mosque. He will be remembered for this inter-church dialogue.
There is great satisfaction for many old and young Roman Catholics who watched the events of the past week here at the way in which this country and the world remembered the life, times and work of Pope John Paul II because many of them had felt that the church had been badly let down internally and externally and that their faith was not recognised because of the new all-encompassing consumerism of our society. There is a great sense of encouragement for many Catholics from the response of others to these events. We must all be encouraged by that and learn from the example of Pope John Paul II. We must hope that his great vocation can be upheld in the memory of all people of faith and no faith throughout the world.
Mr. Dardis: It is correct that we should pause to mourn the death of Pope John Paul II and to reflect on his life and the message it gave us. The high emotion that touched us all during his final great struggle for life, his death and his funeral has subsided since he was buried last Friday and, therefore, we now approach his life in a more reflective and detached way. Perhaps it is good that we should do so.
On Friday evening last, delegates to the Progressive Democrats annual conference assembled in large numbers to commemorate and celebrate the life of the late pontiff and to reflect on it in the company of the Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland Bishops of Cork. On her return from the funeral in Rome, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, described Pope John Paul II as one of the greatest figures of Europe and of the 20th century. Few, if any, will disagree with that assessment.
Pope John Paul II was, by any objective standard, one of the great leaders of our time and a spiritual, intellectual and human colossus. He inspired us, moved us and loved each one of us. The love of humanity that radiated from him brought the leaders of 150 countries, many ordinary people and many young people, in particular, to Rome for his funeral. He probably touched more lives than anyone in living memory and more than most in recorded history.
Our country was touched by him. Like Senator Brian Hayes, I was in the throng in the Phoenix Park on that beautiful autumn day in 1979 and my abiding memory and that of many others was the sight of the Aer Lingus jumbo jet carrying the Pope banking and flying in low over the large crowd on its way to Dublin Airport. It is difficult to comprehend now but at the time it was almost unbelievable to think that the Pope would visit us because it was not the practice of Popes to leave Rome. However, we take it for granted nowadays following the late Pope’s visits to more than 100 countries.
At the time, people of my parent’s generation never thought they would see it happen. During the Pope’s visit to Ireland, we experienced his love for all of us but we learned of his burning commitment to peace when he appealed on his knees to the men and women of violence to go down the road of peace. We learned of his love of youth, as the Leader stated, when he told the young people of Ireland in Galway that he loved them. We also learned of his uncompromising enunciation of the teachings of the church. These were recurring themes throughout his papacy.
Sometimes the message was not always what we wanted to hear but there was no denying the fearlessness or the immense faith that underpinned his preaching of the truth. As well as his love, Pope John Paul II’s faith shone through at all times. He was an unyielding witness to that faith and steadfast to the truth and for that he must be admired. It made him a champion of human rights, peace, the world’s poor, debt relief and freedom. Pro-life meant more than an abhorrence of abortion and euthanasia; it included the abolition of the death penalty, opposition to wars of the great powers and a rejection of the proposition that there could be such a thing as a just war in our modern world.
Much of this must have been shaped by his Polish background and his experience of the tyranny of both Nazism and communism. The Poles feel themselves orphaned by his passing. They and we saw him play a central role in bringing an end to communism in Poland and elsewhere in Europe. The Europe we have today, based on democratic principles and with human rights at its heart, owes much to the character of Pope John Paul II. The Tánaiste stated in Cork, “Europe has been enormously shaped by the actions and the influence of Pope John Paul II. We and successive generations will reap the benefits of the peace, unity and freedom he did so much to bring to our continent.”
Growing up in Poland at the centre of a vibrant Jewish community and witnessing its destruction must have been a major influence on Pope John Paul II’s affection and regard for Judaism and on extending the hand of friendship to the Jews and other great religions of the world. I suppose it underlined the word “pontiff” that the Pope acted as a bridge. It was remarkable that he apologised to the Jews for past wrongs, and that apology was necessary. Assuredly, the spirit must have been at work when the cardinals chose a Polish pope. Jesus charged his disciples to go out and preach the Gospel to all the nations of the world, and Pope John Paul II was the living embodiment of that instruction, bringing the message to more than 100 countries and changing fundamentally how the faith was communicated. He understood more than most — and before his time — the significance of the global village. At the end, during his decline and suffering, when we saw that towering intellectual struggle to escape the prison of a failing body, we learned much and were inspired regarding how we should face death as Christians. Once again, it demonstrated that colossal faith was at the core of the message.
We politicians must respond to the messages we were given by the late pontiff regarding how we treat the underprivileged, how we deal with death and starvation in the Third World, how we look after the poor and marginalised at home and how we bring lasting peace to our island. We were inspired by this poet, actor, athlete, author, priest and teacher. He exerted worldwide authority through moral strength, without guns or an army. John Paul the Great left a lasting legacy to history and in the lives of countless people.
Mr. Norris: I will not dissent from the terms of this motion, although I regret that it was changed and that the message will be sent not to the Camerlengo but to Cardinal Ratzinger, about whom I must say, in the words of an English parliamentarian, I feel there is something of the night. Nevertheless, it is important that we mark this event. I also understand that the motions were placed simultaneously on the Order Papers of both Houses without any consultation — at least in the case of the other House — with the Whips.
Be that as it may. There is no question or doubt that this event is very remarkable. I was abroad and listened to the service. When I heard the solemn bell tolling to mark the funeral of the Pope, I thought of a great piece by the Anglican divine, John Donne, “Devotions upon Emergent Occasions”.
Those were my thoughts when I heard of the death of John Paul II, who was undoubtedly a very remarkable man and a charismatic figure. I recall the day of his election, when I was in the city of Coventry writing one of three papers which led, ironically, to the foundation of the International Gay Association, which is still vibrant today. I thought how wonderful it was, but I have been saddened since at the lack of fulfilment of what I saw as the promise of greater liberation, freedom, understanding and humanity. He was a positive, creative and courageous man on some issues. He was opposed to the death penalty and the war in Iraq, for example. I also remember his poignant appeal to the IRA, when he was on his knees in Drogheda. He was largely unsuccessful on such issues.
I feel much less happy about the record of Pope John Paul II in respect of some areas in which he thought he was successful. I regret that he committed himself to authority, rather than honest inquiry, and to the suppression of honest dissent. When I raise such matters I am told that the church is a club, rather than a democracy, and that one has to accept the club’s rules when one enters it. Perhaps that is true but, like many people throughout the world, I have not entered the club in question. It is wrong that we are all expected to bend the knee on issues such as those I have mentioned without discussion, honest inquiry or debate, because of the Vatican’s political perspective. It is incorrect to try to enforce such rules. There are numerous instances — I refer for example to the issue of AIDS and the recognition of relationships outside marriage — of parliamentarians receiving clear political instructions from Rome on how they should vote. Such interventions are extraordinary.
The papacy of the recently deceased Pope was characterised by an extraordinary facility with the media. A lack of proportion within the Vatican was sometimes exposed by media-driven events. The fact that the Pope, who was a great man, created more saints than any of his predecessors suggests to me a lack of proportion, particularly when I consider the exclusion so far from the list of saints of the late Pope John XXIII, who was one of the most remarkable spiritual leaders of the 20th century. It worries me that he has not been made a saint——
Mr. Norris: ——even though many other people, some of whom are obscure and of questionable background, are now standing in the serried ranks of the saints. Pope John XXIII was universally loved and revered for his humility, which was not one of the qualities of the recently deceased Pope John Paul II.
The intellectual powerhouse of Catholicism, the Jesuit Order, was marginalised and sidelined under the papacy of Pope John Paul II while Opus Dei was promoted and elevated. That is a problem because the church “belongs to all”, as John Donne said at the start of the passage from which I quoted. I certainly feel that the church belongs to me — in my ancestry I have a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church during the penal period. It is my church — in my genes there are those who fought for the church when it was not popular. Perhaps the Jesuit Order was marginalised because of its honesty, which was evident during the recent period of the Pope’s dying and death. I heard a Jesuit saying it was a pity to distort the emphasis on Easter by focussing on the deathbed of the Pope, rather than on the passion and agony of Jesus Christ on the cross. That was a courageous comment to make.
Many people have been implicated in cases of clerical sexual abuse, an issue that has troubled this country. It is a pity that Cardinal Law was given such a prominent role in Rome in recent days. The lead is often given from the top in matters of this nature. The Pope sent a letter of sympathy to Cardinal Groer of Vienna when the cardinal had to leave his position following sustained allegations of sexual interference with young priests. It is a pity that the letter did not mention the victims of abuse. I am not sure why that was the case but it happened and I regret it.
The Pope’s decision to forbid the priesthood from becoming involved in politics affected some priests who had wonderfully and courageously defended the poor in Latin America. He had no such inhibitions in his native land, Poland, where he endorsed Solidarnosc and Lech Walesa. He ruthlessly sought to stamp out liberation theology in Latin America. The list of the victims of Cardinal Ratzinger’s office is a roll-call of the most profound spiritual thinkers of the Catholic Church in the 20th century. I refer to people like Leonardo Boff, Hans Kung, Charles Curran, Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen and Professor Dr. John McNeill. Today’s edition of The Irish Times has reported that Hans Kung has suggested that Cardinal Ratzinger is attempting to manipulate the papal election in his own favour.
I could give a list of other people who have been silenced, such as Oscar Romero, who was initially conservative but had to learn from experience. He faced life with honesty and committed himself to the poor of his own country, but he was hung out by the Vatican not to dry, but to die. When his assassins came, he died silently. The people of Latin America, however, have made him a saint and they do not require the Vatican stamp of approval. When Oscar Romero appealed for protection from the Vatican, it reminded me of Imre Nagy appealing from Budapest over a crackling radio wave for help from those whom he had expected to help, but they denied him. I am on the side of Archbishop Romero.
I did not see humility, I saw hubris. I remember some striking visual images. When Sr. Theresa Kane in Chicago, at the opening of his papacy, courageously made a strong plea for the recognition of the position of women in the church, the Pope did not reply, he just put on an angry expression and pushed his hands down as if to say that she must sit down and not speak in his presence, a Pauline view of things.
Another image was that of him shaking his fist in the face of Miguel Descoto, the Foreign Minister who was also a Jesuit, in Nicaragua. Former President Bush and the Pope succeeded in destabilising that noble experiment. When Miguel Descoto was Foreign Minister, Nicaragua had the highest rate of literacy in South America and it now has the lowest. Its wealth has gone back to the rancheros and those others who hoarded it before.
I regret that this papacy appeared to be characterised by una duce, una voce, enforced by Cardinal Ratzinger. There were wonderful titles to so many papal encyclicals. Pope Paul VI issued Gaudium et Spes—Joy and Hope— and that is what young people need. Pope John Paul II issued Veritatis Splendor—The Splendour of Truth— but the truth was often denied. I recently attended a remarkable performance of Brecht’s Galileo in which this great dramatist showed both sides and how troubling and difficult it was for the establishment and ordinary people to accommodate themselves in the complex world that was emerging where man and the earth were not the centre of the universe. It was challenging and shocking but there were people in the Vatican at that stage who knew he was right but they turned their faces against the truth. That is a great pity.
Young people need inspiration, love and the rights of women to be addressed. There are so many problems to be addressed: global warming, population control, AIDS and human sexuality. Everyone says they felt loved by this Pope but I did not. Any Pope who presided over a Vatican where the language of hatred was spewed forth and words such as “virus”, “objectively evil” and “intrinsically immoral” were used was not using the language of love, not to me. On AIDS, the absolute refusal to accept international advice that condoms are essential in the fight against HIV condemns beautiful young, heterosexual men and women in Africa to a horrible death.
I could say much more but I will conclude by saying that I wish the soul of this Pope something that he did not give people like me during the time we shared on this planet — peace. I very much hope that the Holy Spirit, that moves in a mysterious way, will move through the appointment of so many deeply conservative people within the church and find, as it did in the case of that wonderful man Pope John XXIII, a truly Christ-like figure who will lead the church into this challenging century and will find for complex and difficult questions not the simplistic, dogmatic and biblically based answers that we were given under this papacy but, instead, answers that are humane, clear and practical.
Ms O’Meara: On behalf of the Labour Party, I join today’s tribute to an outstanding world leader who passed away a short time ago. As others have said, Pope John Paul II was a truly great leader of the 20th century and at his most inspiring in the way he faced the illness he endured in recent years and in his passing. Any of us who saw his expression on Easter Sunday as he tried to speak to his flock could not have been anything other than moved by his frustration and sense of what appeared to be uselessness but was most certainly not. We have known for some weeks that the Pope was going to pass from us. His humanity and sanctity lived side by side in his endurance in the weeks before his death.
I remember 1979, I was at university in Galway, one of the young people of Ireland. At a certain level I resisted being there but the whole country was mobilised in an extraordinary fashion and there was no way than that my mother in particular would have it any other way than my being on the bus to Galway from our parish at 5 a.m. like everyone else. It was an amazing event to be part of because so few were not part of it.
I agree with Senator Brian Hayes. Thinking about it since, particularly in the last few days, the Pope’s visit was the high point of Irish Catholicism. One could not help noting in the reviews of the era how Bishop Casey and Fr. MichaelCleary were prominent in Galway. We saw what happened afterwards, with the crashing sense of disappointment that so many people felt, particularly the older generation, as the fault lines in the church were starkly revealed, some of which have not yet been resolved. Be that as it may, however, it was an inspiring time and it came back to us clearly last week.
It was an extraordinary thing to see the many millions of people who went to Rome to pay their respects to Pope John Paul II. It was an indication of the life he led in an era of mass communications. He was an outstanding communicator and used the media in a powerful way that allowed his greatness to show. He had the ability to be with many thousands of people in a stadium while reaching across the globe and acting as a truly global leader. That was evident in the manner of the tribute paid to him by many millions of people last week.
I pay tribute to the Irish media for the wonderful coverage of events, particularly the requiem mass on Friday. I listened to “Liveline” and to the many people who phoned in spontaneously to say that they had been at services and gatherings throughout the day to mark the passing of this great man. Despite the fact that we had no day of mourning, and quite a squabble over it, people were willing to join together to mark the Pope’s legacy and note how this great man had touched their lives.
On Friday evening, we were joined in the church in Nenagh by 50 members of the Polish community who were invited to take part in the ceremonies. It was deeply touching to see them participate in a simple but profound way in our parish. It is one of the outstanding memories I will have of this leader.
I will not rehearse as other speakers have successfully done the many achievements of Pope John Paul II. The stand he made for the people of Poland marked a turning of the tide in world events, especially in Europe where the fall of communism resulted in a changed vista. There is no doubt that the Berlin Wall came down as a direct result and that the expansion of the European Union has formed part of the legacy. Pope John Paul II played an outstanding role in European events and will prove a very hard act to follow for whoever succeeds him.
As a female member of the Catholic Church, I have noted with some sadness and disappointment that the expression of women’s ministry has not been allowed to develop under the last papacy. I hope the new millennium will be an era in which a new Pope will allow the expression of women’s ministry to fully play out. In saying as much, I do not wish to detract from the greatness of Pope John Paul II. While sadness and disappointment at some aspects of his papacy do not undermine the tribute I pay to him, I cannot allow the occasion to pass without noting them.
The blight of clerical child abuse here and elsewhere has severely undermined the ministry of the Catholic Church and created a negative dynamic which has yet to be resolved. Having family members in the priesthood as, probably, do many other Members, I am aware of the level of personal hurt caused them as outstanding pastors by the horrendous actions of a number of people within the church. We have yet to reach the point at which the church stands forgiven by the victims of clerical child abuse as was evident from the reaction to Cardinal Law in Rome yesterday. I imagine the reaction was echoed in certain quarters here. Many expected a different type of leadership to be shown from the papacy which has just ended on Aids in Africa and the alienation of the gay community internationally. Many will hope for a different type of leadership from the papacy going forward.
I do not want my comments to undermine a tribute to the extraordinary legacy and outstanding, inspirational leadership of one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century. As Mark Hederman noted on RTE radio last Friday, the passing of Pope John Paul II marks in many ways the passing of the 20th century. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
Ms Ormonde: I record like other Members my small tribute to the significant loss of one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century. I began to think about the loss as I watched the compelling television programmes of the last week. As I witnessed the Pope’s suffering, I was led to conclude that there was a message in it despite the lack of words. I was struck that his message to older people was that they should have hope. He seemed to communicate that he was old and ready for his life in this world to end. It was beautiful. While I am not a great church person, I feel and reflect and what I saw made me reflect about the man.
I bought Time magazine to read about the Pope’s career as I wanted to know about the substance of the man. By age 14, he was orphaned and had no family left and I wondered how many of us could approach in such circumstances his success in creating a way of life. He had to shape it for himself and having begun to work in a quarry, his leadership qualities started to become obvious. Those leadership skills developed further as he worked as an actor to fund his studies. Reading the article in Time, I began to think about how to define “leadership” and concluded that if I ever have to give a lecture on the subject, I will refer to the character and traits of this magnificent man. He did not speak many words, but demonstrated leadership through the strong values of truth, suffering and caring which are no longer held in contemporary Ireland or, indeed, the world. What we have lost with Pope John Paul II is an answer as to how to reach out and bring back a sense of caring.
The Pope reached out when he spoke to the youth though he did not use many words to do so and while few young people go to mass nowadays, they can all talk about Pope John Paul II. I do not remember the previous popes very well, but I know the last one will be remembered long after all of us are no longer here. It is a significant tribute to him. Pope John Paul II gave me an opportunity to reflect on my life, where I stand with my God and where we are all going into the future. He sent us a strong message. While I am saddened by his loss, I am glad he existed to give me the power to reflect on and discuss his values of love, truth and caring in which we so lack today. If he has succeeded in this respect, he will be remembered for centuries.
Mr. J. Phelan: I take the opportunity to join Senators who have expressed their views on the death of Pope John Paul II. As the House was not sitting last week, I took the opportunity to travel to Rome on Thursday and Friday to attend the funeral. As someone who, like thousands in Ireland and elsewhere bears the Pope’s name, I felt it was fitting to follow the very Irish tradition of attending a funeral. I was struck by the number of Irish people I met in Rome and could hardly get over the fact that most of those in St. Peter’s Basilica when I went to view the remains were young. They were around my own age give or take a few years. It was a remarkable tribute to the man that he appealed so greatly to young people.
When I entered the St. Peter’s Basilica on Thursday at approximately 8 p.m., the majority of those in attendance were Polish. The Poles have a particular feeling of loss which is shared in Ireland by those who are Catholic and those who are not. Attending a political meeting in Carlow a number of weeks before he died, it did not strike me as unusual to hear a party member propose that delegates remember the Pope in their prayers until I learned he was the son of a local Church of Ireland rector. The Pope had a tremendous impact on people of other faiths, whether Christian or otherwise. I did not realise the depth of feeling towards him in Judaism and among members of the Islamic community.
Pope John Paul II was the only occupant of the papacy that I have known. Many thousands of people in this country and throughout the world have never known anybody else in this role. One of his greatest attributes was his steadfastness and the fact that he was the one constant in terms of world leadership. We have had five or six American presidents, five or six taoisigh and five or six British prime ministers in that 27 year period yet John Paul II was constantly there. He was a figure that was instantly recognisable throughout the world.
I read the commemorative issue of Time magazine in Gatwick Airport on my way to Rome. The Pope appeared on the cover of that magazine 16 times in 27 years. That was a remarkable achievement for a man who was a spiritual leader. However, he was much more than that; he was also a political leader.
Other Senators have commented on his significant role in the ultimate destruction of communism in eastern Europe. It may have come about in the end but it would not have happened when it did were it not for his influence.
I will remember a number of images and stories of Pope John Paul II. When I got into a taxi in Rome on Thursday evening the taxi driver relayed one story in broken English. About seven or eight hours before the Pope died he summoned the man who had been his photographer for the 27 years he had spent in the Vatican. This man was very upset, as anybody would be in that situation, but the Pope, as the press releases stated, was very serene and told him not to be upset as he was ready and it should be an occasion of joy. That was one thing that struck me in my time in Rome; it was an occasion of joy. I do not think it ever happened before that a homily at a Pope’s funeral was continuously interrupted by rounds of applause. It was a fitting tribute to John Paul II.
As I already said, he was probably the most instantly recognisable face in the world, especially in recent years. I will always remember that his first act in every country he visited, which became difficult in later years, was to kneel down and kiss the ground. He became famous for that gesture. I also remember the images of him on the balcony in the last few days before his death when he could not speak. He gave the sign of the cross in an almost frantic manner to the people congregated there.
An image which will particularly stick with me was one which took place on the day of the funeral. It was a very windy day and the pages of a bible which had been placed on his coffin fanned out in the breeze. It was a moment when the hair stood on the back of my neck.
Dr. Mansergh: I wish to express my deep sympathy and sorrow, not just to the Dean of the College of Cardinals but to members of the Catholic Church in Ireland and elsewhere. Pope John Paul II was a great Christian leader but also a great world religious leader. It is a paradox that in an age which is generally regarded as much more secular than preceding ages, this Pope had more impact on the world than almost any of his predecessors I can think of going back many centuries.
He was a catalyst in the fall of communism. The election of a Polish Pope and the founding of Solidarity, were the first breach in the Iron Curtain. That breach steadily widened over the 1980s. That was an enormous service the Pope rendered, not just to the church but to mankind. It should be noted in passing that because of his experience in Poland he was always, unlike perhaps some of his followers, an enthusiastic supporter of European unity, regardless of any particular difficulties or quarrels about certain issues that might have existed at the time.
I well remember the papal visit to Ireland in 1979 which made an extraordinary impact on the country. I only saw it on television but I was glued to it. This was during the first year of John Paul II’s papacy. It was the only time a serving Pope ever visited Ireland. I was looking at the text of what I consider his most important speaking engagement, which was in Drogheda. First, one notes the very marked ecumenical tone where he spoke of meeting with “our fellow Christians”. He spoke about this truly fraternal and ecumenical act on the part of representatives of the churches who had come to meet him. At later periods perhaps more rigid doctrines were enunciated in his name but I prefer to think of that one or of his meeting which has already been mentioned with the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Pope came from Poland where it was very difficult to find any effective way to struggle against the evils of communist oppression. He knew that violence was not an option. He made a very strong appeal to the IRA to stop its campaign. He did not, as has been stated by some well-known republican columnists, side with the oppressor. I find that an appalling remark. He spoke about the importance of equality and of the importance of the State respecting the rule of law. What he said when he came here will live on in the memory of this country for a long time to come.
All leaders leave problems. Problems are eternal. I wish his successor every success. It may be necessary to look at some problems anew. As far as any criticisms of matters religious, I prefer to concentrate on the beam in my own eye rather than the mote in other people’s eyes. It is a matter for the members of each church to exercise influence in whatever way they see proper.
Mr. Quinn: I thank the House for giving us the opportunity to debate this motion. I regard this occasion as one of celebration of Pope John Paul II’s life rather than one of sadness on his death. The memories we have heard expressed today are great reminders of so many of the things he achieved, but not all of them because we cannot do that.
There is a Latin phrase, “Si monumentum requiris, circumspice”, which means, “If you seek a monument, look about you”. If we seek the monument of Pope John Paul II, we only have to look at his funeral to see his achievement in the recognition of the world.
I was in France in 1958 when Pope Pius XII died and I made my way to Rome for the coronation of Pope John XXIII. I cannot recall ever witnessing the degree of emotion I experienced last week despite the wonderful achievements of Pope John XXIII, the successful Pope Pius XII and the other Popes since. What differentiated him from Popes of the past for people right around the world was the sense of love he engendered, as I heard and saw last week. One has just to think of that funeral to realise the scale of the monument left by Pope John Paul II. As Senator Mansergh said, I do not know whether any Pope has ever made such an impact, as witnessed by so many world and religious leaders coming together to recognise this man.
One of the monuments to his memory is the whole question of bringing churches together. Senator Brian Hayes and others have already referred to the Jewish religion and the Pope’s visit to the synagogue. We have also heard of how he managed to open the doors to Islam, which probably represents a far greater challenge for the future. It was significant that world leaders with whom the Pope had strong differences were present in Rome. He had come out strongly against the war in Iraq, for example, yet those leaders who felt obliged to go to war with Iraq also attended the funeral.
Pope John Paul II did not succeed in everything, such as the arguments he made against those who were not supportive of his views on world poverty. However, on the question of abolishing debt he was an inspiration to so many others. That word, “inspiration”, was highly visible last week right around the world in terms of the response of young people. The Pope faced many challenges during his difficult 26 years in office and he had some wonderful successes. He was one of the fomenters of the movement to abolish the communist dictatorship that had existed in Europe since the early part of the last century. We applaud this man and what he achieved, as well as the manner in which he achieved it. Every time a leader changes, whether on a football field, in politics or business, the impact of the new leader may be seen. When Pope John Paul II took office we did not know what to expect of a Polish Pope.
This is a day for celebration. I am disappointed by the contribution of Senator Norris, for whom I have great respect and I know he speaks sincerely. However, today is not a time to use words such as “simplistic”, “dogmatic” and “hatred”, as he did. I am disappointed he did that because I am sure everyone may be criticised when they die for the many things at which they were not successful. Pope John Paul II achieved a great deal, nonetheless. He did not achieve everything, neither did he set out with the belief that he could I am sure. He worked in a manner which could not be criticised as being ambivalent. If we recall his words in Drogheda in 1979, there was great clarity and sincerity in what he said. I was in the Pro-Cathedral last week when Archbishop Neill finished speaking and the congregation burst into applause. I detected the same type of spontaneity when the words santo subito, a saint soon, were called out in St. Peter’s Square last week. I am not sure whether Pope John Paul II will be a saint soon, but I know the emotion and enthusiasm for this exists and the inspiration the Pope engendered assures he will be one at some point in the future.
Mr. Glynn: I am greatly privileged to have lived during the lifetime of a great Pope and great Christian such as Pope John Paul II. I recall 1979, not long after the local elections in which I was successful, going with my wife and eldest daughter, then aged four, to see the Pope at Knock. My daughter remembers that with great pride and, despite her age at the time, can recall the sense of motivation to identify with what he espoused in his lifetime, not alone as the leader of the church, but as a priest. No chasm was too wide for Pope John Paul II to extend his hand across. He was a unifying force, as the champion of the underprivileged, the downtrodden, the marginalised. Those attributes were displayed not least in the championing of the freedom of his own people. The Polish people were very proud of him, and rightly so. So were the Irish people. As one of them I am very proud of him.
The words Pope John Paul II uttered to the young people of Ireland were not lost. As a number of speakers have said this was borne out in the numbers that turned up to pay him tribute. He did not follow a populist line and I regret my colleague, Senator Norris, made some of the comments he did. If that is how he feels, so be it. I certainly do not agree. I believe the Pope was a most courageous man. He was on the side of right and was not afraid to call a spade a spade. He exuded a great sense of magnetism when he came into a room, like a diamond reflecting the sunlight. There is no other way to describe him. He had a great capacity to relate to people and to take on board and say what should be said in the face of opposition. Much of that opposition came from strong international leaders. The stamina of those who turned up to pay their last tributes to one of the greatest people we shall ever witness was testament to the fact they would miss a man who had brought about so much change and was such a beacon of hope for the marginalised.
One of the great pains of Pope John Paul II’s papacy was the question of clerical abuse. He carried his mission, service and duty as a priest right to the end. The frustration he felt when he was unable to speak in carrying out his pastoral duty before his death, as seen on television, was testament to the man’s motivation. In many ways he was a simple man. This was a simplicity not in the sense that he was simple; he was simple in a great way. It could be said that his greatness lay in his simplicity and that his simplicity was his greatness. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
Mr. Cummins: I join with my colleagues in these tributes to Pope John Paul II. When one thinks of his predecessors, the image that comes to mind is of a Pope being carried on his throne through the Vatican. It was Pope John Paul II who dispensed with this practice. By doing so, he showed himself for what he always was — a man of the people. Throughout his papacy, he showed himself as a humble and prayerful man, who touched the hearts of many. He took the gospel’s words, “go forth among the nations of the world” to heart by travelling to some 140 nations, touching people’s hearts. His ecumenicism came into play on these visits when he reached out to other churches, other faiths and non-believers. He will be remembered by this, as evidenced through the numbers from other faiths who attended his funeral.
Limerick has not yet been mentioned in the tributes of his visit to Ireland. In 1979, as a newly elected councillor, I remember going with the other members of the city council to meet the Pope in Limerick. Like all the other venues on the visit, it was an absolutely wonderful occasion, one that will live on in the hearts and minds of those who were there. Galway was another wonderful venue for the youth and some Members referred to Bishop Casey and Father Cleary being there. Pope John Paul II would be the first to forgive anyone their transgressions. Did he not forgive the man who attempted to assassinate him?
Last week people chanted “santo subito”. Whether sooner or later, it makes no difference because I believe Pope John Paul II will always be a saint in the minds and hearts of the many people who came in contact with him. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
Ms K. Walsh: On the day Pope John Paul II visited Maynooth in 1979, my husband was on duty and we had the privilege of meeting him. When he saw my husband in uniform, he told him he was a guardian of the peace. I will always remember those words. The Pope realised and appreciated the role of the Garda in protecting us, our society and our values. His words show how much he thought of Ireland and Irish values. It is fitting that we honour his achievements in life on a global scale and his influence on individuals and their personal lives.
The Roman Catholic Church and the entire world has lost a great friend and leader. The Pope’s dedication to championing the ideas of human values, human dignity and the needs of the world’s poorest must not be forgotten. All politicians and leaders must consider these ideals when they make decisions that shape society. Pope John Paul II prayed for us and our leaders and urged them to take the practical steps to help those suffering. Not everyone agreed with the late Pope but Catholics and non-Catholics have expressed a genuine sense of loss in his passing, a testament to his greatness. Slán go fóill.
Mr. Coghlan: I too wish to be associated with these warm tributes. It is lovely to be reminded of the many significant events in the life of Pope John Paul II as recounted by Members. I was struck by the manner in which he approached people of other faiths. He had a way of dealing affectionately with those with whom he disagreed, often very fundamentally. However, no one left with any feeling of bitterness. If Senator Norris and Pope John Paul II had met, they would have got on fine and certainly would not have had any rows. They might have found they had more in common than having any differences. As all Members know well, Senator Norris is a great actor.
The Holy Father was a remarkable and wonderful man, a great leader, a colossus of the 20th century. Henry Kissinger described him as the greatest man of the last century. He was also recognised as one of the great Popes. His teachings and communications skills were absolutely superb and he rightly made a great impact. His great faith underlined his very being.
To many Karol Wojtyla was always a theatrical type. As a young man he wrote plays and worked in theatre. He never lost his touch and when he became Pope it was commented that he knew how to make them gasp in the stalls. Senator Norris would very much admire this. When arriving in a country for the first time, the Pope made a habit of kissing the ground. He kissed and held up babies better than any politician.
In 1979 he told his fellow countrymen not to be afraid, to be strong with love which is stronger than death. Ten years later communism collapsed, its rotten foundations exposed largely due to this great man. Stalin mockingly asked once of a previous Pope how many divisions he had. Pope John Paul II was the man who contributed to bringing down the Iron Curtain without any bloodshed. He helped and facilitated the emergence of the democratic, united Europe we have now.
His funeral was probably the largest ever seen, with 4 million passing his body while it lay in state and attending Friday’s funeral mass. Like Senator Cummins, I remember being in Limerick when the Pope visited. At the time I was not involved in politics. Like so many people, we travelled early in the morning to be at the Limerick racecourse for that remarkable occasion.
It is time for a final and definitive answer to the Pope’s plea in Drogheda to those engaged in paramilitarism to lay down their arms. The Pope was one the greats who changed the political map of Europe. I hope all Members will subscribe to the chant “santo subito”.
Ms Feeney: I am delighted to remember the wonderful week of celebration we had for the life of his Holiness, Pope John Paul II. I could not get enough of radio and television during last week. I was touched by the display of respect shown at the Pope’s death. Little matters, such as the music played between broadcast programmes, the way different presenters dressed, their voices serene and peaceful, were respectful and dignified the mournful week we were going through. I congratulate all involved, particularly RTE, our national broadcaster. I watched and listened to more RTE broadcasts last week than ever before. It was as if something had overtaken the country; one could not get enough of what was being said about His Holiness, Pope John Paul II. It is sad that he is no longer with us but there is also a sense of joy that he is now at peace. He went to his death with great courage.
Almost all Members have referred to 1979. Although I was not an altar server like Senator Brian Hayes, I was a bride of three weeks. I well remember Saturday, 29 September that year. I had come from Sligo on the train the previous night. Being 21 years old and newly married, we had no car. My late husband was from Terenure and that morning we walked from there to Rathfarnham with my father-in-law. There was a special air that morning. It was almost as if the world had stopped. People were nice and kind; everybody was happy. Travel on the buses was free and there were long bus queues. If there was not enough room on a bus people were happy to wait for the next one. There was a great sense that it was a special day.
I remember looking at people in the Phoenix Park waving their flags and crying as His Holiness arrived by helicopter. I remember thinking: “Am I really here?” At 21 years of age, and even today, I was not a terribly religious person but I had a faith and I was delighted to have that faith. I belonged to a church and I got a lump in my throat with pride to be part of that church. I was particularly proud of the special visit being made by this man. I knew little about him and, to my shame, I did not find out a great deal about him in his 26-year pontificate. It was only after he died that I realised what a wonderful, special, meaningful man he was.
There is a petition to have Pope John Paul II canonised. I do not doubt that it will happen but regardless of whether it does, he will always be my saint. He is the man I will look to in future when I need somebody to look after me. I remember when he travelled around the Phoenix Park in the “Popemobile”. One was ten yards away from him but one felt his eyes were only looking at oneself and that he had picked one out of the crowd. He is the person who comes to mind when people talk about a person who has a real presence. The same thing is said about Nelson Mandela. I have never met Mr. Mandela but, for me, Pope John Paul II had that special presence.
This is a time to remember the church and to reflect on what it is. It is also a time to think of the Vatican and the important job the cardinals will now undertake on Monday, 18 April, when the conclave begins. It is not an easy job; it will not be easy to fill the shoes of Pope John Paul II. This is also a time to think of the Polish people, particularly those living in Ireland.
Last Sunday week, the day after Pope John Paul II died, I had a special need to return to the papal cross in the Phoenix Park. I could see, miles from the cross, where I might have been located that day in 1979. I smiled and thought: “Imagine I thought he could see me down there.” However, I also remembered that wherever he is now, it is a better place than where he has been, given his health, for the last five years. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilís.
Mr. Moylan: It is great to speak on this motion of sympathy. I thank the Leader for affording all Members of the House an opportunity to put on record their tribute to the late Pope John Paul II. There is no time limit on this discussion.
I remember the visit of Pope John Paul II to this country. It was a crowded schedule and he visited many parts of the country. He was in the Phoenix Park, Limerick, Galway, Dundalk, Maynooth, Knock and Clonmacnoise in my native county. It was a great honour to be present that morning in Clonmacnoise with one’s family to meet the Pope on his first visit to this country. Clonmacnoise, as the Pope acknowledged, is a holy place of learning and its monastery produced many missionaries to spread the Catholic faith around the world.
I watched television on Easter Sunday, when His Holiness came to the window of his apartment. It was moving that he was unable to speak, even to say goodbye. The television and radio coverage of his death was outstanding. Great credit is due to our national broadcaster for its coverage. It gave the elderly and the housebound an opportunity to see the funeral of Pope John Paul II.
The Pope was leader of our church for 26 years. He was probably the greatest leader of all time of any state or church. That was recognised by the attendance of world leaders at the funeral to pay their last respects. The television coverage described his life in Poland. He lived during troubled times. He came from a humble background and had to work hard as a young man. He had many brushes with death during the difficult war years. He also survived an attempt on his life. He certainly must have had the guiding hand of the Lord to survive that attempt and to get through the dangerous times in Poland.
As one watched the television coverage, it was hard to imagine the difficult times in Poland. However, things were also difficult in this country 26 years ago. The Pope showed great leadership in the church. He achieved many changes. There was great involvement of lay people in the church during his pontificate. I accept that he was let down by a small percentage of people during his time as leader of our great church but nobody was more disappointed than he. I thank the Leader for affording us the opportunity to express our sympathy on the death of our Holy Father.
Mr. O’Toole: I would like to be associated with the sentiments expressed about the Pope. In Ireland, we have a long tradition of not speaking ill of the dead and of celebrating their lives. In my personal response to the Pope’s death, I thought of the things that inspired me, annoyed me and entertained me. An occasion like this is like an Irish funeral, which we do very well. We think back on someone’s life and we think of those things that pleased us, those things about which we argued and those things which fell between the two. In celebrating someone’s life, we must recognise that there are many great people with whom we have disagreed over the years. The fact that Shakespeare may have been great does not mean that one agreed with every word he wrote. There were many great philosophers with whom I would disagree completely on some issues. However, I would stillrecognise their ability and their contribution to debate.
The situation is similar with Pope John Paul II. He was squeezed out of oppression and the most difficult background imaginable. He lived through that and maintained dignity and respect at all times. It is true that there were issues on which I felt let down. I felt let down on his attitudes towards women, especially the ordination of women priests. As far as I recall, he was opposed at one stage to alter girls. On the other hand, I got a great lift from his extraordinary commitment to peace in the world. That is something he learned in his youth. He had the courage to take on one of those fights which he knew he could not win, when he publicly took on the might of the US and the UK in both wars in the Middle East in the past 15 years. That is where people like me saw the other side of him.
I regret that he did not buy into the liberation theology of South America. At the same time, we should not be surprised to find that the Pope was a Catholic, nor should we be surprised to find that there were different views within the broader church. He created strong debate and he reached out to groups around the globe that had never previously felt connected. He gave a space to other groups and people, through the number of saints created and the number of cardinals appointed from parts of the world that never previously had a cardinal. He was also the first media Pope. When he came down those steps in 1979 to kiss the ground of Ireland, we were all stunned. When he reached out in Ballybrit in County Galway and said, “Young people of Ireland, I love you”, we were stunned by the words. He had the ability to bring us into the general debate and that is where is greatness lies.
Pope John Paul II will be remembered for the challenges he threw down. He will remembered as a Pope who created a discussion on issues that were never discussed previously and as someone who had a great commitment to peace. To me, he will always be the great peacemaker. One of his defining qualities was the way he reached out to people who were not part of the church. He took a stand for peace, even when he knew he could not win. He was clearly committed to a more inclusive, global society. The fact that he did not move quickly enough for me is my problem, not his. It does not take from his contribution. I recognise a great statesman and leader, with whom I disagreed in many ways. May he rest in peace.
Mr. Leyden: We all should feel inadequate when speaking about this great man. Pope John Paul II was a real spiritual leader who had a most spiritual death. I went to the Phoenix Park to that great event in 1979 where I met Seán McBride. I also saw Oliver J. Flanagan in all his finery. He went on to Knock to meet the Pope there, which was the centre of his visit to Ireland.
John Paul II was born on 18 May 1920 and died on 3 April 2005. He had a wonderful life and made a wonderful contribution to the world. On his election, the then head of the KGB, Yuri Andropov, warned his leader that there could be trouble ahead. How far-seeing he was. The Pope heralded the beginning of the end of communism following his election.
There was a famous film released in 1968 called “The Shoes of the Fisherman”, which was based on a novel by Morris West. The author predicted that there would be a Russian Pope. Mr. West wrote an article in 1999 which was to be published after the Pope’s death and which was published last week in The New York Times. The article gives an analysis of the papacy from his research for the novel.
I also had the great honour of meeting the Pope in a private audience on 22 March 1989 with my wife and children. It was a wonderful experience. When he entered the room on that day, it was lit up by his spirituality. He was a deeply spiritual man and that was the most impressive aspect of what he stood for. It came from his whole approach to life. He served so well for so long, but in his death he also gave great example to everyone in the world. He served and made a contribution to the very end. He showed the worth of someone from conception to death. He showed that he was pro-life in every sense of the word. By his very approach to his own death, he showed that he was pro-life to the very end.
There was an attempt made to assassinate the Pope in 1981. He met the man who shot him, he offered his hand and he forgave him for what he did. The man is still serving a prison sentence in Turkey, but the Pope still offered him a hand of friendship.
John Paul II’s approach to the Jewish religion was extraordinary. There were 2,000 Jews in his home town, along with 8,000 Catholics. He supported the Jews there and he later apologised in Jerusalem for any wrongs done to the Jews by any Catholic. That was a courageous thing to do. He deplored anti-Semitism and was truly great in that regard. He also tried to reunite the eastern churches, such as the Russian Orthodox Church and the Greek Orthodox Church. He tried to support them regarding the one true religion that is shared throughout the world.
The coverage on television of his death and his funeral was extraordinary. We now have satellite television covering the globe and the coverage was unreal. The Pope’s contribution to this world was quite extraordinary.
I express my thanks to the Leader for having given us an opportunity to express our sympathy to the church on the death of this great pontiff. This debate is the sole item of business today. It is a special, historic and remarkable day for all of us in this House to be able to share in the expressions of sympathy on the death of a great pontiff.
Dr. Henry: I thank the Leader for having given us the opportunity to speak to this motion and express our sympathy on the death of the Pope. We must remember, however, that there is also an element of celebration involved. Pope John Paul II was an elderly man who obviously believed in the life everlasting and, therefore, I would have thought that, for him, death represented a moment of moving on to a higher plane, rather than just leaving this life.
Pope John Paul II was an extraordinary man in that he was improved by adversity. He had experienced a tragic life both in childhood and as a young man, losing his mother and brother before his 12th birthday and then his father, whom he deeply loved and admired, before his 20th birthday. His courage seemed to have been increased by the terrible times he experienced under the Nazi occupation of Poland and later under communism.
I was in Poland when the late Pope was Archbishop of Krakow. On that occasion I attended mass and went to the Lutheran Church on the same morning. Both services were packed. I said to my guide afterwards that I believed 95% of people in Poland went to church. He replied, “It’s a lie, 100% go”.
Dr. Henry: I saw the power that he and fellow Christian leaders like him had in shaping Poland then. Many European political leaders were extremely lucky that Karol Wojtila had a priestly vocation. One can imagine what he could have done on the European political stage with his wonderful linguistic skills. He would have put everyone in the shade had he been a member of the European Parliament, perhaps even its President.
It distressed me to see Senator Quinn, who has received a papal honour, so upset by what Senator Norris had to say. I suppose Senator Norris feels very excluded. I must say, however, that Pope John XXIII had a marvellous method of making everyone feel included but we must remember that people bring forward their missions in different ways. Like Senator Norris, I am a great admirer of Archbishop Oscar Romero who, after all, gave his life on the altar of his cathedral for his belief in what should be done for the poor. It is odd to see his statue outside Westminster Abbey, a Protestant location. It would be nice to think that the late archbishop will shortly be honoured.
I particularly want to mention, as did Senator Ormonde, the way in which Pope John Paul II bore himself approaching death. Parkinson’s disease is not a funny matter, it is a tough disease, and the Pope bore it so bravely right to the end. He kept trying to communicate despite having to deal with a laryngectomy. It was incredible that he was still able to communicate despite his physical ailments.
We must all remember that during his last illness his wishes were respected by those around him. When he said that he would not return to hospital this, too, was respected. This is an important point because there are many of us, even in my own profession, who are far too likely to be interventionist. It is important to remember also that for those of us who believe in the life everlasting, death is, after all, only moving from one stage to another. I respect the way in which Pope John Paul II approached his death. What an example he gave to all of us in the way he did so.
Mr. Wilson: I am glad of the opportunity to join with my colleagues in paying tribute to the life of the great John Paul II, our Pope. The theme of his papacy was “Be not afraid”. He was an inspiration to us all — the young, the old and especially in recent years the very sick. I had the privilege of studying in Maynooth with a number of young men who went on to become priests around the country. Thankfully, I have maintained contact with them over the years. Having spoken to them recently, I know that they were saddened by the Pope’s passing. As Catholics and Christians, we are sad at the death of our leader but they are sad at the death of their father. His death has had that kind of impact on those priests who are still relatively young men.
Senator Quinn used a Latin quotation but I will use the English form: “If you seek his monument, look around you.” I would say, “If you seek his monuments, look around you”. Those monuments included the millions of people who flocked to Rome to pay their respects, as well as the leaders of different world religions who attended the papal funeral. Another monument could be seen in the fact that world leaders — some of whose countries are currently at war — sat side by side at last Friday’s funeral in Rome.
The physical monuments include the Papal Cross in the Phoenix Park, which marks John Paul II’s visit here in 1979, and the John Paul II Library in Maynooth — the seat of ecclesiastical learning in this country for centuries. During his visit to Ireland in 1979, the Pope blessed the foundation stone of that library. Many housing estates throughout the country bear the name of Pope John Paul II. I recall, in particular, the John Paul Avenue estate in Cavan, where a monument will be erected in his memory by the local authority in the coming weeks. In addition, many hundreds of young men——
On his visit to this country in 1979, the Pope spoke many thousands of words, some of which I can still recall. I was a young person at the time, so it meant so much to me too when the Pope said, “Young people of Ireland, I love you”. That phrase will always remain in my mind until my dying day. We can all remember the Pope’s other statement when, addressing the men of violence, he said, “On my knees, I beg you, turn away from the path of violence”. Thankfully, we have lived to see the path to peace being extended and hopefully we will have everlasting peace here before very long.
I wish to re-express my deepest sympathy to the Dean of the College of Cardinals in Rome, as well as to Cardinal Connell, Archbishop Seán Brady and all the priests and religious in Ireland. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dhílis.
Labhrás Ó Murchú: Beidh an comhbhrón agus an ceiliúradh i gcónaí i dteannta a chéile nuair a bheas trácht ar an Phápa Naofa seo — comhbhrón toisc go bhfuil ceannaire agus cara imithe uainn, agus ceiliúradh toisc gur mhaireamar sa tréimhse ghlórmhar seo. Is féidir linn i gcónaí a rá go pearsanta gur thug sé misneach dúinn ar shlí amháin nó slí eile seasamh ar son na spioradáltachta agus é sin a léiriú go misniúil. Ag an am céanna, sheas sé linn, agus sheas sé an fód in am an ghátair, rud a bhí thar a bheith tábhachtach go minic, mar níl aon amhras faoi go raibh dúshlán ann gach lá don Phápa seo.
The outpouring of grief and admiration we have experienced in recent times and in the House today underlines in a special way for all of us how privileged we have been to have lived in this era. I read the Pope’s biography a few years ago and was struck by how simplicity and complexity could live so comfortably together in the character of one person. The simplicity was evident in the faith he inherited and practised in his own environment while the complexity was embodied in the manner in which he endeavoured to come to grips with responsibilities from the time when he was a priest and a bishop, right up to when he became the supreme pontiff. Love of neighbour and of country were in many ways the foundation of the Christianity practised by the Pope.
In an ironic way, Senator Norris paid his own tribute to the Pope. It was important to say what he felt and to feel the freedom to say it. The Pope must have been hurt so often during his term as the supreme pontiff when he was trying to preach the Gospel without compromise, as he understood it. If he had done otherwise, would we now admire him so much? He was not a politician in a party political sense, or someone who could personally change what he believed was the message of Christ. I often wondered at how that great responsibility could be carried so consistently for so long and I realised that he did so partly because he was walking in the footsteps of Christ. He gave us the courage to be spiritual and to manifest that spirituality in a temporal world. As a spiritual leader, that was the great gift he bestowed on us.
If one is to admire anyone, it is important to try to emulate that person’s life and try to understand and follow the message, which in this case the Pope so clearly enunciated. I read an article by Bruce Arnold in a newspaper the day after the Pope’s funeral. The heading was quite stark: “The church must now come to grips with reality”. I thought that a little premature and that some further time might be allowed. I was also taken aback at how quickly we rushed into what was perhaps a vacuum created by the sorrow, with references to the inadequacies and abuses of the church while at the same time failing to acknowledge the wonderful people we have had in the church, the great brothers, priests and nuns who gave service in Ireland and throughout the world. They were in the majority. Each time I hear this debate I have to put my hand on my heart and say that I never noticed or experienced many of the inadequacies which now seem to be supreme in every debate.
That is the reality the church must face, the deep wellspring of spirituality in every individual, whether Catholic or non-Catholic, which can be tapped through example. The greatest sermon Pope John Paul II gave us was not a sermon of words but the example of the manner in which he accepted his suffering. Almost everyone sitting in front of a television in recent years saw the great distress the Pope was feeling, but he was determined not only to follow in the footsteps of Christ but to give hope and inspiration to the less fortunate.
The Pope was not only a man of God but a man of peace and justice. This House has had many great debates about the terrible things happening in the world. The Pope never compromised himself whether with President Bush, Tony Blair or anyone else. He stated matters as he understood and interpreted them. That gave many of us courage to do likewise. Too often, nations compromise themselves for mercenary gain in partnership with other countries. There are times when we must draw back from that and ask the great questions. Why are there millions dying of hunger and of AIDS? Why can the world not marshal the same forces, support and power which we can in time of war? As Senator Dardis said, the Pope showed that the just war is out of date and that we must now make war on the vulnerability of people, on helplessness and poverty. If we are to emulate the Pope in the future, these are the issues on which we must focus.
I thank the Leader for this opportunity. This day will go down as one of the memorable occasions in the House when we could all join together in common cause. We have sown the seeds for positive thinking and action in the future.
Mr. Callanan: I feel inadequate to make any contribution to this debate but I feel obliged to make one. I thank the Leader for providing the opportunity this afternoon to express words and thoughts, which have mostly been kind, in memory of the late Pope John Paul II. While I defend the right of people, including Senator Norris, to say what they want to say, it does not follow that I agree with what is said. I take great solace and support from the millions of people who showed their expressions of sympathy and care for the man to whom we are now paying tribute.
Pope John Paul II was born in poor circumstances to a poor family, like many in this country and around the world for whom he spoke so eloquently and to whom he gave such great leadership. He saw what Naziism and Stalinism were and saw the impoverishment they brought to Europe and his own country. He was ordained a priest and was elevated through the ranks of the church to archbishop and finally to the position of Pope. I remember when he was elected Pope. Like all here, I recall his visit to Ireland. I was at Limerick racecourse. The Pope did not come to Cork, although some of the councillors there felt he should have come to Mallow racecourse as well. Millions flocked to the various centres he visited in Ireland in order to meet this great man. I am not sure that we all recognised at that time the quality of the person we were going to see, but a Pope was visiting Ireland for the firsttime.
Pope John Paul II travelled the world. He brought his message openly, fairly and, as Senator Ó Murchú said, without compromise, which was only right as leader of the Church. I do not expect a Pope to compromise on matters of principle, faith or doctrine. When he addressed world leaders and disagreed with them, as he did a number of times, he showed tremendous leadership.
The millions who watched the funeral in Rome, young and old, were sad and felt the loss of a great leader. Pope John Paul II was for me the greatest man who walked this earth as a world and church leader. It would not be unfair to say that he is a difficult act to follow. The next Pope must be his own person and ensure his own style of leadership.
I did not realise I could say so much as I had nothing prepared. However, I felt obliged to say a few words. I join my colleagues in the expression of appreciation to God for giving us Pope John Paul II. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
Mr. Lydon: I was attending the 112th Interparliamentary Union assembly in Manila when I learnt of the Pope's death. When PresidentGloria Macapagal-Arroyo opened the assembly attended by Deputies and Senators of all religions and none from 145 countries, and from dictatorships, principalities, monarchies, socialist and communist countries, all as one stood as a mark of respect to this man. The long period of silence was amazing.
On the day in October 1978 when he became Pope, John Paul II had a great message. The message of this “servant of the servants of God” was the call of Christ to his disciples, “Be not afraid”. The Pope said:
The world, Pope John Paul II reflected, was afraid of itself and its future. To all those who are afraid and to all those caught in the great loneliness of the modern world, he said, “I ask you . . . . . I beg you, let Christ speak to [you]. He alone has the words of life, yes, eternal life.”
The Yugoslav dissident Milovan Djilas once said that what most impressed him about Pope John Paul II was that he was a man utterly without fear. His fearlessness was not stoic, nor was it a consequence of Karol Wojtyla's “autonomy” as a person independent of others. It was an unmistakably Christian fearlessness. In Christian faith fear is not eliminated but transformed, through a profound personal encounter with Christ and His cross — the place where all human fear was offered by the Son to the Father, setting us all free from fear.
Pope John Paul II produced so many writings that it is impossible to refer to more than one or two. In his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, he had a simple message which we all know but seldom believe:
Pope John Paul II lived the papacy, faithful to the Lord's promise to St. Peter that when you are old people will put a belt around you and lead you where you do not wish to go. His suffering and vulnerability before millions became part of his teaching office. It was apparent to all that his authority did not depend merely on his charismatic gifts, rather on his willingness to speak the truth, popular or unpopular, in season or out of season. He was no mere celebrity. He did not care what people thought of him. His strength came from being passionate about the Gospel.
Karol Wojtyla will never again see the rising sun but will, I believe firmly, for all eternity see the risen Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. With Jesus, the Holy Spirit and God the Father he will live in the presence of the Holy Trinity in perfect peace. May God bless you, Pope John Paul the Great, and thank you for the great legacy you have given to our troubled world.
I encountered this man three times. Each time I realised the great strength he had. He was the first man to reach out, to go to Canterbury Cathedral and to pray in a mosque. He addressed 10,000 young Muslims in Morocco. He visited a synagogue. He was a man who reached out and gave us hope. Go raibh sé i measc na naomh chun Dia a ghlóiriú go deo.
Mr. Hanafin: The world lost a great leader on the death of Pope John Paul II on Saturday, 2 April 2005. His was a unique papacy. It was an honour and privilege to live at the same time as him. When Karol Wojtyla was elected Pope the world was a very different place. His was the hour and he was the man, a man sent by God.
Karol Wojtyla was cardinal of Krakow. This is interesting in that Krakow is very near Auschwitz-Birkenau, the place of humanity's greatest crime. In the Pope, a shining light came from Krakow to do wonderful things during his papacy. He was a very strong man who followed the Christian tradition and upheld the Catholic Church to its finest and nth degree. For that we should all be grateful.
Pope John Paul II educated us in many different ways. I think of one way in which he will continue to educate me for the rest of my life. Although he said he left nothing in his will — he left no personal effects — he has left us a wealth of information, of encyclicals and of words we should listen to and put into practice. Here in Ireland he asked us to keep away from violence. He asked us to uphold the best traditions of morality and to ensure that Ireland did not waver from the faith. We should remember this. It was not the first time that someone from Poland saved Europe on behalf of Christianity. King John of Poland stopped the Turks at the gates of Vienna during the Middle Ages. However, this time it went the other way as Pope John Paul II freed eastern Europe. That should be remembered. When Solidarity members were at the gates of Gdansk facing Soviet troops who were prepared to use their tanks, the Pope said, “Tell them I will be standing there with the workers”. All of Stalin’s tanks were useless against the Pope of Rome. He prevailed and eastern Europe is free.
Part of the Pope’s legacy is his request to us to remember that Europe extends from the Atlantic to the Urals and, therefore, his work must continue. He has left Europe a freer and better place. However, he not only took on communism but also unbridled capitalism and injustice done to the developing world by wealthier nations. He was not afraid to speak out against communism or the wars in Iran and Iraq. He was unbiased in preaching the Christian message regardless of the opposition, which many of us would have looked on as insurmountable but it was not to him. As previous speakers stated, he was working and following the path of Christ.
I refer to the way he educated me about the role of women. He said Mary was the mother of the church. There is no higher position in the church than the unblemished, the pure Mary. He reminded us of that and for those who ask about the position of women in the church, the Pope said there is no higher, finer or greater position than mother of the church. Let us remember that.
While he argued for compassion and justice for the vulnerable worldwide, Pope John Paul II conserved faithfully the teaching of the church. He was a great defender of human life, whether it be loss by abortion, war, euthanasia or judicial execution. He upheld the family based on lifelong marriage and he said what he had so say, whether society regarded his views as politically correct. He condemned the sin, not the sinner.
The past four decades have brought unprecedented change in all our lives on the national and international scene. Surging demographic and technological changes have affected every area of our lives but this has often been accompanied by excessive human conceit, arrogance and moral confusion. Pope John Paul II provided us with a clear guide. He cleared the path for us and showed us the light and for that we should be grateful. He sought compassion for those who are less well off and he supported the alleviation of debt in the third world. He left no personal goods. We were fortunate to have had the guidance of such a wonderful navigator for many years. The world will miss him sorely but he has left a great deal behind to guide us. May he rest in peace.
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