31 março 2006

317) O maior estadista do século XX...e (até agora) do XXI também

No próximo dia 2 de abril fará um ano do falecimento do Papa João Paulo II, conhecido, antes de 1978, quando foi eleito na sucessão de João Paulo I, como Cardeal Karol Woytilla, polonês de origem, homem que conheceu boa parte das tragédias do século XX, nas quais sua Polônia natal esteve involuntariamente e invariavelmente envolvida.
A implosão do comunismo foi estruturalmente provocada pelo seu anacronismo econômico e sua decrepitude política, mas se houve alguma centelha que começou a incendiar a pradaria esta foi, sem dúvida, muito antes da "glasnost" de Mikhail Gorbachev, a mensagem do Papa sobre a liberdade fundamental do ser humano, negada pelo sistema comunista da então União Soviética (passou desta para pior, com a ajuda dele...).
Creio que devemos reconhecer, tanto para a própria época quanto post-factum, quando temos o benefício do chamado hindsight, que ele foi um dos maiores estadistas do século XX, provavelmente tão grande quanto Roosevelt ou Churchill, com a vantagem de não dispor o papa de nenhuma divisão blindada -- como perguntaria Stalin --, armado como ele sempre esteve de sua simples força moral, de seu exemplo e de sua palavra. Talvez por isso mesmo ele provavelmente foi o maior estadista do século XX (e até agora também do nosso), dentro todos aqueles que moldaram o mundo como ele existe hoje. Karol mobilizou corações e mentes, não soldados, mas sua eficácia foi talvez decisiva no grande reordenamento mundial a que assistimos nas duas últimas décadas do século XX, vinte anos que abalaram o mundo.
Salve João Paulo II, que sua memória possa nos iluminar.

PS: Artigo de opinião no New York Times deste domingo:

The Road to Canonization Is Paved With Humanity
Published: April 2, 2006

SANTO subito!" shouted the crowds in St. Peter's Square at the funeral of Pope John Paul II, who died a year ago today. For a moment it seemed like the church might dispense with its arduous canonization procedures and declare John Paul a saint before the adoring throngs had even left Rome. But Pope Benedict XVI is nothing if not a lover of tradition — and Catholic tradition demands a careful investigation into whether a candidate for sainthood lived a life of "heroic virtue," not to mention hard-nosed proof of two miracles.

As with many traditions, it wasn't always so. Christians martyred under Roman persecution were honored almost immediately after their deaths, with local Christians commemorating the anniversaries of their martyrdom. Until around the 12th century, local churches and bishops made saints, not Rome. But in 1170, Pope Alexander III sent a stinging missive to King Canute of Sweden, berating a bishop for tolerating devotion to a local saint who, Alexander believed, had been killed in a drunken brawl. Thereafter no public veneration could take place without the approval of the pope, and the Vatican began to assume control of canonizations to ensure that the saints were, well, saintly.

Little wonder that in today's popular imagination, the saints are a dull lot: ascetic types who, when not on their knees in prayer, doled out gruel to the poor or founded religious orders. Hardly the sorts one would want to spend a weekend with. For some devout Catholics, the saints were perfect. And perfect means boring.

But even a cursory perusal of the lives of the saints reveals otherwise. When Thomas Aquinas, the great medieval theologian, decided to enter the Dominican order in the 13th century, his family was enraged. (They preferred the more prestigious Benedictines.) His mother ordered Thomas's brothers to waylay him on a roadside, kidnap him and toss him into the dungeon of the family castle.

While he languished in his cell, his family sent Thomas a prostitute to tempt him from his vocation. Thomas seized a burning poker from the fireplace and chased her out of the room. Finally worn out, his family relented and allowed Thomas to enter the Dominican order in 1245. The life of Thomas Aquinas was many things. Dull is not one of them.

Most of the saints and blesseds were also not, contrary to contemporary stereotypes, humorless. "I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints," sang Billy Joel a few decades ago. Yet it is unlikely that the saints would have attracted many followers without vibrant personalities and a sense of humor like that of Pope John XXIII, who was beatified, the step before canonization, in 2000. When once asked by a journalist how many people worked in the Vatican, John replied, "About half of them."

Saints were flawed, too. For this reason, it is unfortunate that some of John Paul's admirers wrongly see posthumous admissions of the late pope's shortcomings as blots on his saintly copybook. The saints were neither perfect nor divine — they were refreshingly human. They could be disagreeable and even testy.

When Francis of Assisi stumbled upon a small house that his Franciscan brothers had fashioned for themselves, he became enraged at what he saw as their luxurious lifestyle, clambered onto the roof and began tearing the building apart. As the saying goes, the martyrs are sometimes the ones who live with the saints.

John Paul, though a prayerful man of unshakeable faith, was not perfect either. Despite his many towering achievements in the church and on the world's political stage, there were some things he left undone during his long pontificate. He was unable to stanch the flow of Catholics from the church in Western Europe; he failed to make some women (not to mention many gays and lesbians) feel welcome in the church; he appointed most of the bishops responsible for the sexual abuse crisis in this country; and he presided over a curia that sometimes failed to treat several distinguished theologians with respect. But while John Paul himself may not have seen those as failings, he was realistic enough about his own limitations to make sure that he went to confession every Saturday.

A perfect pope? Maybe not. But a saint, more than likely. John Paul should enjoy a speedy canonization process, and his "cause," as they say in Rome, will probably flow as smoothly as has that of a contemporary, the woman now known as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

Shortly after his election, Pope Benedict waived the normally required five-year wait before John Paul's cause could begin. Vatican officials are now sifting through his writings and awaiting medical confirmation of any reported miracles attributed to his intercession. Just last month it was announced that after her community had prayed for John Paul's help, a French nun had been healed of Parkinson's disease — the malady that afflicted the pope at the end of his life.

In a few years, then, we may find ourselves at a wedding, baptism or funeral at the Church of St. John Paul II, where his pious face will shine down on us from a stained-glass window. When we do, we should remember that, like all the saints, Pope John Paul was not just holy, but human, too.

James Martin, a Jesuit priest, is the author of "My Life with the Saints."