OPINION

Did he achieve in his parting liturgy that which he never fully accomplished in his earthly mission?

Appreciation of the Papal Funeral published on a number of internet discussion boards.


Photo by Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

F ALL THE THINGS we could see in the funeral telecast, to me perhaps the most symbolic and moving was a sort of side-play to the central liturgy. As the liturgy travelled on, I couldn't help thinking how, in his burial rite, His Holiness had perhaps pulled off his greatest political and spiritual coupe of all.

It was the image of all those kings, queens, heads of state - the world's most powerful and influential leaders - in a sense, all humbled before, not this Pope we were honouring, but humbled before God. There they were corralled in like sheep in their special section up beside the altar but, nevertheless, they were equals and actually didn't look that much different to the "crowd shots" when the cameras panned over the hoy-polloy further down in the Piazza.

And the fact that this assembly also had representatives of the leaders of all the great religious traditions was this enormously powerful symbolism that despite all our theological differences, and even differences at levels even more fundamental than theology, there WAS a sense of unity there I felt that we have never, ever seen before perhaps in the entire history of humanity. Some of them do not even recognise the Trinitarian God, but there seemed to be a sense, that as a human family we do all recognise a power beyond ourselves, beyond all our technologies, and beyond all the matter that makes up our Cosmos.

At times I was deeply moved during the liturgy. And the times when I was most deeply moved were those "humbling moments" when we were given glimpses that in the eyes of God all of us are equal. It doesn't matter if we are the President of the most powerful nation on earth, or a Pope who has registered more frequent flyer points than many international businessmen, or those "ordinary folk" from far flung parts of the world who read the readings and brought up the gifts on behalf of us all.

I don't believe this Liturgy was triumphalist. It was from the very best in the long liturgical tradition of the Church. It took us to the essence of what this is all about: the relationship of each one of us - no matter how insignificant we might feel we are, nor how powerful we might feel others are - to this place where we all stand equal, in dignity, and in accountability, to this Mystery who created us.

Vale, Pope John Paul. I have no doubt you gave your all. Like the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs seeking forgiveness for your sins, your own last testament is a lesson to us that, yes, even the most powerful have moments of personal doubt. Thank you for "the all" that you endeavoured to pour out for us. You leave a world that continues with enormous challenges, and while there might be areas where you didn't achieve your dreams, and others where your dream was just wrong, I have no doubt whatsoever of your sincerity and the confidence expressed so well by Cardinal Ratzinger that you have steered your own being to that final state of being called heaven.

I would ask now for your prayers and the insights you might now have access to that will guide God's people, and the assembled Cardinals as they seek to choose, on our behalf, a successor who might lead us through these new challenges that the human family, and human civilisation, and each of us individually, face in the years and decades immediately to come.

©2005Tom Scott/Brian Coyne/Vias Tuas Communications
Written: 22Mar2005

Tom Scott

"In spite of all that might be said against our age,
what a moment it is to be alive in!" James McAuley