FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

My Favorite Papal Moment

Boston, Mass.

Maybe everybody has a favorite Pope John Paul II memory. Here’s mine.

In the first week of February 1985, Mr. Wojtyla’s aircraft was minutes from arriving at the Lima airport when guerrillas of the Communist Party of Peru (popularly referred to as Sendero Luminoso or the Shining Path) incapacitated the electrical facilities. As engineers scrambled to restore emergency lighting to the runway, a huge bonfire of complex shape appeared suddenly on a nearby hillside. The hammer and sickle blazed brightly in the winter night.

This was the Peruvian Maoists’ creative greeting for the Polish pontiff, who had inveighed against communism, reigned in Latin American proponents of Liberation Theology, and demanded strict adherence to the wisdom of the ancient Church. He was just back from Ayacucho, the heart of the Maoist movement, where three years earlier the cathedral had overflowed with mourners attending the funeral of Edith Lagos, a model student in the colegio run by the Salesian sisters who had become a communist guerrilla. The archbishop, a Franciscan, had allowed this.

But the pope had sermonized to the Ayacucho crowd: “The men who put their faith in armed struggle have allowed themselves to be tricked by false ideologies. I ask you, then, in the name of God: Change your course!” The Lima bonfire was the Shining Path’s quiet reply. Was the pontiff, much interested in the theater in his youth, impressed by the carefully staged spectacle? Mere human beings had brought darkness unto the world, blackening His Holiness’s runway, raining on his Popemobile parade. Then they had transformed the landscape with the illuminated symbol of worker-peasant solidarity and communist revolution.

In Peru and Nicaragua, Wojtyla wagged his finger at the hungry, told them to look for sustenance not to revolutionary Marxism and the prospect of real social change, but to himself, the dream of an afterlife, and his own false ideology. Yes, the Pope criticized capitalism and globalization. How could he not, and retain any respect in Latin America, the most lucrative mission-field of the declining Roman church? Yes, he opposed the Iraq War as illegal and immoral. How could he not, when the entire world outside the reach of Fox News felt the same?

Let’s assume he was sincere. Daniel Ortega thinks so; the Sandanista leader, who might yet regain power in Nicaragua, speaks highly of the man who told Sandanista supporters to shut up during one public appearance. Some others on the left, or in the broad antiwar movement, also feel this way. Seems to me Wojtyla was a gifted man who at one crucial point said “no” to U.S. imperialism. He deserves credit for that, however medieval his general worldview.

So I empathize with the Pope-mourners. But I empathize much more with the guerrillas who welcomed the Pope to Peru in 1985 with that blazing hammer and sickle. “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice, for they shall have their fill.” That’s the beatitude the Senderistas expressed to their distinguished visitor. That’s what their comrades in Nepal, the Philippines, India and elsewhere are declaring today. They want their fill now, not in some imagined beyond. Will the powers of heaven and earth prevail against them? I have faith that they won’t.

GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial Crusades.

He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

January 23, 2019
Paul Street
Time for the U.S. Yellow Vests
Charles McKelvey
Popular Democracy in Cuba
Kenn Orphan
The Smile of Class Privilege
Leonard Peltier
The History Behind Nate Phillips’ Song
Kenneth Surin
Stalled Brexit Goings On
Jeff Cohen
The System’s Falling Apart: Were the Dogmatic Marxists Right After All?
Cira Pascual Marquina
Chavez and the Continent of Politics: a Conversation with Chris Gilbert
George Ochenski
Turning Federal Lands Over to the States and Other Rightwing Fantasies
George Wuerthner
Forest Service Ignores Science to Justify Logging
Raouf Halaby
In the Fray: Responses to Covington Catholic High
Kim C. Domenico
No Saviors But Ourselves; No Disobedience Without Deeper Loyalty
Ted Rall
Jury Trial? You Have No Right!
Michael Doliner
The Pros and Cons of Near Term Human Extinction
Lee Ballinger
Musical Unity
Elliot Sperber
The Ark Builders
January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Glenn Sacks
Teachers Strike Dispatch #8: New Independent Study Confirms LAUSD Has the Money to Meet UTLA’s Demands
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposable Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail