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The Power of John Paul Ii

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The Power of John Paul II’s “Don’t Be Afraid”
John Paul II’s Support Of Solidarity And The Assassination Attempt in 1981

The answer to Stalin’s mocking question “How many [military] divisions has the pope?” began to be answered when John Paul II started his pontificate in June 1979 (The Economist, 2005). A new era started, and the Soviet Union rightfully feared the loss of control over the Eastern block, when this great man drove the fear out of all human kind, and gave them hope and strengths. Nothing ever stopped this Polish pope, not even an assassination attempt in 1981, from fighting for human rights, for the mutual acceptance of the neighbors, and from providing moral support to the Polish Solidarity, a movement that changed the world and triggered the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe.
Born as Karol Wojtyla on May 18, 1920, in Wadowice, a small city 50 kilometers from Krakow, John Paul II was left on his own in 1941, when his father died (The Holy See, 2005). His mother and brother had died many years before that. After successfully finishing high school, he enrolled into Krakow's Jagiellonian University, and its school of drama. One year later, the Nazis occupied Poland and the University was closed. Karol had to give up his studies and started to work in a factory. However, Karol had already formed a strong character, capable of not being stopped by anything and, while working, in order to achieve his goal of becoming a priest, he begun following the religion courses run by the archbishop of Krakow. As a parallel activity, Karol Wojtyla was one of the creators of the Rhapsodic Theatre of Krakow, where he acted. After the WWII, the Jagiellonian University re-opened and he returned to finish his theological studies. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1946, in Krakow, and in 1948 he completed his education with a doctorial degree in Rome. Three years later, he returned to the academic field and studied philosophy and theology at the Lublin Catholic University, to become professor of moral theology and social ethics in Krakow and in the Faculty of Theology of Lublin. Afterwards, he made a remarkable career, soon becoming a bishop, later archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal, and finally in 1978 he was elected Pope and took the name John Paul II.
Although he was a priest, he was very influential in politics too. During his years of papacy, he travelled the world, held speeches in front of millions of people, met 738 times with Heads of States, and 246 times with Prime Ministers (The Holy See, 2005). All his speeches were filled with thoughts about the importance of human values, references to the Church, and he wished that people found their faiths in Christianity. He believed in Christian humanism, in opposition to how communism, capitalism and totalitarian atheism were treating the human kind (BBC, 2011). He hoped for nothing more than freedom to all people, reduced poverty, and to be free from violence. This was the moral foundation of his fierce anti-communism. He saw communism as an obstacle for human freedom, and he observed nothing but people suffering. He made his words heard not only by the people he met during his visits, but also by people in their homes via television, radio, and other digital media. To show that the unification of all human kind was important to him, he was the first Pope who visited a Jewish synagogue, and Auschwitz, to reconcile Jews and Christians, followed by a trip to Israel with the same purpose. His international involvement, with the citizens and governments of most places in the globe, never made him forget his origins, and he remained close to his roots, to Poland. Nothing proved this better than when he rushed to support his Polish fellows of the Solidarity movement, on June 17, 1983 (Lukasiewicz, 2003).
Solidarity, formed in 1980, was a Polish “trade union-cum-political movement”, that primarily addressed the weaknesses of the Communist regime (Siegelbaum, 2012). The preceding events to the formation of Solidarity tied back to the year 1970, when the workers, hopeless about the price increases of food, gathered in Gdansk and put the city’s party headquarters on fire. The impact was rather large; it spread across Poland and resulted in dozens of deaths. On the economic side not much changed, it just stagnated until a next attempt to increase food prices in 1976. The workers occupied the streets again. This time the Polish no longer relied solely on spontaneous demonstrators. After several thousand strikers were attacked and arrested, a group of intellectuals established the Workers’ Defense Committee (KOR). The KOR’s first objective was to support the jailed workers and their families, to provide medical and legal aid, and to circulate the news through the underground network (Kreis, 2004). In 1979, they published the Charter of Workers’ Rights. The following year there was another wave of strikes, which finally led to the formation of Solidarity. Lech Walesa, an electrician, became the leader of this movement. Only within a few months of its establishment, Solidarity had about 10 million members, and represented most of the workforce of Poland. The government was challenged by an ever-stronger Solidarity, by strikes that demanded economic reforms and free elections, and for the participation of trade unions, such as Solidarity, in decision making at the highest levels. The Soviet Union made its first pressures on the Polish government to stop the strikes and, in response to the pressure, in December 1981, Jaruzelski, then prime minister, imposed martial law in Poland.
The Martial Law was considered a drastic action to crash the Solidarity movement. However, it continued existing as an underground union. The Polish government claimed the law was necessary to prevent Soviet invasion, similar to Prague Spring in 1968, and to achieve national security (Day, 2011). Martial Law enables an absolute military control over all military and civilian activities of a country, during war or civil disorders, and it can be valid only for a temporary period, as a mean of emergency (US Legal, 2012). Once came into effect, thousands of Solidarity activists were arrested, Walesa being one of them (Day, 2011). Approximately 100 people are said to have died during this involvement. Even today, the ex-Prime Minister, Jaruzelski, claims that this was the only way to go. However according to NATO documents, the Soviet Union had no intention of intervening in Poland in such a way. There were no signs of military moves from the Soviet side. Two brutal years followed in Poland. Travel out of Poland was restricted, as well as within the country (Videofact, n.d.). The Communist Party and the military controlled the press. This didn’t prevent Solidarity members from continuing with their activities underground. They published independent newspapers, organized further strikes, and attempted to broadcast on the radio. However, anybody who tried to go on strike was likely to become a victim of the Martial Law and got into the brutal hands of the police. Thousands were arrested and prosecuted. Finally, in December 1982, the Martial Law was suspended and, in July 1983, was terminated. This was just one month after Jaruzelski gave permission to John Paul II to visit his home country.
The Pope arrived to Warsaw on June 17, 1983, to bless the Polish people. In front of enormous crowds, he spoke about freedom being the highest human value (Lukasiewicz, 2003). He told them that freedom was not possible without the “solidarity”. Although he spoke diplomatically, the audience understood it as a “code for movement.” He gave them strength, made them free of fear, and the peaceful crowd, some of them having tears in their eyes upon listening to John Paul II’s words, “Don’t be afraid”, understood what they had to do. They “needed to live more wisely, better, and initiate a communication among themselves, among the Polish people” (Lukasiewicz, 2003). This meant for them to stand up, once again, for their rights and let the Communists know that they are not going to give up. The workers, church leaders, farmers, and intellectuals were encouraged to establish a “new human relationship.” Apparent magic happened, and the revolution took off, in Poland, and in the rest of the Eastern block. Thanks to the Pope things sped up; without his involvement, it would have taken many more years. He was not alone in this. Relatively straightforwardly, he got the United States on his and his Poles’ side.
As Time magazine called it, “The Holly Alliance” between the Vatican and Reagan’s administration helped to push forward Solidarity (Bernstein, 1997). There are records of the C.I.A. supplying the underground movement with printing equipment and other means of communication. The United States also provided more than 30 million USD in aid to Solidarity. After all, the goals of Solidarity and of the United States were largely overlapping; both were fighting communism: the Polish within their own land, while the Americans on a global scale. The United States and John Paul II saw the opportunity to align together and bring the Soviet Union’s control over the Eastern block to an end. Reagan made his first visit to the Vatican in 1982, and he quickly learned the Pope was going to be a strategic ally in removing the Soviet Union from their superpower status (Flatley, 2007). This visit triggered further visits to Europe. Reagan visited 15 other NATO countries and Queen Elisabeth II. Reagan learned that the United States had more supporters than ever to fight against the Soviet Union and finish its totalitarian regime. Their determination to eradicate communism was not the only thing that John Paul II and the American President had in common. Both, in the same year, were victims of an assassination attempt and, fortunately, they both survived. But could the two cases relate to each other?
On May 13, 1981, John Paul II was performing his usual weekly blessing of the audience gathered on St. Peter’s square in the Vatican. He was shaking hands, lifting and caressing small children, until gunfire distracted the joyful afternoon (Tanner, 1981). A Turkish terrorist, Mehmet Ali Agca, wounded his victim with two bullets. The severely injured John Paul II, in the end, got fully recovered. Until today, many look for an answer to how this assassination attempt could have happened. The handwritten notes in Turkish, found in the pocket of Agca, were considered to be misleading. One of them said, ''My life is not important… I am killing the Pope as a protest against the imperialism of the Soviet Union and the United States, and against the genocide that is being carried out in El Salvador and Afghanistan'' (as cited in Tanner, 1981). Although Ronald Reagan involved the Pope in discussing the issues in the Middle East, this was a year after the attack, in 1982, and the Pope didn’t support the imperialism of the Soviet Union (Flatley, 2007). It was very unlikely that the killer was sorting-out any personal issues; it was obvious that somebody else was behind the attempts of removing John Paul II from power in such a brutal way.
Claire Sterling, a prize-winning journalist and author, seemed to be closer to the truth. She believed that the Soviet KGB, via the Bulgarian KGB, was behind these actions (Borchgrave, 2005). She tracked down the Ali Agca’s visits to the Bulgarian KGB and found clear connections between the two. The Pope’s challenge to the Soviet communism seemed to be a clear motive. In March 2005, the most influential Italian daily, Corriere della Sera, disclosed documents that proved that, “the assassination plot was ordered by the Soviet KGB and then assigned to the Bulgarian satellite service” (as cited in Borchgrave, 2005). As John Paul II believed in forgiving enemies, and he understood that someone else had hired the killer, he visited Ali Agca in the prison and forgave him.
At the same time, John Paul II continued his mission and provided his clear support to Solidarity, by his alliance with Reagan and by encouraging hundreds of thousands of his audience, during his visit in Poland in 1983, not to be afraid (Donovan, 2005). This was enough for Solidarity and the Polish society to find their way to make a change. In early 1989, Jaruzelski finally recognized Solidarity and, in June 1989, the first free elections in the communist bloc took place, Solidarity winning the maximum number of seats in parliament. It was a true victory of a nation, and of an extraordinary man, John Paul II.
John Paul II was a great, charismatic, man, who will be long remembered for his tireless spreading of optimism around the globe, and for touching the hearts and the souls of the Poles, when they needed him the most. His speeches not only moved civilians, but also the high-level politicians, who recognized that John Paul II was one of the most influential moral authorities in the world. Resources
BBC. (2011, April 27). John Paul II. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions /christianity/pope/johnpaulii_1.shtml
Bernstein, C. (1997, November 02). The Holly alliance. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/1997/11/02/books/l-the-holy-alliance-759864.html
Borchgrave, A. (2005, April 6). The attempted assassination of John Paul II. Retrieved from Newsmax website: http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2005/4/5/160320 .shtml
Day, M. (2011, December 13). Poland remembers 30th anniversary of martial law declared to crush Solidarity. The Telegraph. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news /worldnews/europe/poland/8954069/Poland-remembers-30th-anniversary-of-martial-law-declared-to-crush-Solidarity.html
Donovan, J. (2005, August 24). Poland: Solidarity - The Trade Union that changed the world. Retrieved from Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty website: http://www.rferl.org /content/article/1060898.html
Flatley, P.T. (2007, May). The convenient alliance: President Reagan and Pope John Paul II, Cold Warriors [Research project]. Retrieved from University of Rhode Island website: http://digitalcommons.uri.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1050&context =srhonorsprog&seiredir=1&referer=http%3A%2F%2F
Kreis, S. (2000). Lech Walesa. Retrieved November 11, 2012, from The History Guide website: http://www.historyguide.org/europe/walesa.html
Lukasiewicz, M. (2003, October 16). The Polish Pope. History’s turning point. Retrieved November 11, 2012, from Worldpress website: http://www.worldpress.org/Europe /1698.cfm
Siegelbaum, L. (2012). 1980: Solidarity in Poland. Solidarity and the Soviet Union. Retrieved November 11, 2012, from Soviet History website: http://www.soviethistory .org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1980solidarity&Year=1980
Tanner, H. (1981, May 14). Pope is shot in car in Vatican square; Surgeons term condition 'guarded'; Turk, an escaped murderer, is seized. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/0513.html
The Economist. (2005, April 2). The legacy of a pope who changed history. The Economist. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/node /3622703?zid=315&ah=ee087c5cc3198fc82970cd65083f5281
The Holy See. (2005, June 30). His Holiness John Paul II. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/news_services/press/documentazione/documents/santopadre _ biografie/giovanni_paolo_ii_biografia_breve_en.html
US Legal. (2012). Martial law & legal definition. Retrieved November 11, 2012, from http://definitions.uslegal.com/m/martial-law/
Videofact. (n.d.). Martial law in Poland. Retrieved November 11, 2012, from http://www .videofact.com/english/martial_law.htm

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...Presidential Power Congress holds all power to declare war, however the president is the commander and chief of the armed forces. This is where as a country we run into problems with the president over stepping his boundaries in some areas. When a president sends troops they are only allowed to be deployed for ninety days before war must be declared. The framers of the constitution meant by Article II, Section 2 that once war has been declared the president’s responsibility as commander in chief is to direct war. This clause has been interpreted that the president has the power to act with free hand in foreign affairs or can send troops to battle without consulting Congress. There have been many instances where presidents have sent troops without consent of Congress. President Truman sent American troops to the war in Korea without requesting authorization from Congress, Clinton sent forces to Bosnia to support NATO operations against the Serbian aggression, and President Obama led a missile strike in Syria . Some criticize these president’s decisions but others feel that they acted with the country’s best interests in mind. In June 1950 President Truman sent U.S. troops to Korea without congressional authority. This still today stands as the most important precedent for the use of military force without approval.  Truman believes since he is the commander in chief that he has the authority to send troops to Korea without authorization. No president had ever launched......

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The Good Shepherd Is an Archetypal Model for the Priest.

...The Good Shepherd is an archetypal model for the priest. The great Pope John Paul II in his writing on Pastores Dabo Vobis (PDV) in the late 20th century about priestly formation in our present-day points out that: “Indeed, the priest, by virtue of the consecration which he receives in the sacrament of orders, is sent forth by the Father through the mediatorship of Jesus Christ, to whom he is configured in a special way as head and shepherd of his people, in order to live and work by the power of the Holy Spirit in service of the Church and for the salvation of the world” This affirmation shows a genuine and deep understanding of the specific ontological link which draws the priesthood to Christ the good shepherd and the great high priest. Such statement shows that, the Church is certain in her teaching that Christ the ‘Good Shepherd’ is a true ideal model for the priest. But, to what extent can we express this certainty of the good shepherd as a paradigm or as a model par excellence in the priestly formation? One must not forget that, the essential characteristic of Jesus Christ as the good Shepherd is precisely being there for others. That in turn expresses his whole life in tendering and nurturing his sheep (the well-being and the growth of his disciples). Specifically, his life was above all a complete service, a true dedication and a genuine relationship with his sheep. It is important to comment on the ontological bond between a priest and Christ......

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