As the world turns in its axis so does the Pope; a traveling satellite so to speak. Touring one country after another. An Argentinian, Pope Francis has been there and not done that. Francis is the first Jesuit pope, the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere and the first non-European pope since the Syrian Gregory III in 741.
He led the Argentine Church during the December 2001 riots in Argentina, and the administrations of Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner considered him a political rival. This was a good thing, similar to the fall of Communism in Poland.
The international relations field knows Pope John Paul II for his temporal leadership in the Roman Catholic Church, but less is known about his pivotal role in the rise of Poland’s independent trade movement of Poland standing firm against Communism.
Yet Soviet “liberation” of occupied Poland brought only further repression. And for 33 years, Wojtyla would promote Christianity and religious freedom under threat of a regime attempting to squash any opposition to atheistic totalitarian rule. Rising to the position of archbishop of Krakow in 1963, he carefully avoided direct criticism of the government, but spread his philosophy of Christian “humanism” through a series of poem-cycles that, in effect, worked to undermine the Marxist foundation of Communism. Yet clashes were inevitable—he encountered fierce opposition in his efforts to create 11 new parishes through door-to-door evangelism, and Soviet authorities tried to stop him from publicly leading Catholics in Poland’s Corpus Christi procession, a medieval feast day celebrated every June.
Wojtyla’s election as pope in 1978 armed him with an international following that, in retrospect, cowed even the Soviet empire. “Be not afraid” became his rallying cry, and following a 1979 address to the U.N. General Assembly in which he challenged the free world to defend human rights, he embarked on a courageous but dangerous nine-day public pilgrimage to “strengthen the brethren” in Poland. There he warned Communist authorities that the papacy would watch them closely, and he reminded them of their responsibility “before history and before your conscience.” The people responded to John Paul II’s visit with loyalty borne of years of shared suffering—banners with the Communist party slogan “The Party Is for the People” sported the daring addition, “. . . but the People are for the Pope.”
John Paul II’s example encouraged other leading church authorities, such as the Czech Cardinal Frantisek Tomasek, to become fierce critics of Communism. His visit also inspired an unemployed electrician named Lech Walesa to form in 1980 the Soviet Union’s first and only trade union—Solidarity.
Instead of coming to the border and lambasting Trump, Pope Francis should pilgrimage in all the countries of Latin America run by Communists and dictators. Of course rabble rousing among the people in the drug infested waters Columbia, El Salvador, Nicaragua has risks. Lecturing Trump on a wall is a non starter. Walls, just like Robert Frost said, make good neighbors. Letting more druggies, murders, killers, rapists, leaches into the United States is the wrong thing to do. Trump is right, the Pope is wrong. We do not need a lecture on what is right and what is wrong.
And if he is so concerned about the poor, have the Vatican, with three to four trillion in assets, start selling their wares and distribute the proceeds to the poor. Ain’t gonna happen folks. Stay tuned.