John Paul II – A Geopolitical Actor
Today marked the 13th anniversary since Saint John Paul II died. He will be remembered as a formidable geopolitical actor who used his considerable moral values into the global politcal arena.
He played a pivotal role in ending communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. John
Paul II did not single-handedly defeat the Soviet empire. The Soviets’ internal economic decay, the bold leadership of Ronald Reagan, and the fact that the Soviets did not invade Poland in 1980 as they did Hungary in 1956 all were crucial factors that led to the reunification of Europe and the end of the Cold War. Without Karol Wojtyla the statesman, the freedom revolution of 1989 and 1990 would probably not have been as non-violent. With his Eastern Bloc politics and his moral authority, Pope John Paul II played a decisive role in bringing about the fall of the Iron Curtain.
He was comitted to four basic goals: the protection of the autonomy of the church, respect for human dignity, religious engagement and reconciliation with numerous states; and a concern for social, economic and political justice. The nuances of these committments, their translation into church policy and their eventual infusion into the global poltical consciousness attest to the pontiff’s Christian ideology and often, militant evangelisation for a higher order of politics during his papacy.
In 2005, Hans-Dietrich Genscher (FOREIGN MINISTER AND VICE-CHANCELLOR OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY FROM 1974 TO 1992) wrote for Spiegel “At the time of his death, John Paul II was the last of the protagonists of the great historic changes characterizing the end of the 20th century who was still in office. By advocating on behalf of peaceful coexistence for the world’s cultures and religions, he recognized, far more clearly than most people involved in the globalization discussion, the intellectual dimension of this revolution we call globalization, a revolution that is far more than just an economic process.”
He adds that “When Mikhail Gorbachev came into power, the gestures of rapprochement between Moscow and the Vatican became more apparent. In a conversation I had with John Paul II at the time, he expressed his complete support for my having called upon the West, in February 1987 in Davos, Switzerland, to take Gorbachev at his word and not to squander an historic opportunity.
On Feb. 20, 1988, a Red Army choir performed a rendition of Ave Maria before the pope at the Vatican. In the same year, at Gorbachev’s instigation, Moscow marked the thousand-year anniversary of Christianity in Russia and Ukraine. In taking this position, Gorbachev, in a move that was also underestimated by many in the West, demonstrated just how dramatic the new way of thinking he espoused was. Just before the Malta Summit between US President George H.W. Bush and President Gorbachev in December 1989 — a meeting that marked a turning point for Germans — Gorbachev met with the pope at the Vatican. They have met on several occasions since then, and have always referred to one another with the greatest respect and admiration.
What happened in Europe in 1989 and 1990 will go down in history as a European revolution for freedom. It was not limited to any one country. It was brought about by people living within the Soviet bloc, and it also depended in large part on the shining examples set by remarkable individuals, individuals like Andrei Sakharov, Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel. Also worthy of mention are the civil rights movements in all socialist countries as well as the reform communist leadership in Hungary. But one thing that all of these movements had in common was that Pope John Paul II became a symbol of hope, and not just for Catholic Christians.”
George Weigel, (American author, political analyst, and social activist) in an analysis of Pope John Paul’s Papacy for the Foreign Policy Research Institute back in 2000 said “John Paul II has been the most politically consequential pope in centuries. But his impact did not come through the normal modalities of politics. He had no army. His success did not, in the main, come through the normal instruments of diplomacy. In terms of the history of ideas, his “culture-first” reading of history is a sharp challenge to the regnant notions that politics runs history, or economics runs history.”
For those who lived his Papacy and saw the geopolitcal dimension can’t but agree that “we have been living, in his pontificate, through the days of a giant seems clear enough.”
In his absence, and in times where nationalism seem to take over globalism, it seems to me that perhaps, Pope John Paul II’s role was not just a symbol of hope, but a voice which embodied the good elements of the frontier-less global village based on the notion of Common Good within a geoplitical context.
This article is written by Diplomatique|Expert Managing Partner Jesmond Saliba .