The mightiest man in the world
Chronicle of a neo-pagan in S. Peter’s square and thoughts about the future of the Church.
Viking Francesca Ortolani John Paul II Catholic Church Paganism
One day someone told me that the Pope is the mightiest man in the world and the Vatican is the mightiest State. Today I think that it may be true. A man who’s able to gather millions of faithful sons in a city of Europe in a pair of days and a man who’s able to gather the most important political figures of the world in a square must be a true mighty person. People left Poland, travelled for 30 hours in a bus to reach Rome and queued for more than 13 hours (some of them waited 24 hours!) to see his dead body. People fainted in the queue, others suffered the hot sun of the day and the cold wind of the night. Some blankets, a sandwich, some biscuits and the Italian first aid forces provided some bottles of water. People could not leave the queue, they could only go to the toilets positioned on the track. I saw the desperation in the eyes of those who were told, after waiting 8 hours, that they would have never seen the Pope, because the queue was too long. I said mighty, but what does this word mean? How mighty? He was politically mighty, sentimentally mighty, religiously mighty. I must have proved it on myself. I was there on Saturday the 2nd, when he died. I was there and I’m neo-pagan and this I will always be! As European and neo-pagan I thought I had to honour my enemy, a strong enemy and a great man, even if I didn’t agree with most of the words he said, since he advanced the abandonment of man in Christ’s hands, multiculturalism, dangerous friendships, but he was great because everything he did, it was with courage and passion, with mission and skill. I felt something like I had to stay there that afternoon, close to an old man I used to know, a proud enemy who fought me (and will keep on fighting me), who was dying. I just wanted to give him some comfort and company in a difficult moment of pain. Young boys and girls, of my same age, were singing and screaming loud his name. They had photos and candles in their hands. Time was 21 when I went away from the square to eat something, some minutes before the death of John Paul II, then I decided to go back home but when the story of his death was spread on tv (at 22 – the Pope died at 21:37) my mother called me on my mobile phone and I went back to S. Peter’s square. I thought people were going away from the square, because I saw many of them walk outwards S. Peter’s area, but when I got there again I saw a crowded square, where people were arriving from all sides and they were praying. I decided to stay and take part to the rosary and to the pain of the Christians. The same young I saw in the afternoon left their candles on the ground, drawing crosses of light. Other people were crying. Others sang all together songs of church that I used to sing when I was a child and attended the school of the nuns. The Vatican newspaper “Osservatore Romano” sold a lot of copies among the crowd. It was midnight. That issue has become object for collectors and it is still sold. John Paul II is mighty in all meanings. Who’s able to gather all these reporters who invaded S. Peter’s square and Rome to tell the world about the history of this man’s life? A black man from some African television began to film me, 1, 2…5, 7 minutes on me. I was silent. I would have liked to tell him “hey, man, I’m maybe the only one who’s not Christian here”. Today it’s the day of the Funeral. I’m watching images of my Rome taken from helicopters and I don’t recognise it! A flood of people cover the streets near the Tiber around S. Peter’s Basilica. Red and white flags from Poland, yellow and white flags of the Vatican, Rome about 2000 years ago was chosen to represent the universality of the Church and that was the time when paganism was suppressed. I feel like I have survived in the centuries and now I’m watching the ages change in front of my eyes. This Pope changed the world. This Pope captured the hearts of the people using everything he could have: aeroplanes, boats, computers, televisions, music. He spoke for the first time to the young. He spoke for the first time to the Jew. He has been like a relative for many people. I saw the funeral. It was epic and majestic, but this didn’t catch my attention. I was impressed by the choked voice of journalist Bruno Vespa commenting the ceremony. I have always seen him as a hard rock, but today he wetted his words with tears.
And now, how will the Church and its sons receive the new Pope? Who will be the new Pope? Everybody says he will be from South America to fight American capitalism. Not all places in South America are safe, people are poor and angry. Fighting capitalism in those countries means also fighting capitalism in North America, but there capitalism has never persecuted the Church (in the States there are many different Churches), so the Vatican could provoke a fracture. It’s a confused situation that I’m not able to understand, because I don’t know the history very well, and from the religious point of view Christianity in South America is not so worn-out. I mean, there are worst places. I think that the Church has to choose another strong figure of Pope, otherwise no one will ever listen to him, because John Paul II was too popular and too deep-rooted in the hearts of the Christians. Karol Wojtyla faced the true problem for the Church of Communism in Eastern Europe. The problem was real… he was shot! I think the Church, if it wants to survive, should meet the Middle East. A Pope from Lebanon, or from Iraq or Afghanistan, why not? A Crusader Pope!
At the very beginning of his pontificate John Paul II told his Christians to grant admission to Christ. Still people follow his words and exchange peace with everyone (Christ=the first “brother” you meet), doing with faith, without considering the risks of this “free peace”. I’m heathen and I personally think that the Christian Faith is a blind serenity (I hope no one will be offended), watching from the outside I still don’t understand the motivation for being Christian in Europe, but as a heathen I learned that when someone, for some reason, wants to make a benediction to you with all the best intentions, you should accept, because this won’t change you and your identity, if you don’t want to change, but it will enrich you. I found myself, because my mother wanted to go there, at Westminster Cathedral in London. There I saw a group of black women attending the mass. It was time for blessing and peace exchange. One of them called me, she told me “Come on, come here!”. I understood that I was falling into prejudice which is one of the most wrong errors for a racialist, I think. I think a racialist should be prudent but never have prejudice. I don’t know which thoughts passed in the mind of that black woman, but these were mine (I’m sure they were different from hers) when I decided to give her my hand trying to communicating them to her: “This is my hand, as a dialogue between us. I want to be respected and I want to respect you, in peace as in war. True rules between us.” Pope John Paul II has been a mighty leader, who has been able to put together people from all nationalities and races under one god, but then there are people like me in Europe, people that want to keep a clear identity and this is inconciliable with the Church and with Christianity.
My final question is: how long will this structure of the Church resist? Old women say “When a Pope dies, another is done”… for ever?