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Legacy of John Paul II

Author(s): Gerald O'Collins

ISBN13: 9780860124405

ISBN10: 0860124401


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  • "I consider it my essential and personal mission not so much to produce many new documents but to see to it that [John Paul IIs] documents are assimilated, because they are a very rich treasure, the authentic interpretation of Vatican II" - Pope Benedict XVI.

    The Legacy of John Paul II responds to that challenge in helping readers and students to come to grips with the important themes in John Paul IIs theology. This is important as his influence is already as great as that of almost any other Pope and his teachings and writings need to be studied carefully by Christians of all denominations.
    John Paul IIs writings were as prolific as his canonisations were vigorous. They range from topics as important as ethics, politics, theology and comparative religion. He published a number of philosophical books before becoming Pope. All of this is covered in this indispensable book.

    Contributors include:
    Edward Stourton
    Brendan Leahy
    John McDade S.J.
    Philip Endean S.J.
    David Jones
    Archbishop Kevin McDonald
    Bishop Christopher Hill
    Jared Wicks S.J.
    Christian Troll S.J.
    Simonetta Calderini
    Margaret Shepherd N.D.S.
    Christian W. Troll SJ

    Table Of Contents
    Participants in the Conference
    1 John Paul II and the Development of Doctrine Gerald OCollins, s.j.
    2 John Paul II: the Man and his Ideas Edward Stourton
    3 John Paul II and Hans Urs von Balthasar Brendan Leahy
    4 John Paul II and his Ecclesiology John McDade, s.j. Response: Philip Endean, s.j.
    5 John Paul II and Moral Theology David Jones
    6 The Legacy of Pope John Paul II: Ecumenical Dialogue Archbishop Kevin McDonald Response: Bishop Christopher Hill
    7 John Paul II and Lutherans: Actions and Reactions Jared Wicks, s.j.
    8 John Paul II and Islam Christian Troll, s.j. Response: Simonetta Calderini
    9 John Paul II and Catholic-Jewish Dialogue Margaret Shepherd, n.d.s.
    10 Mohammed - Prophet for Christians also? Christian W. Troll, s.j.
    Index of Names

  • Gerald O'Collins

    Born in Melbourne (Australia), Gerald O'Collins was ordained a priest in 1963, took his PhD at the University of Cambridge in 1968 and taught for 33 years at the Gregorian University (Rome), where he was also dean of theology (1985-91). Now living back in Australia, he is an adjunct professor of the Australian Catholic University. Author or co-author of 56 published books and of hundreds of articles in professional and popular journals, he is widely known for his appearances on BBC and as a lecturer in many universities and colleges around the world and has chaired conferences for the Templeton Foundation. He has received numerous honorary doctorates and other awards, including the Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), the highest honour awarded through the Australian government.

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    In a papacy that lasted for over 26 years (October 1978 - April 2005), John Paul II left behind an enormous legacy. It included well over 70,000 pages of teaching, found in encyclicals, apostolic exhortations, apostolic letters, homilies, addresses, letters and other published texts. His teaching took up a very wide range of themes: from the self-revelation of God, through the sacramental life of the Church, relations with other Christians and the followers of other religions, questions of social and sexual morality and on to basic elements in the Christian spiritual life.

    As one would expect, this teaching often recalled and applied traditional teaching of the Catholic Church. At times, however, John Paul II broke new ground and developed some fresh lines of thought and practice for Catholics and, indeed, for other Christians. In this chapter I want to single out and explore several themes which prove, at least partly, innovative and will contribute to a healthy development of doctrine.

    In particular, what the late Pope said about divine revelation, human experience, suffering and the role of the Holy Spirit deserves retrieval. His teaching on these themes can vividly illuminate and nourish belief and behaviour for Catholics and other Christians and sometimes for those who follow other religions. Some of these themes (for instance, the universal role of the Holy Spirit for the salvation of human beings) have drawn the attention of commentators, but other themes (for instance, John Paul IIs uninhibited appeal to experience) have been, in effect, ignored.

    In an interview for Polish national television that was broadcast on 16 October 2005, the anniversary of the election of John Paul II in 1978, Pope Benedict XVI said: I consider it my essential and personal mission not so much to produce many new documents but to see to it that [John Paul IIs] documents are assimilated, because they are a very rich treasure, the authentic interpretation of Vatican II: One could add that at times the teaching of John Paul II represented an official reception of the texts of Vatican II that was not only faithful but also creative. Let us begin with one striking example - in the area of divine revelation. This illustrates how he received and developed doctrine, thereby leaving a legacy that can in turn be received and developed by others (1).

    Divine revelation and human faith
    Divine revelation aims at arousing or strengthening the faith of human beings. In other words, revelation and faith are reciprocal terms and realities. God reveals and human beings believe. Revelation is not reducible to faith, but without the human response of faith, divine revelation does not happen. Let me first recall four themes from Vatican II which provide the background for the creative fidelity of John Paul IIs teaching on revelation.

    (1) The Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei verbum (the Word of God), understood revelation to be primarily the self-revelation of God, to which human beings respond not only with an intellectual assent but also with the commitment of their whole person (no. 5). In the history of revelation/salvation, this divine self-communication reached its fullness with the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, followed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (no. 4).

    Through personally encountering the Son of God and receiving the Spirit, the first Christians came to know more truth (for example, that God is tripersonal). Such revealed truths make up the deposit of faith or treasure of revelation (nos. 10, 26), transmitted through tradition and the inspired scriptures. But revelation remains primarily an encounter with the Mystery or deep and inexhaustible truth of God manifested in the person of Jesus Christ.

    (2) The dense opening chapter of Dei verbum uses the terms revelation and salvation more or less interchangeably. The economy or history of revelation is inseparably the history of salvation, and vice versa. The text of the Constitution shuttles back and forth between the two terms (for example, in no. 2).

    (3) Dei verbum speaks of the divine self-disclosure not only in the past tense, as something completed with Christ and the gift of the Spirit, but also in the present tense. Revelation is a dynamic, present event that calls now for human faith: The obedience of faith ... must be given to God as he reveals himself (no. 5). The Constitution associates revelation as it happened then and as it happens now in the Church: God, who spoke in the past, continues to converse with the spouse of his beloved Son (no. 8).

    (4) But there is also a not yet of revelation which the New Testament highlights. Drawing on 1 Tim. 6.14 and Tit. 2.13, Dei verbum points to what is still to come at the end of all history: the definitive glorious manifestation of Our Lord, Jesus Christ (no. 4).

    On all four points John Paul II followed Vatican II with fidelity and also with creativity. That creative reception showed itself most of all when he introduced the theme of experience. Let us look at four texts: his first encyclical Redemptor hominis (the Redeemer of the Human Person) of 1979, his second encyclical Dives in misericordia (Rich in Mercy) of 1980, his apostolic exhortation Catechesi tradendae (Handing on Catechesis) of 1979, and the encyclical of 1998, Fides et ratio (Faith and Reason).

    Like Vatican II, John Paul II understood revelation to be, in the first place, the self-revelation of God through the whole Christ-event, which comprises everything from his incarnation to the resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit. He followed the lead of Vatican II by respecting the precedence of the revealed Mystery or Truth (also in upper case and in the singular) over the particular revealed mysteries or truths (in lower case and in the plural). Thus Redemptor hominis spoke 65 times of the Mystery of Redemption, the Paschal Mystery and so forth, but never of the (revealed) mysteries, and only once of the truths [plural] revealed by God (no. 6).

    Right from that first encyclical, John Paul II also indicated that the divine revelation and the Mystery of Redemption are inseparable (for instance, no. 9). By a clear margin, his favourite biblical source was Johns Gospel, which he quotes or to which he refers 48 times. (Pauls Letter to the Romans comes in second, with 24 references and quotations.) John Paul II appreciated how, in Johns Gospel, Christ is inseparably the Light of the world (revelation) and the Life of the world (redemption) and full of grace [redemption] and truth [revelation] (Jn 1.14).

    The Pope also presented the divine self-revelation (and redemptive activity) not only as completed in the past but also both as a dynamic, present activity and as something to be definitively consummated in the future. Thus he wrote: the revelation of the Father and outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which stamp an indelible seal on the Mystery of Redemption, explain [present tense] the meaning of the cross and death of Christ. The God of creation is revealed [present] as the God of redemption. Citing Rom. 8.18-19, John Paul II recalled the divine love which is always looking for "the revealing of the sons of God", who are called to the glory "that is to be revealed [future]... "(no. 9). He went on to write of the Mystery of Christ, hidden for ages in God, to be revealed in time [past] in the man Jesus Christ, and to be revealed continually in every time [present] (no. 11).

    Redemptor hominis also shows how ready John Paul II was to recognize the human experience of the divine self-revelation. Here he went beyond Dei verbum, which introduced sparingly the language of experience (nos. 8, 14). This and other documents of Vatican II still reflected a certain unease about the language of experience. One can ascribe that inhibition to the long shadow cast by the condemnation of Modernism in the decree Lamentabili and the encyclical Pascendi of 1907. In condemning modernists, St. Pius X and his collaborators showed a certain blindness to historical developments in Christianity, but were right on other scores. Some modernists were going astray in overemphasizing religious experience. Misuse of this category should not, however, lead to ruling it out or downplaying its value. Yet for many years that was the case in Catholic circles in many countries. Seminarians, in particular, were trained to be suspicious of experience, as if it were private, emotional and dangerously subjective.

    But with his background in the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl, Max Scheler and others of this philosophical school that aims at describing the way things, as they actually are, manifest themselves, John Paul II had no such aversion to experience and the language of experience as such (2). In Redemptor hominis he used the noun experience four times and the verb experience twice. In Dives in misericordia, he introduced experience as a noun twelve times and as a verb five times. One can easily justify the Popes terminology. If the divine self-revelation does not enter our experience (to arouse or strengthen our faith), it simply does not happen as far as we are concerned. Non-experienced revelation makes no sense.

    Of all the texts that John Paul II left us on revelation, easily the fullest is Dives in misericordia, which took as its theme the revelation of the mystery of the Father and his love (no. 1). In the 1980s commentators latched onto the central theme of mercy or else onto the encyclicals contribution to Trinitarian teaching. Where Redetnptor hominis focused on the Son of God, Dives in misericordia focused on God the Father. The Holy Spirit was to be the central theme of a 1986 encyclical Dominum et vivificantem (Lord and Giver of Life). What commentators regularly overlooked was the importance of Dives in misericordia as a source for teaching on revelation. The language of the entire document repeatedly recalls this central theme. Over 80 times it uses the verb reveal or the noun revelation Other revelational terms like manifest, make known and proclaim turn up constantly (3). Where Redemptor hominis reflects on the condition of human beings to whom Christ is revealed and who are saved by Christ, Dives in misericordia highlights the revelation of the divine mercy that responds to our primordial needs and remains a living, present reality.

    To be sure, Dives in misericordia begins by portraying the divine revelation as something completed in the past: It is God who is rich in mercy whom Jesus Christ has revealed to us as Father; it is his very Son who ... has manifested him and made him known to us (no. 1). Yet the same encyclical repeatedly proclaims the present nature of this revelation, referring, for instance, to the cross that speaks and never ceases to speak of God the Father, who is absolutely faithful to his eternal love for human beings (no. 7). The genuine face of mercy has to be ever revealed anew (no. 6). John Paul II named the reason for the Churchs ongoing existence as being to reveal God the Father who allows us to "see" him in Christ He prayed that the love which is in the Father may once again be revealed at this stage of history and that, through the work of the Son and Holy Spirit, it may be shown to be present in our modern world and to be more powerful than evil, . . . sin and death (no. 15). No other document published by the late Pope has more to say on the theme of revelation in Christ, the living Word of God who spoke to us in the past and who continues to address us in the present (4).

    The same approach to revelation as being both a past and a present reality had already turned up in the 1979 apostolic exhortation, Catechesi tradendae. John Paul II wrote of the revelation that God has given of himself to humanity in Christ Jesus (no. 22). A simple revelation of a good and provident Father is something, however, that happens now when the very young child receives the first elements of catechesis from its parents and the family surroundings (no. 36). In a telling question about catechesis for the young, the Pope presented divine revelation as something which has happened and which continues to happen:

    In our pastoral concern we ask ourselves: How are we to reveal Jesus Christ, God made man, to this multitude of children and young people, reveal him not just in the fascination of a first fleeting encounter but through an acquaintance, growing deeper and clearer daily, with him, his message, the plan of God that he has revealed [past tense], the call he addresses [present tense] to each person, and the kingdom that he wishes to establish in this world [future] . . .? (no. 35; italics mine).

    That same apostolic exhortation also presented faith as a journey toward things not yet in our possession, while as yet we see only "in a mirror dimly" (no. 60).

    The text which John Paul II quoted here from 1 Cor 13:12 would turn up again in his 1998 encyclical, Fides et ratio (Faith and reason). The believing community, he wrote, must

    proclaim the certitudes arrived at, albeit with a sense that every truth attained is but a step towards that fullness of truth which will appear with the final revelation of God: For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully (no. 2)

    In other words, any theology of revelation should respect the fact that the definitively full revelation of God has not yet taken place.

    Earlier I outlined four themes from Vatican IIs Constitution on Divine Revelation. It would, however, be a mistake to look only to Dei verbum for the Councils teaching on revelation. The other 15 conciliar documents fill out the Councils teaching on Gods self-disclosure, even if they have normally been neglected as sources for a comprehensive view of revelation (5). John Paul II himself was repeatedly drawn, especially in the early years of his pontificate, to cite a paragraph from the Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et spes (Joy and Hope) about the light that the mystery of the incarnate Word threw on the mystery of human beings (no. 22). In his penultimate encyclical, Fides et ratio, the Pope returned to this theme of Christ revealing the otherwise insoluble riddle of human existence. John Paul II aligned himself with those who think in terms of a correlation between the questions raised by the human condition and the answers provided by Christ the Revealer: Where might the human being seek the answer to dramatic questions such as pain, the suffering of the innocent and death, if not in the light streaming from the mystery of Christs passion, death and resurrection? (no. 12).

    Characteristically John Paul II concentrated here on the questions raised by human suffering. Few Popes had ever had such a direct experience of so much human suffering, and he set himself to discern that experience in the light of the scriptures. No previous Pope had ever developed so much teaching on the theme of suffering and, in particular, suffering with Christ and in the light of Christ (6).

    Over and over again John Paul II took up the theme of suffering and the mysterious value it possesses for those united with Christ. In a 1980 discourse to senior citizens in Munich, he linked the trials of the elderly and dying with the crucified Christ. On that occasion he said:

    I do not want to belittle the anxieties of old age, your weaknesses and illnesses, your helplessness and loneliness. But I would like to see them in a reconciling light, in the light of our Saviour ... In the trials of old age he is the companion of your pain, and you are his companions on the way of the cross ... through your suffering you cooperate in his salvation.

    He spoke of becoming old as a slow taking leave of the unbroken fullness of life (7).

    These words proved to be a prophetic sketch of what he himself was to experience in the final stages of his life, when the inroads of Parkinsons disease left him weak, helpless and, finally, speechless. As his health began its very public decline, he witnessed personally to the revealing and redeeming power of Christs suffering that shines through those who devoutly let Christ incorporate their sufferings in his passion. The paradox of Christs power actively present in human weakness (2 Cor. 12.9-10) was re-enacted in the last years and death of John Paul II.

    The attempt on the Popes life on 13 May 1981 prompted a remarkable radio broadcast from his hospital bed the following Sunday, when it was still not clear that he would survive. In a message addressed, in particular, to those gathered in St. Peters Square for midday prayer (the Regina Coeli or Queen of heaven), John Paul II said, slowly and in obvious pain:

    Praised be Jesus Christ! Beloved brothers and sisters, I know that during these days and especially in this hour of the Regina Coeli you are united with me. With deep emotion, I thank you for your prayers and I bless you all. I am particularly close to the two persons wounded together with me. I pray for that brother of ours who shot me and whom I have sincerely pardoned. United with Christ, priest and victim, I offer my suffering for the Church and the world. To you, Mary, I repeat: Totus tuus ego sum (I belong entirely to you) (8).

    The Pope recovered and was led by his close brush with death to write an apostolic letter, Salvifici doloris (Of suffering that saves) about those who unite their human sufferings to the salvific suffering of Christ (9).

    It is Christ, John Paul II declared, who

    reveals to the suffering brother and sister this wonderful interchange, situated at the very heart of the mystery of the redemption. Suffering is, in itself, an experience of evil. But Christ has made suffering the firmest basis of the definitive good, namely the good of eternal salvation.

    The Pope drew together three values that have been conferred on suffering: Christ is present in all suffering; he reveals through it the deepest truth of redemption, and he acts through it to transform human existence. John Paul II wrote:

    [S]uffering cannot be transformed and changed by a grace from outside, but [only] from within. Christ through his own salvific suffering is very much present in every human suffering, and can act from within that suffering by the power of his Spirit of truth (Salvifici doloris, no. 26).

    John Paul II set out the universal value that Christs passion and death have given to human suffering wherever it occurs. Each human being is called to share in that suffering through which the redemption was accomplished . . . and through which all human suffering has been redeemed. By bringing about the redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the redemption. This means that, whether they are aware of it or not, all human beings in their sufferings can also become sharers in the redemptive suffering of Christ (Salvifici doloris, no. 19). In other words, the weaknesses of all human sufferings are capable of being infused with the same power of God manifested in Christs cross (no. 23). As the Pope was to write a few years later in his 1995 encyclical Evangelium vitae (The Gospel of Life), suffering, while still an evil and a trial in itself, can always become a source of good. It becomes such if it is experienced for love and with love through sharing (no. 67) (10).

    Among the striking new features that John Paul II introduced into the Jubilee Year of 2000 was the ecumenical commemoration of those who in the twentieth century had heroically witnessed to the faith. The ceremony was held on 7 May 2000 at the Coliseum, a place that vividly evokes the witness of faith given by early Christian martyrs. The ceremony brought together Anglicans, Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants to acknowledge the heroic example of countless men and women who bore witness to Christ in all parts of the world and so left an extraordinary example to the present and future generations of Christians. In his 1994 apostolic letter Tertio millennio adveniente (The Arrival of the Third Millennium), John Paul II had prepared the way for the celebration of May 2000: in our own century the martyrs have returned, many of them nameless, "unknown soldiers", as it were, of Gods great cause. As far as possible, their witness should not be lost to the Church:

    He added with reference to the coming celebration: This gesture cannot fail to have an ecumenical character and expression. Perhaps the most convincing form of ecumenism is the ecumenism of saints and martyrs. The communio sanctorum (communion of saints) speaks louder than the things that divide us (no. 37). A year earlier the Pope had reflected on the witness of martyrdom in the 1993 encyclical Veritatis splendor (The splendour of Truth) (nos. 90-93). In the 1995 encyclical Ut unum sint (That they may be one), he took up again the theme of martyrdom in an ecumenical context (nos. 1, 74).

    When he spoke at the Coliseum in May 2000, John Paul II remarked:

    The experience of the martyrs and the witnesses to the faith is not a characteristic only of the Churchs beginnings but [also] marks every epoch of her history. In the twentieth century, and maybe even more than in the first period of Christianity, there has been a vast number of men and women who bore witness to the faith through sufferings that were often heroic (11).

    The ceremony itself included a number of long testimonials written about or by such witnesses who had suffered in different parts of the world and who had belonged to a variety of Christian communities.

    By the end of his life John Paul II had canonized or declared to be saints 482 men and women and beatified - a stage before possible canonization - a total of 1,338. The majority of those canonized and beatified had died a martyrs death, and very many of these suffered in modern times: such as the 103 Koreans whom the Pope canonized during his visit to Seoul on 6 March, 1984, the 459 beatified and 12 canonized who were martyred during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) and the 120 canonized on 1 October 2000, who had been martyred in China between 1648 and 1930 (12).

    In what he said, wrote and did, John Paul II proved thoroughly innovative about Christian martyrdom. Right from the first centuries, to be sure, a number of Popes taught and did things to help Christians to appreciate and learn from the examples of courageous martyrs. St. Damasus (Pope 366-84), for instance, saw to it that the tombs of martyrs were adorned and had a church erected on the Via Ardeatina at the catacombs of two martyrs, Sts. Marcus and Marcellianus, as well as building a church to honour St. Laurence (a deacon martyred in 258), the titular church of San Lorenzo in Damaso. But John Paul II gave martyrdom a fresh visibility and value - not least by highlighting its ecumenical significance and doing so in the course of celebrating the great Jubilee of 2000. His own life, and not least the 1981 attempt on his life, disclosed characteristics of the modern martyrs whom he consistently wanted to recall and honour.

    The Holy Spirit
    In several ways John Paul IIs creative fidelity contributed to a development of doctrine on the Holy Spirit. His 1986 encyclical Dominum et vivificantem (Lord and Giver of Life) was the first papal encyclical to be devoted to the Holy Spirit since Leo XIIIs Divinum illud (That Divine [Office]) of 1897. In Dominum et vivificantem John Paul II introduced new terminology into official teaching by calling the Holy Spirit the Self-communication of God 12 times. Over lunch a few years later I thanked him for introducing that term, which has a fairly rich background in modern German theology, both Catholic and Protestant. I didnt take it from Karl Rahner, he said with a smile, obviously thinking that as a Jesuit I had that great Jesuit theologian in mind. He then explained his intention: I wanted to use some fresh language that might help build bridges with Orthodox Christians. He thought of the difficulties which Greek, Russian and other Orthodox Christians have with the way that Catholics talk (or fail to talk) about the Holy Spirits place in the eternal life and historical mission of the tripersonal God. Sensitive to the complaints from the Orthodox about Catholics making the Holy Spirit subsidiary in the Trinity, the Pope stressed the importance of the Spirit and, in particular, reached out to the Orthodox with some new language.

    Three years before Communist regimes across Europe officially fell in 1989, through his encyclical the Pope looked ahead in the hope of healing an ancient rift and promoting vigorous collaboration between Catholics and Orthodox in building a more Christian Europe. Sadly that was not going to happen. Ugly religious clashes were to occur in what was then the USSR and over 200,000 people died in the breakup of Yugoslavia.

    In a remarkable address to the aboriginal peoples of Australia a little later in 1986, John Paul II developed the theme of the mysterious presence and activity of the divine Spirit in the culture and religions of those peoples (13). That theme was very much in line with what he had written in Dominum et vivificantem about the Holy Spirit being active not only in the life of the Church but also in the whole world. According to Gods plan of salvation, the action of the Spirit has been exercised in every place and in every time, indeed in every individual - an action that, to be sure, is closely linked with the mystery of the incarnation and the redemption (no. 5). At the end of the year, in an address to the Roman Curia on 22 December 1986, the Pope took up again the universal activity of the Holy Spirit: every authentic prayer is called forth by the Holy Spirit, who is mysteriously present in the heart of every person (14). Here he echoed and extended a dictum which went back many centuries and was used 18 times by St. Thomas Aquinas (every truth, no matter who says it, comes from the Holy Spirit) (15).

    Four years later in the encyclical Redemptoris missio (the Mission of the Redeemer) John Paul II insisted that, while manifested in a special way in the Church and her members, the Spirits presence and activity are, nevertheless, universal. He understood the Spirit to operate at the very source of each persons religious questioning. He went on to write: the Spirits presence and activity affect not only individuals but also society and history, peoples, cultures and religions (no. 28; italics mine) (16). These were two momentous statements.

    First of all, the Holy Spirit is actively operating in and through the questions which sooner or later arise for everyone: where do I come from? Where am I going? What is the meaning of life? What are suffering, sin and death, and what do they mean? What will come after my death? Who is the God in whom I live and move and have my being (see Acts 17, 28)? As far as John Paul II was concerned, the Holy Spirit is actively present and operating not only when anyone prays authentically but also whenever anyone faces the profound religious questions of life (17). No human being exists outside the powerful presence of God the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the mysterious companion and religious friend in the life of every human being.

    Second, the late Pope appreciated how the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit also affect wider human society and all human history, peoples, cultures and religions. In other words, the Spirit acts in and through the cultures and religious traditions of our world. This activity of the Spirit is inseparable from the salvation which Christ has brought about; it is an activity which aims at bringing all people, sooner or later, to Christ. But in the meantime the Spirit is present and operative in and through all that is true, good and beautiful in various cultures and religions around the world.

    This essay has singled out three areas in which Pope John Paul II proved innovative in developing Catholic doctrine. (1) He maintained the teaching of Vatican II on divine revelation being primarily the self-revelation of God that reached its unsurpassable fullness with the whole Christ-event and the outpouring of the Spirit, that remains a vital, present reality, and that will be consummated at the end of human history. He went beyond the Council by using the language of experience and helping to show how Gods revelation enters human experience. (2) No previous Pope had ever developed so much teaching on the redemptive and revelatory value of suffering and martyrdom. (3) John Paul II took Catholic teaching forward by his insistence on the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit in all individuals, cultures and religions.

    Obviously one could recall from the teaching of the late Pope further items, where he also left an important legacy. He broke new ground, for instance, in a discourse pronounced in 1980 when he made reference to the People of God of the First Covenant, which has never been revoked (cf. Rom. 11.29) (18). This official recognition of the enduring value of the covenant God made through Moses has proved a highly significant step in Jewish-Catholic dialogue and relationships.

    This chapter does not pretend to give an exhaustive account of all that John Paul II contributed to the reception of Vatican II and the development of doctrine. It has aimed to explore three areas in which he left valuable teaching that continues to call for assimilation and will help Catholics (and, indeed, other Christians) in their life of faith.

    Note. Denis Edwards has drawn my attention to the way in which the themes I have examined in the papal teaching of John Paul II enjoy rich parallels in the theology and preaching of Karl Rahner (1904-84):
    (1) The human experience of the divine self- communication, and (2) human suffering. As for the third theme, what the late Pope taught (in his 1990 encyclical Redemptoris missio) about the Holy Spirit operating at the very source of each persons religious questioning can easily evoke what Rahner wrote about the supernatural existential, or the way in which, as a result of Christs redemptive work, God has positively preconditioned human beings even before they exercise their freedom in accepting (or rejecting) divine grace. In his first encyclical (Redemptoris hominis of 1979) John Paul II moved somewhat close to this language by writing of the inward mystery of the human being (no. 8) and of the way in which, right from the very moment of their conception, Christ has united himself for ever with all human beings. Hence even before they make any free decisions, they share in Jesus Christ and the mystery of the redemption (no. 13).

    One might ascribe two of these three parallels to the fact that John Paul II and Rahner were both exposed to common philosophical and theological currents (for the theme of human experience of the divine self-communication) and to the same grim history of Europe (for the theme of suffering). Moreover, Juan Alfaro (1914-93), a friend and collaborator of Rahner, admitted to me that he was consulted by John Paul II when the Pope was preparing Redemptor hominis for publication. Alfaro (who had a passion for Johns Gospel) may have been responsible not only for the remarkable use of that Gospel in the encyclical (see above) but also for the echo of Rahners supernatural existential in the two passages I mentioned (nos. 8, 13).


Legacy of John Paul II