A Mr. Randy Harris of Greensboro, NC writes in and says, “Hey, Dave, talk about the Pope as a world leader”.
We’re always happy to take requests here at DaveTown. Though, truthfully, this is only the second one. But nonetheless, here goes.
Stalin once famously said “How many divisions has the Pope?” (oh, that he had lived long enough to see the reign of John Paul the Great).
John Adams once said, not as famously, but just as relevantly “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”
Somewhere in the middle of these two quotes is the answer to your question, Randy. The Pope has no authority in the world apart from moral authority. If he is able to exercise it, more people will attempt to conform their lives to the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If this happens, then Stalin’s question becomes moot, and the admonition of Adams is fulfilled.
Securing the liberty of individual citizens is the only legitimate goal of government. Guiding individuals toward the goal of eternal salvation is the only legitimate goal of the Church. If both entities do their jobs correctly, we have peace, both in the temporal and spiritual sense.
Toward these ends, the role of the Pope, as a world leader, is twofold. First, to encourage, support and foster political freedom, insofar as his moral authority and influence are able to do so. Secondly, and more importantly, it is to facilitate the ability of the Church to teach the truths of the gospel, so that, once free, we will have the integrity, dignity, and moral awareness to live freely in the fullest sense of the word freedom. That is, to be free to do good and to love, and free to live in a society that hasn’t descended into a deadly barbarism, where the strongest exploit the weakest, and narcissism and nihilism are the only dogmas people will follow.
Historians will look back in amazement at how effectively John Paul the Great filled both of these roles. God grant us a next Pope who is just as brave, just as inspirational, and just as faithful.