Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 11, 2005
Pope left a treasury of teaching
Archbishop Collins predicts Pope John Paul will be declared a doctor of the Church
By GLEN ARGAN
Pope John Paul II has left the world with "a treasury of Catholic teaching that will continue to illuminate the Church for thousands of years to come," says Edmonton Archbishop Thomas Collins.
Many people have been touched by the life and fidelity of the late pontiff, but "His body of teaching is what I think will last for the centuries," Collins said in an April 4 interview.
The archbishop predicted Pope John Paul will be canonized a saint and declared a doctor of the Church because of the depth of his teachings.
"By any substantive standards, this is one of the greatest popes in history."
Yet many "in this little outpost of the Catholic Church" known as Europe and North America "cannot abide the clear, faithful teachings we find in Pope John Paul but also in all the other popes before him," Collins said.
A 'hard' teaching
Some, he said, have found the pope's teaching to be too difficult. They are like those who told Jesus "This is a hard teaching" and walked away.
Conversely, many people have been drawn to the Church because of Pope John Paul's teaching on the theology of the body. "I've met people of other faiths who were so astonished and amazed and enriched by it that it led them to become Catholics."
The pope has left teaching that is wide and deep on subjects such as human dignity, the defence of human life, social teaching, the priesthood, the Eucharist, divine mercy and many other topics, he said.
Collins first met the pope in 1985 when he was studying in Rome. The pope shook his hand in a crowd of other students. "What I remember was how present he was. We were really together for only two seconds and then he moved on."
The archbishop next met Pope John Paul in 1999 when the Western bishops made their ad limina visit to Rome. He had a private meeting with the pope. The pope also spoke to the group of bishops and celebrated Mass with him.
The pope came in and prayed intently for 10 minutes before Mass. "I was impressed by his absolute focus on Our Lord."
Collins' final meeting with Pope John Paul was at World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto. The pope was very frail but at the end of the long tiring day during which he celebrated the closing WYD Mass, he met with a couple of hundred people who had worked behind the scenes on World Youth Day. He took time to speak personally with every individual in the room.
"I thought, 'My! Isn't that something?'"
"I've met people of other faiths who were so astonished and amazed and enriched by it that it led them to become Catholics."
Backed local churches
Collins disagreed with commentators who have said that Pope John Paul centralized the Church's authority in the Vatican. What the pope has done, rather, is to lend his stature to back up the local Church in its struggles. "He never disrupts the preaching of the local Church; he backs it up."
"Who would have thought that the cross of Christ would be raised up on the steps of the Ontario Legislature?" he asked. But because the pope came to Toronto for WYD, it happened.
On rare occasions, the archbishop said, he has received communication from the Holy See asking him to look into a concern raised by some person. But the Holy See or the papal nuncio have never interfered in the life of the local Church.
Collins would not speculate on the identity of the next pope. "Who knows? The cardinals will have to decide. They have an astonishing ability to surprise."
Pope John Paul has chosen 117 cardinal electors who are "brilliant, holy, wise and experienced," he said. "The human raw material going into this conclave is astonishing.
"There is a stunning array of cardinals, . . . any one of whom would be a superb pope."
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