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The Pope's American Pilgrimage. Finale.



     It was impossible not to be moved by the Pope, who is the most respected person in the world. Yet I have mixed feelings about his visits to Mexico and the U.S. Firstly, the reaction, especially in Mexico, was close to mass hysteria, which any charismatic figure evokes; Hitler aroused it. Above all, moving as his words were, Hamlet would describe them as "words, words, words," which are cheap. Implenting those ideals was left to the politicians, so often despised but in many cases really devoted, intelligent people.
     The enthusiasm in Mexico was inspired less by universal love than by nationalism. It appeared repeatedly, notably in the slogan which was chanted regularly "Juan Pablo, hermano, ya eres mexicano": "John Paul, my brother, you are now a Mexican." Mexicans were delighted to be the center of attention, and commentators boasted that the reception by Mexicans was more enthusiastic than that of the cold gringos. The commercialization of the Mexican visit came out in odd ways. Televisa was able to boast that it had far more viewers than rival Azteca TV, not named but simply called "our closest competitor." Many statistics were quoted to prove this.
     The Saint Louis assembly of mostly middle-class youths appeared better behaved and less hysterical than the Mexican crowds, but the Pope's speech was written by some public relations man, not by me. The crowd went wild when he praised Mark McGwire, who then went up and got his blessing. This is a man whose personal life is less admirable than his arm muscles, which were useful when man had to throw spears to hunt animals but are irrelevant today. It was a throw-back to primitive times. The crowd showed less enthusiasm when the Pope condemned the death penalty. The poor old Pope shone in comparison with the jaunty Clinton, who took advantage of this splendid photo op, which gave the impression that the Pope was blessing him. He was not. Everyone wanted to be blessed by the Pope or to have aomething blessed by him; not only its spiritual but also its material value thereby would be enhanced.
     In Rome before he left, a convention of Greens asked for his support. He discreetly invoked St. Albert the Great (Albertus Magnus), the patron saint of scientists. For this the Greens were exuberant, the anti-Greens angered by their misrepresentation. It was good for me, because it led me to learn more about that great medieval theologian-scientist. Quite a man.

Ronald Hilton - 01/28/99


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