The Funeral of Pope John Paul II

The funeral of Pope John Paul II would be a an appropriate subject for social psychologists to study.  Incidentally, what is the difference between a social psychologist and a psychosociolagist?  We should begin with that excellent documentary "Saints and Sinners", a history of the papacy which ran on the History Channel.  Most of the popes were not models of Christianity; they were not loving and kind. Dante, who urged the Pope to use force against the Cathars, was not a nice man. I saw the old Vatican years ago when I called on the head of the Vatican Library.  It was an intolerably hot summer's day, and he sat behind his desk in heavy clerical robes without sweating.  I was not wearing a tie.  In a nasty voice, he told me to put on a tie.  I went back to the hotel and did so.  Then he was willing to talk to me.  I should have asked him: Did Jesus Christ wear a tie?

Pope John Paul II  impressed people as friendly and sincere, and he touched the hearts of people.  He was the first global pope. He had given instructions for the coverage of his funeral, and indeed it was remarkable.  The views on TV, many of them taken from the air, were stunning, and the TV programs in which they were interwoven were technological feats. Unfortunately the commercial TV leopard cannot change its spots. The solemn moments of the funeral were interrupted with the usual gross, deceptive advertisements.  Is nothing sacred?  Apparently not. The crowd both wept and cheered. What does the Italian custom of a`applauding at a funeral tell us?

It is hard to assess the legacy of Pope John Paul II.`
He owed his prestige largely to his confrontation with the Nazis and the Communists, and to his Christian attitude toward his would-be assassin. He was a master at public relations, and fully aware of the use of modern communications technology.  He knew that speaking a foreigner's language creates an immediate bond, and for this reason he often spoke a few words in a large number of languages.   He had been an amateur actor, and going around the world waving from the popemobile was his act.  People loved it.  At the same time, within the Vatican he was  authoritarian and traditionalist. American Catholics in particular are displeased by his unwillingness to come to terms with the modern world.

For this reason there has been much speculation about the next Pope. Since he will be elected by Cardinals who were mostly appointed by Pope John Paul II and who met his criteria, it is unlikely that he will meet the demands of liberal American Catholics.  The large number of youths in the crowds applauding the Pope suggested that religion is still alive among  that generation, but probably they had little idea of the type of Catholicism he represents.  Most cardinals have been trained in theology, but not in  the sciences natural and social, without which it is impossible to understand te modern world. Choosing a Latin American Pope would naturally please Latin Americans, but it might alienate Americans.  Unfortunately  I have not seen the name of Ed Jajko among the candidates.

How global was the funeral? Media coverage in different countries would be significant, and there should be an analysis of the countries represented and those which did not send representatives,  What was the level of the representatives?  If anyone sees such an analysis, please e-mail it to me.  Especially interesting would be the response in Muslim countries. Islam has no one corresponding to the Pope, and the nearest thing to Pope John Paul's funeral would be the annual haj.  However, Mecca and the haj are for Muslims only.  Perhaps Ed can tell us when and why Mecca was restricted to Muslims.  The emotions evident at the mass meetings in Mecca are quite different from those on display at Rome.  I have the impression that Muslims do not laugh much.  Is there a tradition of comedy in Islam?

said that an analysis of the people who attended the funeral of Pope John Paul II would be significant.  We are most grateful to Veysi Ozcan of Turkey for having found such a list: The online encyclopedia Wikipedia has a list of the dignitaries who attended the funeral. Since this is an "open" source, anything in Wikipedia should be taken with a grain of salt, but I see no reason for any controversies about this particular article.

RH: The long list is very interesting and some one should analyze it.  For example, the official Spanish delegation was led by Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, a socialist and presumably not a clerical.  There was no member of the opposition clerical Partido Popular. These seems ungenerous, but official delegations were limited to five, and that provided an excuse.  If they went, the leaders of the Partido Popular must have stood with hoi polloi, a humiliation which I am sure Zapatero deeply regretted having to inflict on his political opponents.

Veysi Ozcan sends this correction to his posting about the funeral of Pope John Paul II: My apologies, the correct link is:
RH: No need to apologize. I found both links work.
I stand corrected. I said the Spanish delegation to tjhe funeral of John Paul II did not include a representative of the opposition Partido Popular. Max Navarro writes: The Spanish delegation was led by the King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia. Besides, Mariano Rajoy, leader of the Partido Popular attended as well as part of the delegation.
 RH: The Wikipedia entry must have reached me garbled.


Ronald Hilton 2005


last updated: June 8, 2005