[VIEWPOINT]Pope lived a life of new hopeDuring the 27 years he guided the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II’s actions were characterized by his love for humanity. His attention was focused not only on religion, but also on the people of the world.
The pope believed that Christ and his church should shed light on the worldly dimensions of human life. He believed that Christians must not run away from their lives but must actively participate in their realities to make their lives fuller.
With such a philosophy and respect for human beings, the pope was deeply interested in many issues such as human rights, justice, peace and development.
Regarding human rights, he highly valued the right to life. He made clear his objection to abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment. He championed religious freedom, labor rights, kindness toward the poor and economic justice.
He also defined the conditions under which a war could be morally acceptable; he did not see the Gulf War or Iraq war as just.
The pope also criticized both capitalism and communism, saying that both systems cannot be ethically correct. He said capitalism makes the people dependent on making profits and brings about a segregation in labor.
But socialism encourages isolation and brings about economic inefficiency and shortages of living necessities, the pope said. He proposed to build a free society of labor, business and participation.
John Paul II was effusive in his praise for democracy. But he was critical of ethical relativism. He said that democracy must not be idolized to replace morals, that democracy can not be the panacea of immorality.
The pope saw development as covering every part of human life, from the material to spiritual aspects. He said the development of our time does not coincide with true human achievement.
According to the pope, the world economy of our time is a scene depicted in the Bible, comparable to the story of Lazarus the beggar. The pope believed that international economic organizations do not have the ability to cure unjust social issues from the past nor do they have the capabilities to ethically cope with urgent matters of our time.
Those organizations are controlled directly and indirectly by advanced countries, and their functions are focused on seeking those countries’ interests. The international organizations, therefore, suppress economies of developing countries ― or even decide the destinies of those nations.
The pope believed that the structure of sin in our world, created by the desire for power and craving for profits, hinders true development.
John Paul II believed that reform of social structure domestically and internationally is urgently needed, and that the people must change their ways of thinking and living from their core.
He emphasized that moral repentance is a precondition for true reform. According to the pope, the social derivative of moral repentance is solidarity; solidarity is a strong and consistent promise of devotion to the community. The pope believed that solidarity is the only way to root out corruption in our society.
John Paul II was a pope who had the courage to lead efforts to defend the people without fear of becoming the target of the world’s criticism. In this way, he played a critical role in the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. The pope changed the currents of world history from the bottom, Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet Union leader, has said.
The pope believed that the Catholic Church should communicate and cooperate with all people to build a society with justice and peace. John Paul II stressed throughout his life that the human race should be given a sign of new hope. He was a great man who was the human embodiment of that hope.
* The writer is professor of economics at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and a member of Pontificio Consiglio per i Laici. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Han Hong-Soon