29 July 2009


- a tribute to Pope John Paul II (1920-2005)

Written late July 2009 - (174 lines)


Although never a Christian, I admired JP2 greatly and had
enormous respect for this exceptional man, above all his
genuine warm humanity and the remarkable way he reached
out to all other faiths and religions. What an example!

The "Froman and Yassin" mentioned are Menachem Froman, a
courageous rabbi running a yeshiva (Jewish religious college,
equivalent to Islamic madrassa) in Israel, and the co-founder
of the Islamic resistance movement Hamas, Ahmad Yassin.
Froman and Yassin once met and declared afterwards that if
only the politicians would keep out of it, they could agree on
a lasting peace for the Holy Land in 10 minutes.


"The universality of salvation means that it
is granted not only to those who explicitly
believe in Christ and have entered the Church."
(John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio (No.10), 7 Dec 1990)


Brother, I am not a Christian, never was
And never will be, yet I speak because
I know you will listen and understand anyway
So hear what this admirer has to say:

A man of the sharpest intellect
Deserving of everybody's respect
The scope of your learning was so vast
It is doubtful whether any of the past
Popes could match you overall -
You were well prepared when you got the call!

How did you find time to get it all done?
Fluent in ten languages! How many master one?

In your youth so active, you enjoyed many sorts
Of outdoor pursuits and competitive sports
And when elected pope at just fiftyeight
You became famous for jogging and weight-
Lifting and were nicknamed the keep-fit pope
Giving some inspiration and others hope

The way you carried your personal cross
Of age and infirmity, the creeping loss
Of movement and agility, hearing and sight
Although painful to watch, you were right
To continue until the very end
Using your physical state to send
A message that the human body is frail
And even the pope's must eventually fail
So setting an example for us all
To still be active when we hear the last call

The most travelled man in history?
If measured by airmiles, probably!
Several million kilometres, as you say:
"The future begins not tomorrow but today"
Always underway and on the move
Sparing no effort to continuously prove
By your personal presence that the local crowd
Deserved your blessing, so you went and bowed
Before them all, once at least
North and south and west and east


I am a Muslim now but still
Admire the strenuous efforts and skill
You expended so long and so tirelessly
Brother, may I say religiously
To reach out in trying to reconcile
Or at least engage with a genuine smile
All other faiths on this planet where we live
Acknowledging that each could teach and give
Something to mankind for the common good
Neither accepted then nor understood
But you brought us together, the family of man
As a loosely confederated spiritual clan
Not to be lectured or converted by you
No, to be politely listened to
Treated as equals and above all as friends
Maybe you felt the Church must make amends
And atone for much, not least the Crusades
The Conquistadores, the Inquisition and the trades
In slaves, and colonising most of the globe -
Was this perhaps one way for you to probe
The sincerity of not just the Church but your own
Conscience as well? You let it be known
That relations with other religions in effect
Are dictated by the following twofold respect:
Respect for man in his ongoing quest
To find meaningful answers to the deepest
Questions of his life, if in any way he can
And "respect for the action of the Spirit in man"

It seems you reached out to Muslims more
Than to all others, you always left that door
Wide open and if we did not come in
That was not your fault, you did begin
By taking the first maybe short but sure
Steps to friendly dialogue, and to the pure
Of heart it is the thought and motive that count
And should the immediate results not amount
To much, the world has noticed you did try -
Sadly it is too late to ask you why
You singled Muslims out for attention, maybe
You felt compelled to approach us because we
Are so many already and growing rapidly?
How wonderful if you could answer me!

You had the vision, the stature and the strength
To say and write repeatedly, briefly or at length
That Christians and Muslims worship the same
Single universal Creator, though the name
We use may be different, our God is ONE -
My dear brother, hallelujah! Well done!

And still clear in our memory
You were the first pope in history
To enter a mosque to speak and pray
And marking that very special day
Always the determined and courageous man
You not only held but kissed the Quran!

Actions like those did not go down well
With fundamentalist Christians who would yell
You were guilty of outright blasphemy
Heresy and apostasy
They often called you an anti-Pope
On a dangerous and very slippery slope
And technically they were probably right
For all such actions seen in the light
Of accepted dogma, established so long
Leaves no room to deviate from the song
Of the ancient Athanasian creed
To be taken literally in word as well as deed
By anyone claiming to be a Christian
And endorsed of course by the Vatican

It surely clashes with the divine
That unforgiving bottom line
For which there is Catholic consensus:
Extra ecclesiam nulla salus
[outside the (Catholic) Church there is no salvation]
Reaffirmed again and again
By the most zealous and learned men
Of the Church down the centuries
When suddenly you said: "Yes there is!"
Not once or twice by accident
But many times, so was obviously meant
Seriously and to be taken as read
Which we did and we liked what you said -
It would seem that Christians and Muslims share
More than we knew! Now, if you compare
The broad-minded and universal view
Proposed and formulated by you
With the old ultra-fundamentalist school
Sterile and rigid, harsh and cruel
You were a much needed antidote
But from there to assert you represented the goat
Well, let everyone make up his own mind
And, when the reasoning is done, we will find
It was neither heresy nor profanity
All you expressed was your humanity!


What did you achieve when spending whole nights
Praying in Peter's crypt alone? What insights
Did you gain, on what power did you draw?
Did you sense a page or two of eternal law?
Which password did you use to log into this
Level or dimension of timeless bliss?
I am sure you would say that the golden key
To enter that kingdom is humility

Had you written it all down in your own hand
We would probably still fail to understand...

Brother, and I am not trying to catch you out
But maybe you could remove an old doubt
An innocent question about divinity:
Can you please explain the Holy Trinity?


Your words and deeds and presence did much
To bring all of East Europe back into touch
With the rest, so speeding up the collapse
Of Communism, in retrospect perhaps
Your highest achievement - and what was your reward?
As they say, mysterious are the ways of the Lord:
For your good efforts you were shot and nearly died
And millions around the world prayed and cried
Convinced yourself you were protected that day
By Our Lady of Fatima in some miraculous way
Later you visited your killer in jail
And forgave him - words almost fail...


I believe if this world were run by a team
Of truly good old men with the gleam
Of the wisdom of the ages in their eyes
Not just to sit there and drink tea and advise
But with executive power to decree
It would not take long before we would see
Significant improvements in every sphere
Of life just about everywhere -
According to Froman and Yassin it would take
No more than ten minutes for them to make
A peace that we all could understand
And one which would last, in the Holy Land!

I know you have moved on to pastures new
But maybe we could still consult with you?


Though dedicated to Christianity
You did much for all humanity
May you rest now in peace for ever JP2
And may all future Popes be more like you...


Copyright © 2009 - IBRAHEEM (O.E.H.Johansen) - All Rights Reserved

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