This is a pope who has worn his emotions on his sleeve, from his joy when surrounded by youth, to his anger in Nicaragua in 1983 (shouting "silence!" at a crowd of Sandinista agitators), to disappointment while visiting Poland after adoption of a liberalized abortion law.
Papal passions were again on display June 20 when he delivered his Sunday Angelus address, his first public comment since the European Union adopted its new constitution. It acknowledges the "cultural, religious and humanist inheritance" of Europe, but omits the specific reference to the continent's Christian heritage that had long been requested by John Paul. It also makes no mention of God.
The result embittered the pope, and it showed.
"I want to thank Poland for faithfully defending in European institutions the Christian roots of our continent, from which have grown our culture and the civil progress of our time," he said in his native Polish.
Poland was among the handful of European nations -- Italy, Portugal, Malta, and the Czech Republic -- that persevered until the end in requesting a reference to Christianity, but in the end they were blocked by more powerful nations, especially France. (Former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing headed the drafting commission).
Thus the papal barb: "One does not cut off the roots from which one is born."
Other Vatican sources reflected the pope's displeasure.
On Friday, spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls charged that governments that had blocked the reference to Christianity "failed to understand the historical evidence and the Christian identity of the peoples of Europe." On Saturday, L'Osservatore Romano said that Europe "seems to want to deprive itself of the solid foundation of its historical memory.
- "Europe's Problem, And Ours", by George Weigel. First Things 140 (February 2004): 18-25.