Page 1307 - Week 05 - Tuesday, 5 April 2005

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Mr Speaker, this was a truly great man. He has left a legacy that will last well beyond his death. He was a man of vision, a man of strength, integrity, compassion, faith and love. The world would be a better place if more of us had lived as he did. And the world is certainly a better place for Karol Wojtyla having been in it.

MR PRATT (Brindabella): Mr Speaker, firstly I would like to give my condolences to ACT Catholics and to all other Canberrans who feel themselves personally mourning the pope on this occasion. The pope, to me and to many millions of others, was more than simply the head of the Catholic Church. He was a truly effective leader on the political stage and a leader entirely for the good, entirely for the good of various world causes.

Karol Wojtyla was the son of an army sergeant and a man from simple and rough beginnings. He grew to be a robust and quite a tough man. We have heard here today about his exploits on the rugby pitch, in the boxing ring and other places. He was no shrinking violet. He was a character, more colourful and greater than life. But he was also a man who was quite artistic. He sought an acting career and gave that away. He was culturally sensitive. He was very, very concerned about his community and about others. He was a man of many, many complexities.

During World War II, he was a member of the Polish underground. And even then, he commenced his priesthood. When the Nazis were defeated and the communist regime, another dictatorship, took hold in Poland, he defied those authorities. He organised and ran an outdoor church in his own township, one of those socialist, utopian, government-established collective townships where the workers were put together for the good of the state. But this man stood outside in the mud and snow and, in defiance of the authorities, ran one of the more effective outdoor churches and clearly sowed the seeds for revolution in that country. So he was a robust man, but he was cheerful and he was compassionate. He supported and inspired Solidarity. And this inspiration that caused significant change was to be seen later in many other theatres.

Mr Speaker, to Catholics, to members of other Christian faiths and to Muslims and Jews—the religions of the book—Pope John Paul II was a solid rock for principle in a sea of uncertain change. The pope’s critics, those who claimed that he divided his own church and who will claim he was a divisive influence in a so-called modern, progressive world, in my view, were entirely wrong and continue to be. It was those critics, mainly holding a radical position in the Catholic Church and others outside the Catholic Church—atheists, socialists and others—who were and continue to be the divisive ones, the harbingers of so-called change for the so-called good.

What has admired millions around the world was that this pope held uncompromising principles, based on high moral values, and refused to be bent by trendy radicalism. To say that he was simply conservative and an impediment for sensible progress is simply wrong. And those who moan such views cannot love civilisation as this man did.

Mr Speaker, the pope was a compassionate man. He championed the poor, and clearly those critics do not see that. He travelled to all corners of the world and he stood shoulder to shoulder with and defended the underprivileged. He railed against dictatorships of the extreme left and the extreme right, so powerfully so that he contributed to substantial change in Eastern Europe and the Philippines. He was

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