Page 1308 - Week 05 - Tuesday, 5 April 2005

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a catalyst for change in the Philippines. He was one of those who influenced the bringing down of the Marcos regime. He travelled to the South Americas and stood by the poor. He railed against the regimes in those countries that did not give a damn about their own people. He put untold pressure on the gunmen of Northern Ireland. He was an influential change agent in the demise of the Cold War.

Pope John Paul II reached out to the Muslim world at a time critical for this to happen. He is greatly respected by the Muslin community around the world, something that is underestimated. In the Middle East he travelled to, joined with and gently cajoled Israeli and Palestinian leaders to get a grip on the Middle East peace process. But surprisingly, he was to put the weight of his position behind the Palestinian cause. And this had untold influence on Western thinking on the management of this particular Middle Eastern problem.

He met President Mubarak of Egypt and other senior Muslim leaders. He was the first pope to pray in a mosque. He was the pope who apologised to the Jews for what he, himself, said were the fundamental failings of his church during the times of the Holocaust and other times prior to that.

Over the weekend, my wife and I were glued to BBC coverage of the poor old fellow’s final moments and then his passing. Clearly, he was brave in death and he took the same uncompromising position to prepare himself for his death that he had held throughout his life. My wife and I will personally miss, and a lot of other people will miss this great man. And I would really put it to this place that perhaps we ought to be influencing whoever we can to see that this man is indeed named Pope John Paul II, the great.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra): Mr Speaker, the death of John Paul II is a great loss for the world, for the Catholic Church, and is a matter of personal loss as John Paul II was the leader on earth of the faith to which I ascribe. It is a great loss to me personally because of the influence that he had upon my life.

His elevation to the papacy and his early pilgrimages to South America coincided with a strangely formative part of my own life, when I suppose I could say I was going through a spiritual crisis. And that coincided, also, with my first visit to Europe, which mainly concentrated on Italy. I remember—and I was recounting to some of my staff this morning—that I arrived in Italy one day, it was a Tuesday, and my brother met me at the airport and said, “Vick, tomorrow we’re going to a papal audience.” As a young 20-something, I could not think of anything less exciting to do on one’s first day in Rome than go to a papal audience. But it was a most uplifting experience. Mr Stefaniak spoke of the warmth of contact with John Paul II. At a formative time in my life, it was a very important contact.

There was much discussion in our household over the last couple of days about the importance of John Paul II. It brought it home to me, when my youngest daughter asked me last night, “Since you’ve been alive how many popes have you seen?” that all of my children have only known one pope, that is, John Paul II. I started to recount the popes for my children. Pius XII died in 1958, so that meant Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, a short reign, and now the enormous reign of John Paul II. And it showed a very sharp contrast of the experiences of older Catholics with those of young Catholics.

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