by Alan McElwain in Sydney
THE six-and-a-half days that shook Australia are over. And it wasn't cricket or court-room spy dramas that were responsible. Pope Joint Paul has gone. His
visit was a triumph. "Catholic or non-Catholic, Christian or non-Christian, religious or nonreligious, the Pope touched all our lives", said Sydney's Daily Telegraph.
He has left the Church out
here with its batteries thoroughly recharged. It is now up to the Church to see they do not run down. The Sydney Morning Herald could have been envisaging reaction to the entire visit when it designated the Pope's first, incredibly full day in Australia as the day John Paul "stole our hearts".
The Papal Mass in Sydney, with 250,000 people present, was "the best attended religious function in Australian history". In Melbourne where, in a wonderful ecumenical salute, the Pope went straight from the airport to St Paul's Anglican Cathedral for a unity service, joyous headlines, "Cheers, Bells Toll, as Pope Visits Anglican Cathedral", crowned a report about "the largest ecumenical service in Australia".
Surely just these few secular tributes answer adequately those sneering critics who see no usefulness whatever in John Paul's unrelenting pastoral travels. Who refuse to see, for example, beyond their cost to the undoubted good they do among all people of goodwill.
One of the Pope's last engagements was his unforgettable meeting in Alice Springs with thousands of Aborigines to whom he pledged his full support for their claims to land rights. His address was described as the most political and controversial of his entire visit.
But everything he said could be called "controversial" in the sense that he was there to provoke us.
Whether he was with the Aborigines, or participating exuberantly in a national youth
demonstration, or saying openair masses for tens of thousands of people, or talking to academics, employers, workers or unemployed, or mingling with the sick and disabled, or boldly treading the ecumenical road, or speaking to clergy, religious and laity, he had us alive to the options open to us, and how he "comes over".
Could anything have been more compelling than his homily at mass in Sydney to lapsed Catholics and Christians generally whose love for Christ had grown cold. Opening his arms wide, he pleaded: "To all those who have wandered from their spiritual home. I wish to say 'come back. The Church opens her arms to you, the Church loves you... come home".
Raising his voice, he infused that word "home" with the stirring vibrancy of a sharply struck gong. John Paul's formidable personality has, of course, much to do with his gift for instant rapport. But, above all, it is due to his patent sincerity. No one, no matter what his persuasion or convictions, can dispute this. It envelopes you, as I know after only the briefest meeting with him.
With all his power and courage and drive, he is a humble man who treats all his people on the one level — as people made in the image of God. It did not surprise me to hear that in presbyteries where he stayed during his Australian pilgrimage, he wanted no special treatment. He created a family atmosphere, in which he was cosily at home with his fellow priests.
Archbishop Edward Clancy who, as president of the Australian Episcopal Conference, accompanied the Pope throughout his visit, prayed that John Paul's days in Australia be days of grace, growth and happiness. Indeed, they were.
Pope John Paul has gone now, but we are going to feel him right here beside us for a long time to come.