Poland will, quite naturally, adore Pope John Paul II for as long as religion survives. He was our Pope, and served the nation and the world admirably.
Yet the latest Vicar of Christ may well be giving many people food for thought in this largely Catholic nation. Pope Francis this week declared that throwing away food is no better than stealing from the hungry. This prompted a stampede for the refrigerator and careful perusal of sell-by dates at the unashamedly atheist Inside-Poland towers.
Why? What you’re reading now was, after all, penned by someone not just opposed to but also horrified by organised religion and theism in general. So what is that same writer doing paying attention to what an old man in the Vatican says?
It’s for the same reason that the same writer applauded Pope Francis’ earlier announcement that atheists could be just as good as Catholics. This applause was not born from any desire to be ‘as good as a Catholic’, whatever that means, or from a sense of relief that an eternity of red hot pokers and Jane Austen might be avoided and indeed replaced by life-everlasting with red hot chillis and Krystyna Janda.
It is because Pope Francis seems to have stepped back from the patriarchy and pomp of the Catholic Church, and decided that being ‘good’ is not the same as being ‘one of the faithful’. He has, with two simple statements, shown the world that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ belief system, that nobody is damned or raptured for who they are, and that the old man you try not to look at as he picks his dinner from the bin in your local high street is in fact far more important than your access to day-old unicorn steak.
There’s someone in the Vatican right now who isn’t outwardly obsessed with politics or power or right and wrong – just with being human. And, if the billions of people around the world who take his word as gospel are going to listen to what he says and act accordingly, then we are truly blessed.