This morning after his usual prayer of the Angelus Pope Francis commemorated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and made special mention of the role of his predecessor, Saint John Paul II.
On November 9, 1989 the Berlin Wall fell, said Francis, “which for so long had cut the city in two and was a symbol of the ideological division of Europe and the world.”
The fall happened suddenly, the Pope said, but “it was made possible by the long and arduous efforts of many people who had fought, prayed and suffered for this, some even to the sacrifice of their lives. These include a leading role by Saint Pope John Paul II.”
Many have hailed the influence of John Paul in bringing down communism, among them Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who has said the collapse of the Iron Curtain would have been impossible without John Paul II, a belief echoed by Nobel Prize winner and former Polish President Lech Walesa.
John Paul wrote that the Berlin Wall “had been erected in order to divide and set against each other not only two parts of that City but two ways of understanding and building the earthly city. On one side and the other of the Wall, life was to follow different patterns, dictated by antithetical rules, in a climate of mutual suspicion and mistrust.”
Pope John Paul II studied Marx’s ideology in the belief that one must understand error in order to defeat it. After the fall of the Soviet Union John Paul wrote:
It would be simplistic to say that Divine Providence caused the fall of Communism. In a certain sense Communism as a system fell by itself. It fell as a consequence of its own mistakes and abuses. It proved to be a medicine more dangerous than the disease itself. It did not bring about true social reform, yet it did become a powerful threat and challenge to the entire world. But it fell by itself, because of its own inherent weakness.
Pope Francis ended his address this morning asking God’s help to achieve a culture “able to bring down all the walls that still divide the world.” Where there is a wall, the Pope said, “there is closure of the heart. We need bridges, not walls!”