Losing faith is easy nowadays. The beauty of religion is forgotten when priests abuse children and grocery shopping monopolizes our Sunday afternoons.
The church is lost in our Canadian landscape. This is the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church; all the other Christian denominations too. There are many reasons for this. Religion is not fashionable, it requires faith and an attention span. The altars of science and consumerism have replaced traditional faith; we find it easier to believe in the free market than in God. This has countless sociological ramifications--among them, the shopping mall replacing the church as the centre of our communities. These days, religion is usually a small-town endeavor, because there, the church still retains its role as the social gathering spot.
Some call this move toward complete secularization enlightenment. Others call it moral decay.
It is in this environment that Pope John Paul II is visiting Canada as the centerpiece of World Youth Day in Toronto. The Pope is a good man. This does not spare him from talkshow hosts proclaiming the great irony of the Catholic Pontiff's visit to a youth gathering, but it does reinforce how our culture deals with matters of faith.
A recent poll showed that the Pope has a 75 per cent approval rating among Canadians between the ages of 18 and 34. This 75 per cent comes from a cross section of Catholics, Protestants, Sikhs, Muslims and all the countless others who make up our diverse population.
The Pope is a good man. This matters more to our young generation than the fact that he is the head of the Catholic Church.
We have moved away from institutions and entered the era of the individual. Again, some call this enlightenment, others call it moral decay. It is alright to disapprove of the Catholic Church but approve of the Pope.
This seems like a contradiction, but it is not. The Pope is a good man. He speaks eight different languages and travels the world giving people hope. He forces himself to do this at age 82 even though he suffers from Parkinson's disease. When he arrived in Toronto, he painfully made his way down the steps and walked off the airplane on his own. With his failing health, this was an unexpected display of courage and faith. And Muslim, Jew, Catholic or Sikh, we as Canadians respect that. We can respect John Paul II without buying into every part of his message. This is part of our individuality, and also part of our tendency to raise individuals above institutions.
Losing faith is easy nowadays. This is true when it relates to the Catholic Church, or any other religious faith. But the Pope was right when he said "Canadians are heirs to an extraordinarily rich humanism." We are also heirs to an incredibly rich individualism and idealism. And it is these values that allow us to have faith--faith in the greatness of the human spirit and the greatness of the Pope's heart.