Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman for yielding me time. I thank the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner) for sponsoring this very important resolution and for his eloquent remarks just made on behalf of the Pope.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of the Sensenbrenner resolution urging the President on behalf of people of the United States to present the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Pope John Paul II, who in his 25 years as leader of the Catholic Church, has become pastor to the world, boldly proclaiming the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, and its message of love, hope and reconciliation.
The Holy Father walks the path to peace that surpasses understanding, the road that leads to heaven. Even at age 83 and struggling with various health ailments, including Parkinsons disease, the Pope's charisma and steadfast faith shine brightly, giving hope to millions of people of all faiths.
Mr. Speaker, as we know, during his pontificate the Holy Father has visited over 125 different countries, several more than once, proclaiming the good news to millions and has been seen by more people than anyone in human history.
In what is believed to be the largest gathering ever, he spoke before an estimated 6 million people at a mass at World Youth Day in the Philippines in 1995.
Pope John Paul II is truly a world leader and has been an unparalleled champion of those who cannot speak for themselves, the poor, the disenfranchised, unborn children, the disabled, even those condemned to death and those whose basic rights as children of God are trampled upon by oppressive regimes.
Mr. Speaker, it has been noted that years before he was Pope when he was teaching at a university in Poland as a young priest, a communist student launched an aggressive attack against religion during class. The student, an avowed atheist, was so filled with rage, his fellow students feared that the young priest, then known as Karol Wojtyla, would lose his temper and kick the student out of class. Instead, Father Wojtyla had listened to the student before calmly and thoroughly refuting his argument
point by point. After class the two had a conversation that began a dialogue. The student would later say that helped him greatly when confronting atheist communists after he converted to Catholicism and after he himself became a priest.
Mr. Speaker, it is worth recalling that Pope John Paul II's first words as Pope to the world included the message, ``Do not be afraid.''
This message was part of an unrelenting crusade against the forces of [Page: H11476]
atheistic communism that was instrumental in its collapse. No one, Mr. Speaker, can dispute that John Paul II's historic visit to Poland in 1979 inspired the creation of the solidarity movement with its great leader Lech Walesa in the midst of unspeakable turmoil and personal risk. Remember, this Pope was shot, and he actually, after he was shot, and he was actually we believe saved
miraculously, went to the jail cell of his would-be assassin to forgive that man for the crime he attempted and for the pain and suffering that he visited upon the Pope. Despite all of those personal risks, Pope John Paul II was, during those terrible years, and is the brave voice of reason, candor and hope. Even Mikhail Gorbachev admitted that the sweeping changes in Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union itself would not have occurred had it not been for this Pope.
Today, the Pope continues to preach, Mr. Speaker, the message of life, hope and love amid the oppressive tide of the culture of death. His teachings not only inspire the faithful today but will continue to have an impact long after his work on earth is complete.
Many of his most profound messages are contained in 13 incisive encyclicals, including Evangelium Vitae, ``The Gospel of Life,'' which reminds all of us, especially those in public service, that the gift of human life is so precious, so full of dignity, that it must remain inviolable and be defended against all means of violence.
The Pope writes in that very important document that, ``This is what is happening at the level of politics and government,'' and I quote him, ``the original and inalienable right to life is questioned or denied on the basis of a parliamentary vote or the will of one part of the people, even if it is the majority. This is the sinister result of relativism which reigns unopposed, the right ceases to be such, because it is no longer firmly founded on the inviolable dignity of the person, but is
made subject to the will of the stronger part.''
Elsewhere, Mr. Speaker, in Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II states in unambiguous terms that, ``Abortion and euthanasia are crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws,'' he writes and said, ``There is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. In the case of intrinsically unjust law,'' he continues, ``such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it or to take
part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or to vote for it.''
Finally, Mr. Speaker, just let me say this. My dear wife Marie and I have had the awesome privilege of meeting the Holy Father on two occasions, and we were awed. We were deeply struck by his innate goodness, the clarity that we see in his eyes, the love that he emanates and by his gentleness. When we were in Newark, New Jersey, at the cathedral there when he came during one of his visits to the U.S., and we happened to be there as a family. He walked over to my youngest daughter Elyse, gave
her a big nice kiss on the top of the head, and we could just see the compassion of this man in his eyes and in his gestures and in his heart. We were also even faces in the crowd in 1979 at New York's Shea Stadium when he came in on his first trip and again were inspired by this good man.
Mr. Speaker, we have been on numerous occasions and I think many Members, House and Senate, Democrats, Republicans, it does not matter, have all been touched by his care and his compassion for others, a man that is so completely rooted in God. We have been touched by his devotion to the Blessed Mother. He is a man who in word and deed unselfishly cares for the least of our brethren.
John Paul II is truly the vicar of Christ on earth, a man who has and continues to be faithfully and courageously walking in the shoes of the fisherman, Saint Peter.
Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Ros-Lehtinen) for yielding me time.
I rise to pay tribute to His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, who in October marked his 25th year as bishop of Rome and Supreme Pastor of the Catholic Church.
I also wish to offer my sincere appreciation to all my friends and colleagues in the House who have joined together to urge the President to present the Medal of Freedom to Pope John Paul II.
The celebration of the Silver Jubilee of Pope John Paul II pontificate is but the latest in the series of remarkable milestones that have characterized his life and his ministry.
From his birth on May 18, 1920, Karol Jozef Wojtyla's life has been intertwined with the fate of his native Poland and synonymous with the struggle for his individual freedom and dignity.
In 1978 when then-Cardinal Wojtyla, the Archbishop of Krakow, was elected Pope, the world was such a different place. For more than 3 decades since Winston Churchill delivered his famous ``Iron Curtain'' speech, people around the world prepared for what many regarded as the inevitable new war that would someday engulf the East and the West. To win the Cold War, geopolitical strategists honed and implemented various policies including the doctrines of attainment and mutual-assured destruction.
At this pivotal moment in history when the status quo included the subjugation of half the populations of Europe and the omnipresent threat of nuclear annihilation, a remarkable and energetic new Pope set foot on the world stage. To many in the West, this new Polish Pope was an unknown entity. While we recognized immediately his energy, courage and leadership, these same qualities were reviewed with suspicion by some in the East, particularly the communist rulers in Poland.
Pope John Paul II's commitment to freedom, his affection for his native Poland, and the devotion of his countrymen to him were never more evident than the summer of 1980. That August, the Solidarity Workers Union, which Cardinal Wojtyla had nurtured and protected, organized a peaceful strike at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk.
With the Pope's portrait suddenly appearing everywhere and the admonition from his inaugural sermon, ``Do not be afraid,'' on the lips of the workers, his support and reassurance provided vital sustenance for the strikers and ignited a spiritual spark in their struggle to secure dignity and freedom. Ultimately, that spark would lead to the demise of Soviet communism and the liberation of hundreds of millions in Eastern and Central Europe. History has recorded the remarkable achievement of Pope
John Paul II and his relentless advocacy in pursuit of individual dignity, freedom, and peace.
The Pope has not confined his efforts solely to the struggle against totalitarianism. He has engaged wherever people are downtrodden and oppressed.
Mr. Speaker, the Congress should pass House Concurrent Resolution 313 and urge the President to present the Medal of Freedom, our Nation's highest civilian award, to His Holiness.
In authorizing the first Medals of Freedom in 1963, President Kennedy proclaimed that persons who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace or cultural or other significant public or private endeavors should be so recognized. By any measure it is apparent that there is no individual more deserving of this recognition than Pope John Paul II.
Two other recipients of the Medal of Freedom, President Ronald Reagan and Lady Margaret Thatcher, shared the Pope's commitment to Solidarity in the 1980s. In my estimation, their leadership changed the course of human history. In 1984, while welcoming the Pope to the United States, President Reagan spoke of the connection between freedom, the founding of our own Nation, and America's debt to His Holiness.
President Reagan stated, ``I can assure you, Your Holiness, that the American people seek to act as a force for peace in the world and to further the cause of human freedom and dignity. Indeed, in appreciation for the unalienable rights of every human being is the very concept that gave birth to this Nation. Few have understood better than our Nation's founding fathers that claims of human dignity transcend the claims of any government, and this transcendent right itself has a transcendent source.''
The President went on to state, ``To us, Your Holiness, the Holy See and your pastorate represent one of humanity's greatest moral and spiritual forces,'' and ``your words, your prayers and your example have made you, for those who suffer oppression or the violence of war, a source of solace, inspiration and hope.''
It is no exaggeration to recognize that this remarkable man has brought hope, comfort and faith to literally billions of people around the world during the course of his ministry.
Three weeks ago today I was honored to be joined by 30 Members of the House in introducing this resolution. Since that time we have gained additional support for which I am grateful, and I particularly appreciate the work of the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Tom Davis) and the Committee on Government Reform who reported our resolution to the floor in such a timely manner.
As stated previously, our bipartisan resolution calls upon the President on behalf of all the people of the United States to present the Medal of Freedom to Pope John Paul II as a sign of our gratitude for his significant, enduring, and historic contributions to the causes of freedom, human dignity, and peace. We urge the President to do so without delay.
Finally, I include an article by Carl Bernstein entitled ``The Holy Alliance,'' which appeared in the February 24, 1992, edition of Time, as well as an article by Father Robert A. Sirico entitled ``The Cold War's Magnificent Seven; Pope John Paul II; Awakener of the East,'' which was published in the winter 1992 edition of Policy Review.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I would invoke President Reagan once more. When asked his assessment of the Pope before meeting him the first time, the President replied, ``He is an example of what so many people have always said about Christian and Judaic tradition, and that is, when really needed, God provides a man. And I think in Pope John Paul he did just that.''
Billions around the world are thankful that God has provided such a man.
The articles referred to are as follows: