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President Reagan and Pope John Paul 2

President Reagan and Pope John Paul 2

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Published by Piotr Wójcicki

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Published by: Piotr Wójcicki on Sep 03, 2009
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This information was found online at:http://www.eppc.org/publications/pubID.3865/pub_detail.asp
President Reagan and Pope John Paul II
 ByGeorge Weigel Posted: Friday, July 3, 2009THE CATHOLIC DIFFERENCEPublication Date: June 24, 2009They were two of the giant figures of the last half of the twentieth century --Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II -- and they had many things in common.Both were trained actors whose craft had taught them the power of words tochange minds and hearts. Both came to eminence through unconventionalroutes, and against the grain of a lot of the common wisdom. Both had a healthyskepticism about the conventions that surrounded their offices, and both intuited that diplomats, no matterhow skilled, might have a professionally ingrained caution that blinded them to certain opportunities for boldaction. Both survived assassination attempts and came to a deeper understanding of life-as-vocation as aresult.Now, in
Reagan's Secret War: The Untold Story of His Fight to Save the World from Nuclear Disaster 
(Crown), husband-and-wife team Martin and Annelise Anderson shed new light on the Reagan-John Paul IIrelationship by using previously classified U.S. government files.The outlines of the story are reasonably well known: John Paul first came to Reagan's attention when thePope's epic first papal pilgrimage to Poland in June 1979 set in motion what eventually became theSolidarity movement -- a movement Reagan, an old union leader, instinctively appreciated. Shortly after hisinauguration, President Reagan sent his friend (and future Holy See envoy) William A. Wilson to Anchorage,Alaska, where the Pope's plane was refueling, to greet the pontiff on Reagan's behalf. We also know of thetwo leaders' subsequent meetings in both Rome and the United States, and of Reagan's determination topush U.S. diplomatic recognition of the Holy See through a U.S. Senate nervous about residualanti-Catholicism in some parts of America.There has also been a lot of nonsense written about the relationship, primarily by Carl Bernstein ofWatergate fame, who for years perpetrated a "Holy Alliance" conspiracy theory, according to which the twomen entered into a secret bargain to bring down communism. As the Anderson's book confirms, this was,and is, pluperfect nonsense, as is the claim (often heard in the 1980s) that John Paul II had agreed not tocriticize either U.S. missile deployments in Europe or U.S. policy in Central America in exchange for Reaganadministration support of Solidarity.The new revelation about the relationship in the Andersons' book is that the Pope and the President had anextensive correspondence, involving dozens of letters back-and-forth, which Professor Martin Anderson toldme were by far among the most interesting of all the Reagan letters he had examined. Among the lettersreferenced in
Reagan's Secret War 
is a January 1982 letter from the White House to the Vatican in whichReagan shifted the subject of the exchange from events in Poland (which had just been put under martiallaw) to his hopes for genuine disarmament, not just arms "control," at the talks about to begin with theSoviet Union in Geneva.Indeed, the Andersons' book makes clear that, somewhat to the consternation of many of his closeadvisers, Ronald Reagan was a nuclear abolitionist: he really did believe, as he often said, in ridding theworld of nuclear weapons. His instruments for doing so -- ramping up U.S. missile capability to demonstratethat America couldn't be outmuscled, and the strategic defense initiative as an insurance policy -- werebitterly criticized by the liberal arms controllers, whose influence on the deliberations of the U.S. bishops asthey prepared their 1983 peace pastoral was, to put it gently, considerable. But as the Andersonsdemonstrate, it was Reagan who was the true radical in this business: the man who wasn't satisfied withsimply managing an arms race, the man who wanted to put the nuclear genie back into the bottle. Historiansof U.S. Catholicism will thus be grateful to the Andersons for clarifying just how mistaken some of the policy
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