october 20, 1994 :: The Times, by Ruth Gledhill
The Pope marks the sixteenth anniversary of his election today with the publication of an unprecedented book in which he speaks of his beliefs on a variety of topics, including abortion, women and Jews.
Crossing the Threshold of Hope has an initial print run of 20 million copies and is on sale from today in 35 countries and 21 languages. Pope John Paul II, a conservative, repeats his argument that abortion breaks the commandment “thou shalt not kill” and savs the church cannot risk “disastrous compromise” by bending sometimes unpopular rules to suit public opinion.
He says: “The legalisation of the termination of pregnancy is none other than the authorisation given to an adult, with the approval of an established law, to take the lives of children vet unborn and thus incapable of defending themselves. It i• difficult to imagine a more unjust situation.”
He is equally outspoken on the role of women and says: “In our civilisation woman has become, before all else. an object of pleasure. A certain contemporary feminism find its roots in the absence of a true respect for women.” But he also says: “At the same time, the spiritual beauty. the particular genius of women, is being rediscovered. The bases for the consolidation of the position of women. not only in family life but social and cultural life. are being redefined.
There is qualified praise for Islam. The Pope says: ‘”The religiosity of Muslims deserves respect. It is impossible not to admire, for example, their fidelity to prayer. Nevertheless, concrete difficulties are not lacking. In countries where fundamentalist movements come to power, human rights and the principle of religious freedom are unfortunately interpreted in a very one-sided way. Religious freedom comes to mean freedom to impose on all citizens the ‘true religion’.”
But he has unqualified admiration and sympathy for the Jews. “This extraordinary people continues to bear signs of its divine election. Perhaps because of this, Israel has become similar to the Son of Man, who, according to the flesh, was a Son of Israel. The 2000th anniversary of Christ’s coming to the world will be a celebration for Jews as well.
“To this day, Auschwitz does not cease -to admonish, reminding us that anti-Semitism is a great sin against humanity, that all racial hatred inevitably leads to the trampling of human dignity.”
More than 250.000 copies of the book, the first to – be published commercially by a reigning Pope. have already been sold to booksellers in Britain and Ireland.
The royalties from the book. the English language rights of which were bought by the American publishing giant Random House for a reported £4 million, will go to charity.
© The Times