The influence of Pope John Paul II on the political front on many nations, especially the ones that had been under the oppression of dictatorships, has been colossal. Although, being the Pope, he could not directly interfere with the running of the State affairs of any country whatsoever, but he could, as the moral benchmark for Roman Catholics all over the world, exercise his authority to a considerable extent. It is known to all that he was highly critical of dictators, and left no stone unturned to convince them to grant democracy to its people.
The Pope had first hand experience in facing the damages caused to freedom and dignity of people living under domination of autocratic regime. He was a young man when he witnessed the holocaust and then came the onslaught of the socialist communist forces in his homeland Poland. The cause of his political stance can be understood through these experiences that he could not erase from his memory till the last day of existence.
The Pope dealt with the communist regime which had occupied Poland with very rigid terms. As the Archbishop of Krakow, he played it safe and did not instigate or, get involved in any kind of tussle with the government. He tried within his limited means to keep Christianity alive in the hearts of people who were not allowed to practice their faith, in order to stay in line with the principles of communism. Any deviation would amount to severe consequences. But after he was elected as the Vatican Sovereign on the 16th of October 1978, and he received international support for this cause, he became more vocal about the liberation Poland than ever before, which ultimately got freedom to the people of his homeland. In December 1989, when he met President Gorbachev of the Soviet Union, the latter accredited the Pope by saying that collapse of the ‘iron curtain’ would not have been possible without him.
Critics (as they are), based the relationship of the Pope with other autocratic nations, keeping his involvement in freeing Poland in mind. Many say that he has not been as rigid as he should have been when it did not concern his homeland. For example, his visit to Chile to meet Augusto Pinochet and persuade him to grant democracy to the people was highly criticized, as the latter held that the Vatican Sovereign had been harsher when it concerned communists. He was also alleged of having cordial (in fact, friendly) relationship with the Argentine military dictators, and was many times spotted playing tennis with them!
While the critics have had many allegations against the political stance of the Pope, it is very true that his involvement had brought down a few dictatorships like the one in Haiti. He was highly critical of the Iraq invasion by the USA, and said that it was the defeat of humanity. He stressed that ‘war is not always inevitable’. There were other ways to settle issues only if they were given a chance over war.
As far as the Pope’s political stand is concerned it can be seen that his relationship with the other nations was based solely on the augmentation of peace, and harmony of religion and communities. During his papacy, he established official relationship with many more countries with which the Vatican had not ties before. This magnanimous personality now exists among people in the form of exquisitely carved bronze statues, which is said to reflect his aura.