In the late 20th Century, two humble Christian world leaders, Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan, acting in faithful concert within the maternal concern of Our Lady of Fatima, facilitated the dissolution of the Russian Communist empire. That is an underlying message in the book A Pope and a President, by Paul Kengor. Subtitled John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century, this history provides monumental evidence, painstaking research, meticulous annotation, and clarifying presentation of the thesis.
Though the Pope obviously was a Catholic and the President a Protestant, they had a tremendous respect and liking for each other. They shared many spiritual values including honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They met and corresponded with frequency. They abhorred tyrannical government, detested atheistic Communism, and felt intrinsically a Divine Call in their respective positions to bring about the destruction of the Russian Communist government.
Kengor offers tremendous support for his contentions. Much of this comes from previously published sources, and much from hitherto unpublished sources, and even personal sources. He includes some conjecture, based on sources, but so delineates such material. In one sense, the book is a compendium of evidence.
The volume includes over 500 pages of text, over 60 pages of footnotes, and an index of 20 pages.
Kengor recaps much of the political history of Communism in Russia and elsewhere. He recounts its effect on the thinking of both Ronald Reagan, who became President, and Karol Wojtyla, who became Pope John Paul II. He details its relevance with regard to the faith phenomenon of Our Lady of Fatima.
For the benefit of review readers, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, who may not be aware of institutional Catholic understanding of Our Lady of Fatima, a synopsis here of that understanding may be helpful.
Christian tradition holds that God immerses Himself in human affairs and often selects certain mortal human beings to bring His message to other human beings, even multitudes. This tradition actually has its roots in the ancient Hebrew bible, generally considered the Old Testament among Christians. A prime example of this is the recounting of the discovery of the Burning Bush by Moses. There are many others as well.
The ultimate immersion of God directly in human affairs is the Incarnation. This is the taking on of human nature by God Himself, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God, from a fully human woman with her free consent.
This Incarnate God is Jesus Christ. He is One Person with two natures, divine and human. His mother, a creature, exclusively human is the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Although some may not have reflected on it, the fact is that the woman Mary is the most significant human being in Christianity. She is the fully human mother of Christ, who is a Divine Person. It is through her that humanity can relate directly to Jesus Christ.
The Risen Christ and Mary, assumed body and soul into Heaven, seek continually from eternity the good of humankind.
One of the ways in which Mary fulfills this mission over the centuries is through earthly visitations to mortal human beings on this planet. Ordinarily, she warns people regarding impending earthly difficulties or eternal ones, such as perdition, if people do not repent of sinfulness and reform their lives. In this respect, she is similar to Old Testament prophets, her own Divine Son, and many of His saints.
In these visitations, generally considered apparitions by recipients, she has become known in connection with places on earth she has visited from Heaven. Hence Mary has become known as Our Lady of Lourdes in France, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, Our Lady of China, and so on.
In 1917, one hundred years ago, during World War One, Mary appeared several times to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal. She worked a miracle of the revolving sun in authentication of her visitations. It was witnessed by tens of thousands of people. She warned through the shepherds that, if people did not repent, Russia, which suffered the Communist Revolution and its terrors that year, would spread its errors throughout the world, and a second more horrifying world war would occur. She warned as well about the occurrence of other tragedies.
Although belief in the authenticity of Marian Fatima apparitions is not a Catholic faith requirement, many devout Catholics accept their veracity.
It was to Mary as Our Lady of Fatima and her references to Russian Communism that Pope John Paul II was so deeply drawn and on whom President Ronald Reagan focused some of his attention.
The Pope believed that Our Lady of Fatima saved him from an assassination attempt for a special purpose, to formulate and lead strategy to weaken the Soviet Union. He even brought the bullet taken from his body to the Marian shrine at Fatima.
The President, too, thought he was saved from an assassin for a special purpose, to work to bring down the Soviet Union.
Kengor wrote that, “The Fatima connection is perhaps the most surprising link between John Paul II and Ronald Reagan. But it is clear from aides who briefed Reagan that the Protestant president, who always had a fondness for the Virgin Mary, was intensely interested in accounts of the Fatima apparitions and the Blessed Mother’s reported prophecies in 1917. There is even evidence to suggest that Reagan may have discussed Fatima with John Paul himself.”
Both the Polish Pope and the President saw Poland as the Russian Communist empire’s Achilles heel and worked both separately and cooperatively to exploit that weakness. The Communist regime in Poland did collapse. This was a pathway towards the subsequent fall of Communist Party rule in Russia.
“The bonds between John Paul II and Ronald Reagan ran far deeper than most observers have ever realized,” wrote author Kengor. “No, they were not pals or buddies, despite their obvious affection for each other. They were united in their pursuit of an overriding objective, a world-changing one. That objective flowed from their staunch anticommunism and from their spiritual bond. They shared the conviction that totalitarian communism was an affront to human freedom and human dignity. And they both believed that they were part of a providential plan.”
John Paul II and Ronald Reagan worked both separately and jointly to fulfill successfully their destinies. Today, the Soviet Union is a horror of the past. The presidency of Ronald Reagan is one of the shining historical examples of political heroism. The papacy of John Paul II is one of the outstanding highlights of the 2000-year old institution. He is known as St. John Paul the Great.
John M. Snyder, called “the dean of Washington gun lobbyists” by the Washington Post and New York Times, for 50 years has defended American gun rights as an NRA editor, director of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and Second Amendment Foundation, and founder/director of www.GunRightsPolicies.org. He is founder/manager of Telum Associates, LL.C, founder/chairman of the St. Gabriel Possenti Society, Inc., and serves on the boards of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and the American Federation of Police & Concerned Citizens. Author of the book Gun Saint, he received his AB and MA from Georgetown University. Mr. Snyder is a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis of the conservative-online-journalism center at the Washington-based Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.