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Excerpted from Crossing the Threshold of Hope by His Holiness John Paul II. Copyright © 1994 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, distributed by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"You are either the mysterious living proof of the Creator of the universe or the central protagonist of a millennial illusion."

Pope John Paul II, 
Crossing the Threshold of Hope
, Part 1

Your Holiness, my first question will go right to the point. Therefore, please understand if it is longer than those that follow.

In front of me is a man dressed in the white of ancient custom, with a cross over his chest. This man who is called the Pope (from "father," in Greek) is a mystery in and of himself, a sign of contradiction. He is even considered a challenge or a "scandal" to logic or good sense by many of our contemporaries.

Confronted with the Pope, one must make a choice. The leader of the Catholic Church is deemed by the faith as the Vicar of Jesus Christ (and is accepted as such by believers). The Pope is considered the man on earth who represents the Son of God, who "takes the place" of the Second Person of the omnipotent God of the Trinity.

Each Pope regards his role with a sense of duty and humility, of course, but also with an equal sense of confidence. Catholics believe this and therefore they call him "Holy Father" or "Your Holiness."

Nevertheless, according to many others, this is an absurd and unbelievable claim. The Pope, for them, is not God's representative. He is, instead, the surviving witness of ancient myths and legends that today the "adult" does not accept.

Confronted with you - as with each of your predecessors and successors - one must wager, as Pascal said, that you are either the mysterious living proof of the Creator of the universe or the central protagonist of a millennial illusion.

May I ask. Have you ever once hesitated in your belief in your relationship with Jesus Christ and therefore with God? Havenít you ever had, not doubts certainly, but at least questions and problems (as is human) about the truth of this Creed which is repeated at each Mass and which proclaims an unprecedented faith, of which you are the highest guarantor?

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