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What will John Paul's lasting influence be? He hopes to create a strong, unified, revitalized, conservative church, and that would be a remarkable achievement. But it is by no means clear that even a personality as powerful as John Paul's can work such a miracle. Last year he joined in launching formal merger talks with the Eastern Orthodox Churchfor the first time since 1054. Consultations continue with Anglicans and Protestants. But the Pope's own emphasis on papal power may prove the ultimate stumbling block. Harvard Theologian George H. Williams, a Protestant expert on the Pope's thinking, believes that John Paul is trying to prevent reforms that he endorses "from destroying the organizational and spiritual and moral unity of the Catholic Church. Ecumenism will emerge later, after he has consolidated the church."
If the Pope's wounds should force him to cut back on future travel, a good deal of his effectiveness may be lost. He is maneuvering for some kind of accommodation with Peking and with China's independent Catholics. There is talk of a papal intervention in the Palestinian problem. John Paul has a deep sense of the shifting currents and challenges of history. He speaks and thinks often of carrying the church to the year 2000.
There will doubtless be dramatic acts and gestures ahead, but the grand lines of his reign have been set. That is a pleasing prospect to a conservative like Lay Historian James Hitchcock of St. Louis University. "We may be emerging from the spiritual and intellectual crisis that has afflicted the Western world," he believes. "There is a yearning for spirituality, and the Pope with his strong personality will have a great impact. I expect him to be a great Pope. And I expect him to be Pope for a long time."
By Richard N. OsHing. Reported by Wilton Wynn/Rome
A Violent Pilgrim's Progress
Did he act alone, or as the agent of unknown others?
"I have killed the Pope." So proclaimed a triumphant message that Rome police found in a cheap hotel room rented by Mehmet Ali Agca. The statement was overconfident, but little else could be said with such certainty about the shadowy figure charged with shooting John Paul II. Despite intense interrogation, Italian police at week's end were a long way from answers to the key questions about the accused gunman. Was Agca a solitary fanatic or did he have organizational assistance? The police announced that Agca had insisted that he acted "alone, all alone," but the indictment against him spoke darkly of "complicity with unknown individuals."
Agca first told one story, then another. After his arrest, he said that he had been trained by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (P.F.L.P.), the hard-line Marxist faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization led by George Habash. In Lebanon, a spokesman for Habash told TIME: "We know nothing about this man. We have never heard of him before. He has no connection with us." Indeed,