In these days of transition in Egypt, while all the world is watching, we wonder if something new will come about. In the heady excitement, the New York Times offered a euphoric headline: "New Era Dawns in Egypt and Across the Arab World". The drama of Tahrir Square has awakened the world's passion for justice and self-determinacy. Still, we know revolutions can go very wrong, such as Iran's 1979 revolution, and even if some polls are more optimistic than others on Egyptian attitudes, there is no assurance that this change will be peaceful and positive.
Some recent revolutions have gone better than others. After Pope John Paul II's pilgrimage to Poland in 1979, Lech Walesa founded a trade union, Solidarity, setting the stage for pulling down the Iron Curtain. In 1986, the "Rosary Revolution" in the Philippines, after the assassination of Benigno Aquino, led by his widow Corazon Aquino and backed by Cardinal Jaime Sin, brought about the overthrow of the Dictator Ferdinand Marcos and the establishment of a democratic state.
Hope is universal, but real change can seem elusive. So often revolutions, with the best of intentions, are hijacked for other interests. For these two successful revolutions, Christ was the factor of change. As Fr. Carron notes in his presentation on The Religious Sense: "[I]f Christ is present, it isn't because of our words, but through His signs that we can acknowledge Him." The Pope's presence in Poland was such a sign. The peaceful transition of whole nations is such a sign that is put on display for the world.