John Paul II

I remember the election of Pope John Paul II well.

This Bishop from behind the Iron Curtain in Poland was now Pope. The first non-Italian for over 400 years.

He had stood up for the rights and religious freedom of his people. During the war in occupied Poland, he took great risks to prepare for the Priesthood in a clandestine seminary.

 

He made many firsts.

He apologised for the crusades and for the inquisition.

He was the first Pope since the first century to enter a Jewish Synagog and the first Pope to enter a Mosque (which he did in Damascus). He condemned anti-Semitism in very strong terms.

He also called together leaders of world religions to pray together at Assisi for world peace.

He was a great defender of the dignity of the human person and of human rights.

John Paul was critical of both Communism and western capitalism and materialism.

He said Galileo was treated unfairly by the Church.

He is attributed to having helped in the dismantling of the Iron Curtain.

 

There is much more that can be said about this man.

There is no doubt that he had a powerful Charisma. I experienced this in his presence more than once.

I remember hearing him speak to the thousands of young people in Toronto in Canada during world youth day in 2002.

By this time he was a very disabled man suffering terribly from Parkinson’s.

His speech was blurred and he was very hunched up.

However, his words were still powerful.

He told the young people that despite having lived under the dictatorships of fascism and communism and despite the evils he experienced there he was still full of hope.

He told the young people that he believed in them and they could make a difference.

It was a powerful experience and I could hear his indomitable spirit break through the physical limitations.

John Paul did not get all things right. No one does. We are all products of our experiences and culture.

However, there is no doubt about his personal holiness and personal integrity.

 

The world is certainly better off because of him.

 

 

 

Image credit: The Telegraph