There are very few great men we can point to in recent years.
However in Pope John Paul II, it can safely be said that there
was greatness in abundance.
Despite anything that might be said in criticism (and there are
some valid criticisms), there is more than enough in Pope John
Paul II’s life that qualifies him for greatness. He did things
that no other pope in history has come close to doing, or might
even have dared to do. Many frontiers have finally been rolled
back for good.
Here are just a few of the acts that the world can be grateful
(1) Pope John Paul II was instrumental in the fall of Communist
dictatorship and oppression throughout Eastern Europe, but most
especially in his home country of Poland.
(2) His huge number of international visits finally took the
leadership of the Catholic Church out of the walls of the
Vatican, and brought it directly to the people all over the
world, where it was most needed.
(3) Pope John Paul’s work towards achieving reconciliation with
the Jewish people, and his prayers at the Wailing Wall in
Jerusalem, are truly remarkable and praiseworthy. Let us hope
that it is built upon.
(4) Pope John Paul was the first pope EVER to set foot inside of
a mosque, let alone offer prayers there. Again, a truly wonderful
and praiseworthy act, especially since it was done when he was so
(5) He was a fearless advocate for peace, and always stood
against war. In the most recent Gulf war, he was did not hesitate
to criticize “The Bush” publicly, which was the correct thing to
(6) In his death, Pope John Paul displayed tremendous heroism,
dignity and a never-failing sense of duty to his flock. He faced
his final departure bravely, calmly and with full consciousness,
preparing himself fully for the realm before him. This is a
tremendous example to us all.
Yes, it may be true that the figure of an ancient stooped man,
crippled with Parkinson’s disease and Arthritis, might seem to be
an inappropriate image for the dynamic eternal spirituality that
the Church wishes to stand for. And yes, it is true that in some
issues – such as the Church’s attitudes to women, towards
contraception, and towards tackling poverty in South America – it
might be justifiably said that he did not advance matters at all.
However, there are so many outstanding achievements, only a few
of which have been numbered above, that we should all be happy
and grateful to witness such an excellent example of how to live
and die well, as we did with Pope John Paul.
Pope John Paul will be missed. Let us hope that the new pope can
build on the promise and the legacy that he has left the world.
Copyright Asoka Selvarajah 2005. All Rights Reserved.
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