Saturday, April 02, 2005

Karol Wojtyla 1920-2005; Pope John Paul II 1978-2005, RIP

Pope John Paul II died earlier today. Courtesy NRO, here is President Bush's statement:

Laura and I join people across the Earth in mourning the passing of Pope John Paul II. The Catholic Church has lost its shepherd, the world has lost a champion of human freedom, and a good and faithful servant of God has been called home.

Pope John Paul II left the throne of St. Peter in the same way he ascended to it -- as a witness to the dignity of human life. In his native Poland, that witness launched a democratic revolution that swept Eastern Europe and changed the course of history. Throughout the West, John Paul's witness reminded us of our obligation to build a culture of life in which the strong protect the weak. And during the Pope's final years, his witness was made even more powerful by his daily courage in the face of illness and great suffering.

All Popes belong to the world, but Americans had special reason to love the man from Krakow. In his visits to our country, the Pope spoke of our "providential" Constitution, the self-evident truths about human dignity in our Declaration, and the "blessings of liberty" that follow from them. It is these truths, he said, that have led people all over the world to look to America with hope and respect.

Pope John Paul II was, himself, an inspiration to millions of Americans, and to so many more throughout the world. We will always remember the humble, wise and fearless priest who became one of history's great moral leaders. We're grateful to God for sending such a man, a son of Poland, who became the Bishop of Rome, and a hero for the ages.

And here is a statement by Lady Thatcher, PM of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from 1979-1991:

His life was a long struggle against the lies employed to excuse evil. By combating the falsehoods of communism and proclaiming the true dignity of the individual, his was the moral force behind victory in the Cold War.

Millions owe him their freedom and self respect. The whole world is inspired by his example.

From the Wall Street Journal's eulogy (linked in title of this post):

Karol Wojtyla did not learn this from textbooks. He was old enough to recall how the twin totalitarianisms of our age--fascism and communism--were each once lauded by intellectuals as the inevitable destination and promise of the future. In Poland he tasted them both, yet he remained unintimidated. This experience would shape his entire papacy, a testament to his conviction that moral truth has its own legions.

. . . Ironically, better than even some of his allies, the Communists themselves grasped the threat posed by a man whose only power was to expose the moral hollowness at the core of their claim. When the leader of Communist Poland tried to explain to the leader of the Communist U.S.S.R. that, as a fellow Pole, he knew how best to handle this new pope, Leonid Brezhnev responded prophetically. If the church weren't dealt with, Brezhnev retorted, "sooner or later it would gag in our throats, it would suffocate us." It did.

* * *
We don't expect the secularalists who dominate our intelligentsia ever to understand how a man rooted in orthodox Christianity could ever reconcile himself with modernity, much less establish himself on the vanguard of world history. But many years ago, when the same question was put to France's Cardinal Lustiger by a reporter, he gave the answer. "You're confusing a modern man with an American liberal," the cardinal replied. It was a confusion that Pope John Paul II, may he rest in peace, never made.

A time-line of this great man's life is here. And the NY Times obituary is here.

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