The Decade in American ChristianityEssays, Featured — By Jordan Green on December 31, 2009 at 12:35 am
In April 2005, a shockwave rolled over the world as the soul of Venerable John Paul II, affectionately known as “the Great”, left his body and left our world greatly saddened. This man, whose young life was caught up in such pivotal events as the Nazi occupation of Poland and the subsequent Communist oppression, rose to play one of the most pivotal roles in the last quarter of the second millennium.
Elected the successor of Peter in 1978, John Paul II has been credited for the fall of the Iron Curtain. He was visited by personages of such opposing views as Putin and Bush II. He met with Castro, Pinochet, Reagan and Thatcher, to name a few. He was loved and hated by many. He upheld the dignity of every human person from conception to death. He opposed the invasion of Iraq and the use of contraceptives. He propped up and supported Mother Teresa, and challenged both the poor and rich to live the Gospel morality. He touched the lives of countless youth with his international “World Youth Days” held throughout the world, not to mention his more than 100 distinct official visits internationally.
His actions spoke to more people than his words ever could. He was sprite and fit when elected pope, and enjoyed lifting weights, skiing and hiking. When he was shot, he forgave his would-be assassin and obtained clemency for him. He grew old and suffered with Parkinson’s in front of the entire world, yet maintained hope and even a joy in the midst of agony. When, in his last days, he could no longer speak, his mannerisms expressed his longing to communicate to the people he loved.
Millions from around the world flooded Rome to attend his funeral. It was presided over by his soon-to-be successor, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, and attended by both Presidents Bush, President Clinton and over 40 heads of state. Such a man walked, spoke and was recognized, on both sides of the political aisle, as the single greatest moral authority in the last quarter of the second millennium.
Bill Haley is a writer who studied English literature in college and lives in Phoenix. He is a Director of Religious Education for a Catholic parish in Scottsdale. He is married to Maureen and they have been seven times blessed with children.