c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) “I believe that today God invites us to change our old practices,'' said Pope John Paul II, speaking to some 80,000 Muslim youth in a stadium in Morocco in 1985. “We must respect each other, and we must also stimulate each other in good works on the path of God.'' Christians and Muslims have “badly understood each other, opposed and exhausted each other in polemics and wars. Dialogue between Christians and Muslims is today more necessary than ever.'' This message is even more urgent today than 20 years ago. How John Paul's successor brings a global Catholic church into productive, peacebuilding dialogue with global Islam will be critical. From the beginning of his papacy, John Paul II put into practice a new approach to other religions.
c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The blanket of nonstop media attention draped upon the late Pope John Paul II may have warmed hearts and raised ratings, but not everyone was pleased. Secular critics say the coverage was overkill, and some Catholics say it missed the mark. The pope's death on Saturday (April 2) caught the world's attention and kept it for nearly a week straight. Networks from Fox News to Aljazeera delved as never before into the pope's life and legacy. An entourage of American dignitaries, including President Bush and at least five U.S. senators, attended the funeral Friday (April 8) in Vatican City, which was covered live by the major American television networks.
c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Before John Paul II became pope, he was a college professor. Karol Wojtyla taught theology at the Catholic University in Lublin, in his native Poland, where he was known as a dynamic and passionate teacher. So, it was no surprise he took a special interest in Catholic universities when he became pope. During his 26-year tenure, John Paul won praise for strengthening the 1,000 Catholic colleges around the world while also drawing criticism for cracking down on liberal theologians teaching outside the Vatican mainstream. But both his critics and supporters say the pontiff left his mark on higher education.
c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Words failed me this past week. The ocean of others' words that followed Pope John Paul II's death _ I drank in as many as I could, and loved so many, but none did full justice to Karol Wojtyla, and I came to believe none could. And my own words _ they failed me, too. I tried, but it all seemed so hollow, so insufficient to the man and this moment. I was a writer, frozen, blocked and tongue-tied.
c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Pope John Paul II has cast such a long shadow across modern times that many admirers want to add “the Great'' to his name. His greatness, like that of all history's remarkable figures, is heavily seasoned with irony. As often, for example, as his face has gazed off television screens and magazine covers, it was difficult to see directly into his eyes. His gaze scanned the crowd, often looking beyond or above the person whose hand he was holding. The smile that accented his Slavic features often seemed that of a man savoring an inner appraisal rather than sharing an outer wonder.
c. 2005 Religion News Service CLEVELAND _ John Paul II, not only Catholics love you. As the late pontiff lay in state at the Vatican and the world prepares for his funeral Friday (April 8), non-Catholics, too, are celebrating the life of a man whose legacy in large part was forged by reaching out to the world. And if the reaction of interfaith leaders here in northeast Ohio is any indication, John Paul left a warm legacy with other faiths the world over. “The death of Pope John Paul II evokes a sadness that extends far, far beyond the confines of the Catholic faith community,'' Rabbi Stanley Schachter of B'nai Jeshurun-Temple on the Heights said at an interfaith service Monday (April 4) at St. John Roman Catholic Cathedral here.
c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Pity the man _ and it must be a man _ who follows John Paul II to the chair of Peter. He will be measured against a predecessor who was a philosopher, mystic, playwright, scholar, linguist, master communicator and adroit geopolitician _ someone who bent one of the world's oldest offices to his iron will. “People have differing opinions as to his theological and ecclesiastical legacy … but he certainly raised the standard for the papacy,'' said John-Peter Pham, a writer and former Vatican diplomat now at James Madison University in Virginia. Yet in the long twilight of John Paul's slow deterioration, the cardinals of the Catholic Church have had time to think about what they want in the man they elect to succeed John Paul.
c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Pope John Paul II traveled the world, reaching out to people of different faiths. Now, he is the first pontiff to have his death mourned on the Internet by the millions he touched. All over the world, people of many faiths have been lighting candles for Pope John Paul II. Many are sharing these candlelit vigils on the Internet. “Maybe they feel like they're sending that prayer out into a very vast space,'' said Sister Jean Alice McGoff, a Carmelite nun in a small cloistered community in Indianapolis that has been accepting online prayers for the pope sent with virtual candles.
c. 2005 Newhouse News Service (UNDATED) It is no exaggeration to say of Pope John Paul II that he was the most significant Catholic pontiff since Peter 2,000 years ago. His impact on Catholicism, for good or ill, will be debated in the days to come by religious conservatives who revered his commitment to the ancient truths and traditions of Catholicism, and by modernists who yearned for the more liberal, reformist ways of Pope John XXIII in the 1950s. But his impact on the secular world of his time has no parallel in the history of the Church. The death of Soviet communism and the obscene oppression it imposed on millions in Central and Eastern Europe was, in part, John Paul's doing. He ranks with Roosevelt, Churchill and Reagan in the pantheon of world leaders who led or inspired the 20th century's steady march toward greater individual freedom and unrelenting opposition to totalitarian oppression.
c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) This week, the world remembers a figure who warned, “It is manifestly unjust that a privileged few should continue to accumulate excess goods, squandering available resources, while masses of people are living in conditions of misery at the very lowest levels of subsistence.'' The figure went to a Venezuelan jail to attack the world's treatment of prisoners, denounced capital punishment on general principles and in specific cases all over the world, and attacked the war in Iraq in front of the president of the United States. He took a bolder position on the environment than many green groups, declaring, “Countries in the process of industrialization are not morally free to repeat the errors made in the past by others, and recklessly continue to damage the environment through industrial pollutants, radical deforestation or unlimited exploitation of non-renewable resources.'' With a paper trail like that, he was lucky he wasn't a politician. As pope, John Paul II was, of course, beyond the reach of politics, of re-election, recall or anything but the final silencing of mortality. But even his death Saturday (April 2) is not likely to quiet one of the past century's most powerful voices for peace, the poor and the planet. The pope was chosen in 1978, during a Cold War that now seems as distant as the Reformation, and played a significant role in communism's disintegration in his native Poland and elsewhere.
c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Dr. Robert White understood how Pope John Paul II would face death, more than two decades ago. The Cleveland neurosurgeon stood by the pontiff in the intensive care unit after the assassination attempt on the pope's life in 1981. Tubes were coming out of John Paul's abdomen, and the pain was intense. Even the head of a billion-member church, regularly surrounded by a sizable retinue, felt lonely. They were some of the longest and most difficult nights of the pope's life, said White, a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
c. 2005 Beliefnet (UNDATED) How is one to reckon a balance sheet of the reign of John Paul II, who died Saturday (April 2)? His outreach to Judaism, his battles with communism, his championing of the poor, his stand against women priests, his promotion of interfaith dialogue, his hard line on Catholic theologians _ any one of his initiatives merits a book-length treatise. One way is to consider the pope's track record outside the church and then inside as a leader of his own flock. Such an “outside-inside'' prism helps explain why opinions about this pope differ so widely, and may also point toward the great challenge that will be left to his successor. Viewing his accomplishments outside the walls of Roman Catholicism, we see the young Karol Wojtyla growing up in post-World War I Poland and living through the Nazi horrors of the Second World War that claimed millions of Poles, among them many Jewish friends from childhood, only to face down, as a priest and then a bishop, the Soviet overlords who kept his beloved church, and nation, under their heel.
c. 2005 Beliefnet (UNDATED) The late Pope John Paul II was a scholar, a poet, a charismatic presence, a brave and holy man _ he was surely one of the most influential religious leaders in the world. His stand against war, most specifically the Iraq war, presented a vigorous and determined challenge to conservative American Catholics, which most of them simply ignored. He stood for what the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago called the consistent ethic of life. He condemned abortion, war and the death penalty. Again, conservative American Catholics insist that the first condemnation is the only one that really matters.
c. 2005 Beliefnet (George Weigel is one of America's leading authorities on Pope John Paul II and the author of his 1999 biography, “Witness to Hope.'') (UNDATED) He was the pope neither the church nor the world expected. The surprises that characterized his 26-year pontificate began on the very night of John Paul II's election. On Oct. 16, 1978, the Catholic Church was in a state of spiritual shock. The 15-year papacy of Paul VI had concluded in division and exhaustion.
c. 2005 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ John Paul II, the Polish-born pope whose strong-willed activist papacy helped unravel the Soviet Union and redefined the office's relationship to the world as he led the billion-member Catholic Church, died Saturday (April 2) at the age of 84. John Paul's death ended a pontificate of more than a quarter century. He was the longest-serving pope of the 20th century and the third-longest in history after St. Peter and Pope Pius IX. He died at about 9:37 p.m. (2:37 EST).