Tributes from around the nation

Other Voices

Pope John Paul Ii : 1920 - 2005

April 03, 2005

Of all the 20th century popes, none was more effective at wielding the power of his office than Pope John Paul II. By helping to reshape the world as he found it, John Paul II ... had an impact on human affairs that went well beyond the institutional bounds of the church to which he dedicated his life. ...

The pope's continuing willingness to be seen publicly as he aged from an energetic, athletic man in his 50s to an elderly figure in his 80s - unable to stand on his own and trembling with Parkinson's disease - was a reminder that he, too, was mortal. ....

Not all agreed with him, not even within his own church. But leaders all over the world, including President Bush, courted his favor and paid attention to what he had to say. John Paul II dedicated his life to God. He will be remembered with respect, gratitude and love. And no history of the 20th century will be complete without considering his role. ...

Austin American-Statesman

He grew up largely innocent about politics, but he became as shrewd a wielder of ecclesiastical power as has ever occupied the papacy, and in geopolitical circumstances as difficult as any that have ever existed.

In an institution founded on the paradox of salvation through crucifixion, Karol Wojtyla - Pope John Paul II - was a supremely paradoxical pontiff. He never hesitated to be what he wanted his church to be: a "sign of contradiction" to what he considered a materialist, consumer-oriented, pleasure-seeking world, a man radically and intentionally out of step with the fashionable trends and ideas of the age.

Never was he more out of step with common expectations than when he visited in prison and forgave the man who very nearly ended his papacy - and his life - in an assassination attempt on May 13, 1981.

Chicago Tribune

A cultural conservative, church doctrine moved to the right under John Paul as he sought to draw the faithful back toward his view of Catholicism.

He was the most active pope in history... and John Paul sought to bridge the divides separating the church from other denominations; he was the first pope to step inside both a synagogue and a mosque, and sought to repair frayed relationships with orthodox Christians as well.

Those efforts contributed to the pope's most lasting accomplishment, his role in ending the communist system then holding sway over half the world. He argued the power of faith and the human rights of all demanded an end to a system that allowed neither. ...

Some members of the church, especially the American Catholic Church, believe the pope moved too far to the right. And, in his later years, the church administration proved unable to honestly confront a sex scandal that remains a painful episode in modern Catholicism. Those drawbacks pale in comparison to the overwhelming impact John Paul had in his life, and his contribution to a more free and religiously tolerant world. His loss is immense, and the world joins in mourning for him.

Greenville (North Carolina) Daily Reflector

For all his apparent gentleness, the pope brooked little disagreement within the church. He ordered liberal voices to stop writing and teaching and stripped dissenting priests of power and position. He encouraged the Polish church to help bring down communism, then stunned Latin American priests by ordering them to stay out of politics rather than oppose strong-arm regimes.

Over his long papacy, he built a hierarchy of like-minded cardinals and bishops in an effort to ensure that the church line would remain unwavering long past his death.

The question that remains after the pope's death is how long lay Catholics will be content to follow, or quietly ignore, that line - especially if the next pope does not match John Paul II's great spiritual charisma and heartfelt desire to, in the final words of the book of Revelation, "be with you all."

Los Angeles Times

The death of Pope John Paul II came at a time when Americans have been engaged in an unusual moment of national reflection about mortality. The long, bitter fight over the unknowing Terri Schiavo was a stark contrast to the passing of this pontiff, whose own mind was keenly aware of the gradual failure of his body.

The pope would certainly never have wanted his own end to be a lesson in the transcendent importance of allowing humans to choose their own manner of death. But to some of us, that was the exact message of his dignified departure.

Pope John Paul II was a man who used the tools of modernity to struggle against the modern world. He traveled more than a half-million miles. ... He wrote best sellers and took advantage of every means of communication to spread his message: a cry against what he saw as the contemporary world's decadence, moral degradation and abandonment of human values.

The New York Times

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