Popes are always enormous figures in history; but this pope, John Paul II (search), figures as a giant among giants.
It's hard to beat the impact of Pope Urban II (search), who called for the Crusades in 1095 to wrest the Holy Lands from the Muslims — if for no other reason than that we're still living with the trouble all that caused.
But, if you think about the life of this pope — a young Polish priest fighting Nazis — then later after he assumed the office of pope, becoming one of the two key figures in the world who can claim credit for the fall of Communism and the fall of the wall and the end of the Soviet Empire.
It's hard to beat that stuff, even if you are Pope Urban II.
Then there is a collection of countless other items from his papacy which have had lasting — if not transformational — effect on people all around the world. Just for one thing, his constant inveighing against the culture of death and for a culture of life. It wasn't hard to figure out what he's talking about: abortion.
You might always expect a pope, or a priest, or a monsignor, or a cardinal to oppose abortion. That would be par for the course. But I think it's fair to say that Pope John Paul II gave the unborn a special voice which has had special resonance around the world.
And on top of all that, this was a pope who survived an assassination attempt and later met with the man who tried to kill him and forgave him.
From events enormous to events small, John Paul II is a huge figure in our contemporary history. His failing health merits our intense attention because towering authorities such as John Paul II don't come along more than once or twice in a person's lifetime.
Take a good hard look while you can and remember well the history that unfolded before your very eyes.
That's My Word.
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