John Paul II – man of two centuries
I had the privilege to be in Cracow, Poland, on the day John Paul II was canonized. Poles have every right to be proud of ‘their’ pope.
John Paul II was not only a remarkable spiritual leader during his 27-year papacy but an outstanding political figure. He knew repression while training under the Nazi occupation and later as priest and bishop under the oppression of the communist regime. He carried out his duties bravely and without fear, based on his belief despite persecution.
His election as pope was an enormous blow to the communist regime. It fostered the Polish insurgence against that regime and led to it being considerably weakened in the Soviet Union’s most important satellite.
The clear policies, courage and high ethical standards of Pope John Paul II, US President Ronald Reagan, UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Germany’s Chancellor Helmut Kohl led to the fall of the brutal Soviet system, ended the Cold War and opened the way to freedom for Central Europe.
John Paul II was firm on religious and human principles. His open-mindedness led him to greatly improve dialogue with Protestant and Orthodox Christians and other religions.
His belief made John Paul II a powerful character, but personally kind, humble, courageous and extremely open-minded. He excited the world and was one of the greatest personalities of the 20th and 21st centuries.
It was probably unintentional, but highly symbolic, that John Paul II was canonized on April 27, 2014, at a time when the freedom of Central Europe is under threat once more.