I just heard the news of his death. Although I am not a Catholic, Karol Wojtyla touched my life in important ways. He was elevated to the papacy in 1978 (the "year of three popes"), during my junior year in high school. Although I was preoccupied with many of the distractions of high school, I still remember him as a man of amazing energy, courage, and vision. Of course, I remember the pictures of him kissing the ground whenever he deplaned. I remember him reaching out to the poor in Latin America and Africa. And I remember his emotional visit to Poland.
In the fall of 1983, I was in Vienna, serving as a Mormon missionary. On my "preparation day" (a "free" day for doing errands and sightseeing), I went with three other missionaries to Heldenplatz, where Hitler gave his famous Anschuss address, and awaited the Pope. For me this was mainly about the Pope's celebrity -- I wanted to see the famous man. But shortly after the Popemobile entered the Heldenplatz, I glanced to my left and noticed a Catholic nun with tears streaming down her cheeks. I was impressed by the sincerity of her devotion and embarrassed at the shallowness of my own motives for being there.
John Paul II is said to leave a complex legacy. Perhaps that is true, but I will remember him in rather simple terms, for his important role in the vanquishment of communism in Eastern Europe and as a man who was unfaltering in proclaiming the truth, as he understood it. May he rest in peace.
UPDATE: Steve Bainbridge has a tribute and collected posts.
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1. Posted by Kristin on May 15, 2005 @ 13:04 | Permalink
i love and miss you pope john paul. you definately were a big part of my life. you helped everyone no matter what is was. your even forgave the guy that shot you.