April 4, 2005
As the world mourns the April 2 passing of Pope John Paul II, religious and political figures and other admirers around the world are celebrating the life of a man known throughout his 26-year papacy as a great and compassionate church and world leader, as well as a vocal advocate for peace, human rights, and the sanctity of human life everywhere.
Chief Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls announced this morning that the funeral for the pope will be held on Friday (April 8), to be followed immediately by his burial in the grotto of St. Peter's Basilica where pontiffs throughout the ages have been interred. Afterward, the 117 Catholic cardinals under the age of 80 who are eligible to vote will enter a secret conclave to select a new pope.
Associated Press reports that Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, before leaving for Rome, urged Catholics to pray for the cardinals as they seek the Holy Spirit's guidance for their historic choice. Cardinals from Europe, Latin America, and Africa have been mentioned as possible successors to the late pontiff. Meanwhile, many voices in the Christian community in America are expressing the feeling that John Paul's years of church and global leadership have set a high and remarkable standard.
"I am deeply grieved," said Christian Broadcasting Network founder Pat Robertson, responding to the news of the pope's death. "John Paul II has been the most beloved religious leader of our age -- far surpassing in popular admiration the leader of any faith."
Robertson described the pope as a man of "great warmth, profound understanding, deep spirituality, and indefatigable vigor" whose personal magnetism brought all Christians together in new bonds of mutual understanding. "I pray for the cardinals of the Catholic Church," the CBN spokesman said, "that they might have God-given wisdom in selecting the successor to this great man. Their task will not be easy, but with God all things are possible."
In a statement issued on Saturday, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins called Pope John Paul "a magnanimous and benevolent leader" who touched the lives of countless human beings. He noted that the pontiff valued peace and gave a lifetime of service to the world, providing leadership throughout the Cold War, which led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of modern communism in Eastern Europe.
"With the loss of this amazing figure, the world is missing one of the greatest men of our time," Perkins said. "His passion brought leadership on many cultural issues, including traditional marriage and the protection of unborn children. He also took a strong stance against embryonic stem-cell research and human cloning." The FRC leader went on to say he has only admiration for "this godly man who championed freedom and peace, human life, and prayer. He will be missed."
Will Donohue of the Catholic League notes that John Paul II traveled to more than 100 nations, reached out to members of the world's religions, and managed to touched people in a way very few have. He says it is only fitting that Pope John Paul II, born Karol Wojtyla, will someday be known as "John Paul the Great," making him only the third pontiff in history to have this honorific title bestowed upon him.
"It is only just," Donohue says, "that we remember Pope John Paul II for what he was and will always be -- a role model for the world."
Pope's Pro-Life Legacy Honored
Franz says John Paul II will be remembered for the millions of lives he has touched through his words and actions. "His stalwart opposition to the evils of abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia was grounded in compassion, and love and he will be deeply missed," she adds.
American Life League also expressed mourning in response to the news of the pope's passing, but paused to reflect on his inspirational example. President Judie Brown said while the group and the pro-life community is deeply saddened by the loss of a beloved leader, they are inspired and motivated to press on in their cause.
The ALL spokeswoman says John Paul II made a point of the "single, solitary fact that every single innocent human being is a person created by God to be cherished, loved, and respected, without compromise and without apology." And she says it is a point the Pope made repeatedly in his teaching documents -- most specifically in his Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life).
"Pope John Paul II created a challenge that he has now left to every member of the human family: create a culture of life," Brown says. "Speaking for all of us at American Life League, we accept that challenge. We rely on the grace of God to continually inspire us as He inspired the Holy Father."
Personal Encounters With John Paul II
Republican Senator Rick Santorum says he was blessed to have the opportunity to meet Pope John Paul II five times. On one of these occasions, he and his family received mass from the Pope, and the Senator says they "were struck by the fervor" with which the pontiff prayed and by his Christ-like demeanor, particularly as he engaged with the children. Being in his presence, Santorum notes, is an experience he and his family "will hold deep in our hearts and will never forget."
American Catholics in the Public Square founder and president Marlene Elwell also had the honor of meeting and celebrating mass with Pope John Paul II at his private chapel. She describes the pope as a man of "wondrous faith, inspirational courage, and extraordinary intellect," who has challenged people worldwide to "rebuke the growing indifference to life that threatens humanity." Elwell calls John Paul II "a man for the ages," who leaves society with many legacies, including love, peace, freedom, forgiveness, and a call to build a culture of life.
Prison Fellowship founder and president Charles Colson agrees, saying of the late pope's multiple legacies, "He will be remembered not only as a great leader, but as one of the handful of people singularly responsible for the collapse of the Soviet empire." He goes on to characterize John Paul II as "one of the truly heroic figures of the 20th century," a man who actively "changed the world" by plying his influence against political oppression.
As an active part of the collaborative fellowship called Evangelicals Catholics Together, the Prison Fellowship founder says he has had the honor of meeting John Paul II, and he came to admire the Catholic leader for his "willingness to reach out to Christians outside the Roman Catholic faith."
That willingness was "critical to promoting unity across the Christian family," Colson contends. He adds that Pope John Paul's "vision, his determination, and his loving spirit will be missed" by Christians, world leaders, and humanitarians all over the globe.
© 2005 Agape Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission.