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Legacy of Pope John Paul II Reaches Far Beyond His Church

  • Kathie Scarrah

Around the globe, Roman Catholics are mourning the passing of Pope John Paul the Second. But his legacy reaches far beyond his church. The pope was a man whose hope and faith helped transform the world.

Pope John Paul the Second was the first non-Italian Pope in more than 450 years. He ascended to the papacy at a moment of profound change in the world. He battled totalitarianism with kindness and humility and with this appeal to those who yearned for freedom: "Be not afraid."

Zbigniew Brzezinski, another son of Poland knew the Pope well. Mr. Brzezinski, the former National Security Adviser under President Jimmy Carter, told an American television program that when the Pope went behind the Iron Curtain, on his first visit to his native Poland in 1979, the visit had an enormous political effect.

"This pope in a very direct fashion, in a very simple fashion because he was not a pretentious person, conveyed such enormous conviction, so much faith, so much hope that it was infectious. And that incidentally is what gave him political power without him playing politics," says Mr. Brzezinski.

Former Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev said the Pope's advocacy of human rights helped Eastern Europe rise from under Communist rule. Mr. Gorbachev called the Pope the number one humanist leader in the world.

"Poverty, fighting poverty, appeals to help the poor, to educate children and to preserve their culture. I think his deepest humanism transpired through these appeals," says Mikhail Gorbachev.

U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton, who met with the Pope in her role as the former First Lady, said his ability to forgive and pray for the man who attempted to assassinate him in 1981 showed the Pope's extraordinary humanity.

"His strength in trying to urge people to seek peaceful resolution and reconciliation as he himself did will be a lasting legacy and I hope a challenge to all of us, not only in public life but in every walk of life," says Senator Clinton.

Pope John Paul the Second made more than one hundred trips outside of Italy and was the first Pope to enter a synagogue and a mosque. He preached a spiritual message of tolerance and peace and he spoke out against anti-Semitism and racism. President George W. Bush said Monday, the Pope was a Godly man who showed the world that one man could make a difference in people's lives.

"One of his great legacies will be the influence he had on the young. He spoke to the poor, he spoke to morality, and of course he was a man of peace, he didn't like, he didn't like war, and I fully understood that," says president Bush.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop of the Arch Diocese of Washington, DC first met the Pope in 1976. "His two great lessons I think, are his respect for life and his respect for the dignity of the human person. In all his writings and all of his talks that always comes through, life is important, life must be respected and human dignity," says Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

Pope John Paul the Second brought the papacy to the people. And now the people are lining up to pay their respect to the man who was the 264th head of the Roman Catholic Church. His body will lie in state at St. Peter's Basilica until his funeral, which has been scheduled for April 8.

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