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Bush Calls Pope John Paul II a 'Hero for the Ages'


Pope John Paul II
President Bush is using his weekly radio address to pay tribute to Pope John Paul II, who was buried at the Vatican Friday. The president says the funeral ceremonies were a powerful and moving reminder of the profound impact the pope had on the world.

During nearly three decades, Mr. Bush says, Pope John Paul brought the message of hope and love and freedom to the far corners of the Earth.

"Many in the West underestimated the pope's influence," he said. "But those behind the Iron Curtain knew better, and, ultimately, even the Berlin Wall could not withstand the gale force of this Polish pope."

Mr. Bush was the first sitting American president to attend a papal funeral. He lead a delegation that included his father - former President George Herbert Walker Bush - former President Bill Clinton, First Lady Laura Bush, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

In his weekly radio address, President Bush says the call to freedom that defined John Paul's papacy was forged in the experiences of the pope's own life, studying for the seminary during the Nazi occupation of Poland and later contributing to the fall of communism by spreading a moral truth that, Mr. Bush says, was a force greater than armies or secret police.

The president says the pope held a special affection for America and the self-evident truths of human dignity enshrined in the Declaration of Independence.

"It is these timeless truths about man, enshrined in our founding, the pope said, that have led freedom-loving people around the world to look to America with hope and respect," he said. "And, he challenged America always to live up to its lofty calling. The pope taught us that the foundation for human freedom is a universal respect for human dignity."

By his own example, in the face of illness and suffering, President Bush says, the pope showed all humanity the path to a culture of life, where the dignity of every human person is respected.

While the president and pope differed over the war in Iraq and the death penalty, they were allies on more conservative social issues, including opposition to abortion and gay marriage.