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I just read that the Pope died today. We've all seen it coming for several days, and I thought I was fairly indifferent to it. So, I'm surprised to find that the news has affected me so.

I consider myself critical of John Paul II's papacy. I hearken for another John XXIII, who ushered in progressive reform in Catholicism. I'm one who found John Paul II's archconservatism maddening at times. Nonetheless, Karol Wojtyla was a remarkable man, and his tenure at the head of the Catholic Church was almost as impressive. For all the negative, he did a lot of good.

There is a story that most Catholics know, at least though who attend church often enough to have heard a homily on this. It's about a young Jewish woman who had been imprisoned in a concentration camp in Poland during World War II. When the Russians liberated the camp, the survivors needed to get to a train to carry them to safety. But this woman was too weak to walk. A young seminarian found her, fed her, and then picked her up and carried her through the snow a few miles to the train, all the while talking to her about grief and the struggle for life. His name is indelibly engraved in her memory: Karol Wojtyla. You can read about this story here.

I know most of you are not Catholic and even more of you are very opposed to what this pope represented. Still, I encourage you to read one of the many obituaries about him, to learn a little bit more about this remarkable man. Here is the BBC's obituary and an article about his papacy's legacy.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 3rd, 2005 04:34 am (UTC)
I was no fan of this particular pope, though I share your admiration for John XXIII, and long for another reformer -- though I doubt we'll get one given current trends in the Catholic hierarchy. But I appreciate the good (implied) point you make that in certain social circles it is fashionable to bash on Catholicism without much appreciation of some of the good things many people in the Church have done. Some of my nearest and dearest are -- or were -- Catholic, and it's too easy to dismiss the entire religion when one doesn't take the time to learn about its history and complexity.

I am not Catholic, though my sister is and my mother was, and I doubt I ever will be, but I know there's more to the story than just oppressive dogmatism. Granted, I often wish there were less of the latter, but that doesn't obviate the good things.
Apr. 3rd, 2005 08:27 am (UTC)
As a lapsed Catholic, I didn't think I'd be terribly affected either. I never liked John Paul's beliefs about women. But I'm awfully nervous that the next pope won't have the same commitment to ecumenicism that JPII did. I really think he was a good man, even if we didn't always see eye to eye.
Apr. 3rd, 2005 12:08 pm (UTC)
El Papa
I agree, both about his conservatism being unfortunate and his total impact on our Western civilization. I never understood why he was so conservative yet seemingly intelligent concerning other matters. I guess it's a faith thing, not rational. Still, I lament his passing.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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