Friday, April 01, 2005

Requiem Donum Est, Domine, Et Lux Perpetuae

Karol Josef Wojtyla, better known as Pope John Paul II, was a giant of the late 20th Century.

I don't agree with everything he said. He was a staunch conservative in the Roman Catholic tradition. Not surprising, really, given his position. He could be obstinately unbending.

But, as with many other important people, you can at least partially judge a man by the enemies he's accumulated.

He fought the Nazi invasion and occupation of Poland as a young man, when it would have been the easiest thing in the world for him to just stand by and let it pass. Upon his elevation to the Papacy, he became a beacon of hope and freedom to many who groaned under the oppression of Communism in Eastern Europe. So much so, that he emboldened the Solidarity movement in Poland to do more than just talk. So much so, that the KGB tried to have him assassinated in 1981.

It's almost tautological that if the KGB wanted a man dead, he HAD to have been doing SOMETHING right.

He was very much an activist in his Papacy. He reached out across denominational boundaries, doing as much for the cause of Christian ecumenism as any other man I'm aware of.

And, agree with him or no, his championship of the worth of human life is consistent, end-to-end. He's fighting out his last hours to the last breath, the last gasp, as a testament to what he believes it's worth. Another might have given up when their health began to fail. Another might have resigned his office, at least. Not him. He's staying until his Boss says he's done.

We're losing a great man today. A man of tremendous courage and resolve, a true servant of Christ and His Church. We're diminished by his loss, even us Presbyterians.

I don't envy the next Pope at all. He's got a huge pair of shoes to fill.

You've lived long and labored hard, papa. May God gently speed you to your well-earned rest.

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