08 April 2005

Pope John Paul II (The Great)

Today, we laid to rest the most influential man in my lifetime. More than 4 million people packed into Rome and Vatican City to be witness to the life of John Paul II. And an estimated 2 billion watched on television world wide. Today's Mass was attended by the heads of state of 80 different countries including Israel and several Arab states. Also represented in the Mass itself, leaders of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

His life is a success story like no other. Born into this world in 1920, he survived both Nazi and Communist occupation of his beloved Poland. Witnessing first hand the horrors of the Holocaust and studying the Priesthood in secret. After the end of World War II, John Paul was ordained and began teaching in Krakow. Under the ever watchful eye of the Communists, he helped frame the religious minds of the young. By taking them on long walks in the mountains and having them call him uncle instead of father to protect them from persecution.

Ascending quickly through the ranks of the Roman Catholic church, he became a Bishop and eventually Arch Bishop of Krakow. And Finally elected to the Throne of Saint Peter in October of 1978. In 1980, an assassin attempted to end the life of the Holy Father. Upon his recovery, he traveled to his assassin's prison cell to forgive him of his sin. And influenced his release from the Italian prison to be returned to Turkey to serve for other crimes. Since his recovery from those bullets that almost took his life, the Holy Father lived in constant pain. But it never once slowed him down. Traveling to 120 countries covering a distance equivalent to 4 round trips to the moon. He began World Youth day celebrations. And enjoyed meeting the people. Especially children. Every time I saw him on television, his face lit up with joy every time he came in contact with a child.

Suffering from Parkinson, arthritis, and the effects of those assassin's bullets, he steadfastly pushed forward the teachings of the church. Love, peace, and forgiveness. Even in his last days, suffering with breathing difficulties, he attempted to bless the crowd in St. Peter's Square on Easter. He loved people. He loved the world. And the world has been made a better place by his influence.

Rest in peace Holy Father. The contributions that you have made to the world will have a profound influence on the world forever.

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