World is better place, thanks to John Paul II |

World is better place, thanks to John Paul II

Nevada Appeal editorial board

The man who came into the world as Karol Joseph Wojtyla left it as John Paul the Great, to be remembered as one of the great religious leaders of modern history.

Consider this legacy:

n Pope John Paul II, at age 58, was the youngest man to be named pope in 125 years.

n Born in Poland, he was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.

n By visiting 120 nations during the third-longest papacy in history, he touched millions of lives like no other pope.

He was conservative in his moral views, reaffirming the Catholic church’s ban on artificial birth control and denouncing in vitro fertilization, abortion, euthanasia, divorce, sex outside marriage, homosexual relations and same-sex unions.

John Paul kept the priesthood closed to women, yet allowed altar girls.

He was critical of the political activism of priests in South America, yet his rejection of communism made him a key figure in the upheaval that defined Europe in the 1980s and resulted eventually in the fall of the Iron Curtain.

And for all the attention he commanded on a world stage, it was Pope John Paul II’s ability to communicate to people at a personal level that earned him love and respect far beyond the Catholic faith. He ate with factory workers, went skiing and frequently waded into crowds of adoring people.

Perhaps no moment better defined his combination of humility and strength as when he went to a prison to visit Mehmet Ali Agca, the 23-year-old Turk who had gravely wounded him in 1981 in St. Peter’s Square. He forgave Agca.

It will be up to the Catholic church to determine whether John Paul II is worthy of sainthood and will truly be remembered among the greatest of popes. But if it is enough in a man’s life to have left the world a better place, few in this age could compare.