- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 3, 2005

Pope John Paul II died yesterday after the third longest papacy in the 2,000-year history of the Roman Catholic Church. Following his surprise election by the College of Cardinals in 1978, the former Karol Wojtyla announced his rallying cry to the world: “Be not afraid.” In some ways, John Paul II personified this credo over the last few years. As his health steadily deteriorated, he showed a graying Western population how to face sickness and death with dignity.

One of the lasting legacies of his pontificate will be that he demonstrated to the world how to confront communism, not cower before it. He visited his native Poland less than eight months after becoming pope, encouraging resistance to Soviet tyranny. Amid close collaboration over anti-communist strategy, Central Intelligence Director William Casey shared satellite imagery and other secret intelligence with John Paul II. The red menace had been spreading throughout the 1970s. As with Ronald Reagan1s ascendance to the presidency in 1980, the election of a pope from behind the Iron Curtain - the first non-Italian in 450 years - proved to be a decisive turning point in the Cold War.

His other great contribution to the world , both Catholic and non-Catholic alike, was his spiritual outreach, particularly to the youth. While staying true to his doctrinal teachings, he found a voice that could open the hearts of people of all faiths, or no faith, to the higher, non-material aspects of humanity. In an age of obsessive materialism, he opened our eyes to the insufficiency of mere material comfort, and encouraged countless hundreds of millions to appreciate the ineffable significance of our immortal souls.

John Paul II can most accurately be described as a moderate leader of the worlds one billion Catholics. With heterodoxy running rampant in the church after the revolutionary Second Vatican Council of 1962-65, the Wojtyla pontificate took a slight step back, splitting the difference on controversial issues. John Paul II defended traditional Catholic teachings on birth control, abortion and the celibate male-only priesthood, while liturgical experimentation spiraled out of control and classical churches were gutted or bulldozed in a painful global “modernization” of ecclesiastical architecture.

With John Paul II having denied doctrinal dissenters the fundamental changes they demanded, many Catholics expect his death to bring a divisive struggle in the church. The chaos will be partly of John Paul II1s making. Paradoxically, the pope used his popularity to promote traditional morality, but he appointed bishops and cardinals who are overwhelmingly more liberal than even those picked by his predecessor Paul VI, the most leftist pope in history. With this generation of prelates in power, it is likely that the church will lunge far to the left in the years to come.

Another of John Paul Ils legacies will be his unwillingness or inability to leverage his rock-star status to address the homosexual crisis in the Catholic priesthood. For years, the widespread abuse of young men by priests was the pink elephant in the living room that the hierarchy refused to talk about. When the scandal erupted into public view, the pope continued to protect countless bishops who covered up and were engaged in criminal activity. He even gave a prestigious Vatican promotion to the humiliated Cardinal Bernard Law after he was run out of the Boston Archdiocese, the epicenter of the disaster.

The ancient Roman Mass of the Dead commences with, “Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat ei.” Eternal rest grant to him, Oh Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. This reflects the belief that death is just the beginning of a new life hopefully freed from the evils of this world. In an increasingly secular society, Pope John Paul II taught that all life created by God has value. This simple message will live on. May he rest in peace.

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