The death last year of Pope John Paul II ended an extraordinary chapter in the history of the Catholic Church and the world, said Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the archbishop of Washington.
“He was not only an extraordinary Catholic figure, he was a world figure,” said Cardinal McCarrick, the spiritual leader of about 560,000 Roman Catholics in the District and Southern Maryland.
The cardinal said he thinks John Paul’s legacy will be his teachings on “the dignity of the human person that begins at conception until the day God calls us home.” He also said he thinks John Paul was blessed with a great ability to connect with people.
“Because he was the pope, he was able to tell them, with a smile, not only did he love them, but in a more profound way, God loved them,” said Cardinal McCarrick, 75. “I think that’s a message that this world needed to know, and John Paul was the great proclaimer of that message.”
Cardinal McCarrick was one of the 117 cardinals who selected the new pope, Benedict XVI.
“Pope Benedict is wonderful in the way he is very clearly saying, ‘I’m not John Paul II,’” the cardinal said. “He’s going to be his own man, happily his own man and powerfully his own man.”
“He is a man of immense learning. We will find more carefully worded instructions and teachings. Even though he is known as a brilliant theologian, a very complex teacher, he comes across as a very humble man, a very shy man, a very gracious man.”
In the new year, Cardinal McCarrick plans to be a voice encouraging more civility.
“We’re going through a troubling time,” he said. “We shouldn’t become more nasty, more annoyed. The troubles should make us become more patient with each other. I would love to see more civility in American life, in government life, in private life and to see more civility in the church, too.”
The cardinal also said that during times of personal and national crisis, “the first thing we need to do is think less of ourselves and more of other people.”