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The pope’s long reach

Don Rogers

He was at once Christendom’s sternest conservative and warmest human face among the faith’s leaders. Pope John Paul II was remarkable far beyond his long tenure and being the first non-Italian pope in 450 years for the billion-strong Catholic Church. (Interesting what passes for diversity at the top for a denomination spreading swiftly among the Third World while struggling in Europe and America.)He clung strictly to the conservative ways when it came to religious doctrine, yet did as much as anyone on earth to foster freedom, particularly among the communist bloc.He ruled his organization with an iron grip, yet melted for young people. He was, of course, as Catholic as they come, yet he is revered among Jews for how much he reached out to them.The pope, while dealing with scandal involving pedophile priests and American followers’ cries for more liberal ways, nonetheless was not merely respected, but loved. That much is obvious in the wake of his death last weekend.His influence transcended faiths as perhaps no other leader has in history. Millions upon millions of people flocked to his appearances around the globe. He traveled the most of any pope, and he took advantage of the mass media to extend his reach.As big as he was, the stories of his warm touch with the lowliest people in the lowliest places is legend, too. He brought low dictators and raised up the man who tried to kill him by visiting him in prison and forgiving him.He was a popular man who didn’t act according to press clippings, who stood his ground at times stubbornly. “You cannot take a vote on the truth,” he said.That people who did not agree with his “truth” still venerated him is quite a testament. He touched all of our lives. Vail, Colorado


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