April 06, 2005

The man in the white garments

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

By James Leo Garrett Jr.
Special to the Star-Telegram

John Paul II's 26-year pontificate -- the third-longest in history, we are told -- will be remembered for much more than its longevity. Its impact on the Roman Catholic Church and the international community will be examined and pondered for decades to come.

Karol Wojtyla of Poland was the first pope to give flesh-and-blood embodiment to the longtime papal title of "universal pastor." By his travels to more than a hundred nations and by his engagement with audiences and closeness to people, he actualized a global papacy, using as well the various means of the new technological age.

As bishop and archbishop of Krakow, he had learned how to cope with Communist authorities, and after assuming the papacy in 1978, he gave encouragement to Catholics living within the Soviet empire. His role in the collapse of that empire will continue to be examined and assessed, as will his tireless advocacy of international peace. ...

The celibate priesthood and the less than prompt and vigorous Vatican response to the clergy sexual abuse scandal, especially in the United States, may prove to be negatives in the continuing evaluation of John Paul II's long and eventful papacy.

But the significant increase in church membership under John Paul II and the many expressions of his personal charisma probably will cause the affirmative characteristics of his papacy to prevail.

Posted by kshaw at April 6, 2005 09:00 AM