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Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul the Second, leader of the world's more than one-billion Roman Catholics, died recently at age eighty-four. He will be remembered as one of history's giants. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that Pope John Paul the Second had "unparalleled impact:"

"Through his great moral authority, through his willingness to speak out for people in need, through his willingness to speak out for freedom."

As a young man during the Nazi German occupation of Poland from 1939 to 1945, Karol Wojtyla joined underground resistance groups and secretly studied for the Roman Catholic priesthood. He would eventually become the first non-Italian pope since the sixteenth century.

John Paul the Second's pontificate was distinguished in many ways: he was the most widely traveled pope in history, often visiting developing countries; he actively sought to build bridges of reconciliation between Catholics and Orthodox Christians, Protestants, Muslims, and Jews. His special ministry to the youth of the world made him a beloved figure among young Catholics. And he warned of the dangers to the human spirit of moral decadence.

Pope John Paul the Second was a key figure in helping to end Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. Traveling to his native Poland in 1979,

John Paul inspired his countrymen with a message that spoke of fearlessness, freedom, and human dignity. His words and presence helped to invigorate the Solidarity movement, the alliance of workers and intellectuals that eventually led to the non-violent end of Soviet Communist rule in Poland and throughout Eastern Europe. Pope John Paul made it clear why he opposed totalitarianism when he spoke at the United Nations in 1995:

"People may never be regarded as mere objects, nor may they be sacrificed for political, economic or social gain. We must never allow them to be manipulated or enslaved by ideologies or technology. Their God-given dignity and worth as human beings forbid this."

President George W. Bush called Pope John Paul the Second "one of history's great moral leaders." "The Catholic Church has lost its shepherd," said Mr. Bush, "the world has lost a champion of human freedom, and a good and faithful servant has been called home."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.