Saturday, April 02, 2005


I'd like to express my sadness at the passing of Pope John Paul II.

No, I'm not Catholic. But I want to pass along my condolences to the 1 billion people who are.

I did not agree with most of the Pope's conservative views. In fact, I'm about as liberal as you can get and still be considered religious. But I did admire his resilience and had no trouble seeing what an influence he was.

And since most religions agree on the importance of peace, I considered him to be a man of peace. I was pleased to see on the news on Friday that prayers for the Pope were going on in mosques and synagogues. This is as it should be. No doubt when I go to my protestant church tomorrow evening, there will be prayers on his behalf as well.

The pontiff visited my city in 1993 along with President Clinton. I watched some of this on tv in amazement....two influential leaders known around the world having a discussion at a school where I used to compete in speech tournaments. The Pope made an appearance at a downtown cathedral. And he spoke to tens of thousands of teenagers who gathered to see him in a local stadium. At that time, I worked for one of the news radio stations. I got to talk with foreign journalists who had been invited to use our studios to do production. I remember in particular a conversation with a nice British lady who stayed late that night in the studio, and the look of reverence she got on her face when she talked about the Pope's "stature" (influence) worldwide.

But the most amazing thing to me was when 250,000 teenagers from around the world gathered in a state park three blocks from my house. They were all there for World Youth Day, and the Pope presided over that. I remember looking out my kitchen window toward the park at 4am, and the sky was glowing. All those thousands of candles and flashlights in the hands of all the kids made the sky glow. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen, the multitudes gathered in the name of peace.

And so I will miss Pope John Paul II, even though I never met him in person.

I am interested in the future of Catholicism. I grew up with many Catholic neighbors, and I am curious in what direction their religion will take them. I wonder if the next Pope will be more modern in his views?

I think I will light a candle, in remembrance of the Pope and that amazing glowing sky.

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