The first time I can remember being told of Pope John Paul II was of the attempted assassination, where he was shot, spent two months in hospital and then went to visit the assassin, and offer forgiveness. How many of our world leaders would do the same? How many of us would? I admit it difficult to imagine myself doing that – but then that’s what makes him the icon and role model he is – to inspire people to be the best they can be, and more and better than they are now. And on the other hand, he has asked forgiveness for the Church for mistakes to the Jewish community, and if I’m not mistaken, the Spanish Inquisition.
Many of the younger generation will likely find the conservative stance and policies difficult to accept, but essentially, I’ve regarded John Paul as a leader, a guide, a good man, more than a determiner of doctrine. He welcomed the young, speaking to them and being open enough for them to ask questions like “What do you call your holy-water shaker, and have you accidentally hit anyone on the head with it?”
His endurance as recent as last week has been amazing – most people in his condition would have thrown in the towel long ago, rather than be seen so publicly as suffering. The media, and even the clergy, have described his current position as being symbolic of accepting suffering, and that there is dignity even in approaching death. I think that his true legacy will be in forgiveness, and the dignity we can all achieve in living.
He earned two doctorates, spoke eight languages, and is loved by millions.