John Paul II, who led the Roman Catholic Church for 26 years and helped topple communism in Europe while becoming the most-traveled pope, died Saturday night in his Vatican apartment after a long public struggle against debilitating illness. He was 84.
Polish-born, Karol Jozef Wojtyla, held the throne of St. Peter for over 26 years, making his the third longest pontificate in papal history. The length of his papacy was surpassed only by those of Pius IX in the 19th century and St. Peter. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian elected Pope in over 450 years.
In Washington, President Bush mourned the loss of “a good and faithful servant of God (who) has been called home” and said the pontiff “launched a democratic revolution that swept Eastern Europe and changed the course of history.”
For those of you too young to remember what happens next, NBC’s Keith Miller reports on the traditions of the church at the time of the passing of a pope.
Note: Compiled from wire reports
Pope John Paul II Dies at 84 [AP]
Key highlights of Pope John Paul II’s life [Rueters]
Video of President Bush’s press conference
Powerline catches The New York Times coverage, uh “in progress,” which is about as nice as you can put it.
Joe Gandelman writing at Dean’s World
Pope John Paul II at Mt. Nebo overlooking the Promised Land [Picture]
May he rest in peace.
His shoes will be hard ones to fill.
Any bets on dannyboy trying to convince cbs that he should be allowed to be the on-camera talking-head to cover this story?
It is said by some people, who have been declared dead after their hearts had momentarily stopped beating, that the experience can be pleasant, as you apparently drift upwards in a dreamlike trance, staring down joyfully at your soulless corpse.
But these are people, who have sudden deaths, or near-deaths. They are the exception to the rule of modern death, which, for most of us, will tend more to the long, drawn-out agony of Pope John Paul II than the mercifully sudden death of the heart attack on the tennis court or the sideswipe of a 50ft wave.
In these days where medical science has become expert at keeping the body alive for many years, even as the body’s various functions shut down, the drawn-out fates of the Pope, Ronald Reagan, Iris Murdoch and, presumably, Prince Rainier are the sad norm.
It sounds competitive to suggest that somebody has had a good death. In the same way that no one says, “He had a bad war”, talking of a bad death sounds like the height of bad form. That said, the Pope had prepared himself for a good death. In the Christian faith, death is seen as the door from one life to another. The Pope has spent his lifetime preparing for the passage through that door to the afterlife; to put it crassly, if he’s not going to Heavan, who is?
But he has also faced his actual dying moments – his exit, to continue the door analogy – in the best possible manner.
By refusing to go to hospital to die, he had chosen not to fend off death. But, while staying in the Vatican, he had also stayed in the public eye as long as he was physically able, not squirrelling himself away in his private apartments to cover up the speechlessness and paroxysms of a dying man. Instead, this most histrionic – in the best sense of the word – of popes has used the most powerful imagery – that of a dying man – to bear witness to the life and death of Christ.
In advertising his approached death so nobly, the Pope was bucking the modern way of dying. As death has been transported from a family affair in hearth and home to a hidden thing in curtained-off cubicles in hospitals, it has become the word that dare not speak its name. In the Vatican bulletins yesterday, even many priests, who have more experience of death than most, talked only of the Pope clinging to life, of his lucidity and consciousness, and refused to use the dreaded “D” word.
If death is not quite, as Hamlet put it, a consummation devoutly to be wished, it is one of the pre-eminent facts, if not the pre-eminent fact, of life, by which almost everything else is measured.
To face death head on, in all its agonies, is to remove the embarrassment and confusion that comes with euphemisms, with anodyne, bloodless talk of “passing on” and “drawing to a close”. The Pope has taught us all how to die.
rest. enjoy. blessed are us that remain here.
Well said Paul.
As a Polish-American Catholic, I always admired John Paul, from the time he was first chosen as Pope back when I was still in high school (so long ago!) to today. He will be missed.
In the dictionary, next to the entry for the phrase “moral authority,” is his picture.
I don’t believe in heaven, but I hope he’s walking up to the gates right about now.
Yes, well said, Paul.
As importantly, Pope John Paul II taught us about suffering, that it can be used to aid in the salvation and assistance of others, that it can be so much more than a bad case of being human. Suffering — not to refer to masochism here, lest others misunderstand — as John Paul exemplified, can be a gift for God’s use.
We now have John Paul in Heaven to whom to pray for intercession, even if you believe in his eternal life or not, the important thing is that he and God believe in you. I am thinking that John Paul is really eager to help from his new found beautiful home.
Paul…however, I believe that those comments by priests yesterday and earlier to which you refer, those were comments made to honor and recognize in appreciation the strength of Pope John Paul II, not to indicate any dread or fear of his death. The comments were also, I am sure, intended to encourage others as to John Paul’s example and experience and most of all, paramount appreciation of life.
I find it very touching that the pope died during the time of the Divine Mercy Novena. As a cardinal, he was fascinated by the writings of Sister Faustina. He canonized St. Faustina a few years ago and was very instrumental in making this novena she wrote about known to all Catholics. Tomorrow is Divine Mercy Sunday. There will be much celebrating in Heaven tomorrow for all of the souls who receive Jesus’ mercy. I am sure John Paul II will be rejoicing the most.
My wife and I were discussing Pope John Paul II and how we thought he was holding on until Divine Mercy Sunday for the reasons that Gayle mentioned and because he not only made the Novena known but instituted it as an official Church decree making the second Sudnay of Easter Divine Mercy Sunday.
Everyone can learn from this man’s example.
I was wondering when someone was going post on the Pope. I did the vigil, didn’t sleep, watched TV and just as he died, I fell alseep – which upset me to no end. I have followed this very holy man from the very beginning. Candles were lit day and night in my house and when I found he passed away, I blew them all out, saying ” Rest in Peace.” I still cry, like now because he’s been so much of our lives. As a disabled person, his perserverance was just incredible. He was in so much pain every day, every night and we saw him get frustrated by his own infirmities. But he had a grace about him that is just unmatched by anyone I know. He has big shoes to fill. May he rest in peace forever.
Saying that, I also listened to the helpful Archbishop (cardinal) of Washington,, DC and he seemed to me to have the qualities that even John Paul would be proud of – he was so helpful and good friends with the Pope. If I could elect one, that’s whom I’d elect to take his place and if I could get to Rome for the funeral and festivities, I’d go there now.
I loved this man; I loved this Pope. Even in his sufferings and they were great, I would sob just watcching him. Sure hope someone beautifies him, then turn around after the appropriate time and make the man a saint. Whenever he travelled, I watched everything he did; he broke my heart and he seemed to be the most holy man I have ever know. He was our generations Holy Man.
It’s just unfortunate throughout his illness over those few days, he had to remain conscious and suffer physically. I hope he will not be forgotten. His last book should be released this summer.
His life and his death were well noted and I’m glad you guys decided to discuss it hereee. Thank you.
And for the comments: You are right. He taught us how to live, how to suffer, how to die with dignity. This was no man to keep down no matter what and I will surely miss him. I hope he finally found Mary, mother of Jesus, first, since it was she whom he loved so much.
You didn’t have to be a Catholic to marvel at this man; he had it all.
Be Not Afraid! Open up, no; swing wide the gates to Christ. Open up to his saving power the confines of the State, open up economic and political systems, the vast empires of culture, civilization and development. Be not afraid!
A book Witness to Hope – The Biography of Pope John Paul II is given away for free.
Free Pope John Paul II book
Hurry on , there’s not much left as they said!
I have mine already. 🙂