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Theologians, Authors Reflect on Pope John Paul II
| Updated April 10, 2005
Rev. Msgr. Peter J. Elliott is the
director of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne,
Australia. His area of expertise is the liturgical life of the Church. He is the
author of several books, including
Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite,
Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year
, and Liturgical Question Box.
"Having worked for ten years in the Roman Curia, in the Pontifical Council for
the Family, the death of our Holy Father has been a kind of reliving of the
passing of my own father in 1980. I know that many Catholics are experiencing
this same sense of a loss in the family. We have lost a person who has been so
vivid, strong and present to us as the Pastor of the Universal Church.
"Those called to special service of the family and human life have a great sense
of gratitude to him. As Director of the Melbourne session of the Institute that
bears his name, I share a sense of loss with my academic staff and students, but
at the same time we are grateful for all he has given us in the magnificent
catechesis on marriage, the family, life and especially his 'theology of the
"So the Mystical Body of Christ is mourning, yet celebrating - and
there is so much to celebrate, so much achieved by this 'man from a far country'.
He was the real key to the reversal of Communist totalitarianism. He held the
Church together in a time of confusion. He gave us an authentic and accurate
interpretation of the Council. He stood firm on what matters while reaching out
to everyone. His Christocentric teaching ministry meant that he presented Jesus
Christ as the Redeemer - and he lived this out every day, especially in these
last years of his own cross. For John Paul II, a redemptive spirituality was not
merely word but act and intention.
"Of course he deserves the title John
Paul the Great, and with that the recognition of heroic sanctity and holy
Colleen Carroll Campbell is a Fellow at the
Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and a former speechwriter to President George
W. Bush. She is author of The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are
Embracing Christian Orthodoxy (Loyola, 2002). You may read more of her work on her website:
"Pope John Paul II was that rarest of public figures: A man who
meant what he said and lived what he believed. I remember seeing the Pope for
the first time in person when he visited my hometown in 1999. Watching him ride
in his 'Popemobile' through the streets of St. Louis, you could feel the
magnetism of his personality -- his personality, and something else. It was his
soul. He was living so deeply the Christian mystery of union with God that being
near him made you feel like you were nearer to God.
"I witnessed this phenomenon again at World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002. I
remember the crowds of young men and women who huddled around headsets so they
could hear the Pope's homily more clearly. You could see them closing their eyes
as they listened, straining to catch his every word. Some had tears running down
their cheeks as he spoke. It was as if they were hearing the Gospel for the
first time, as if Christ himself were speaking to their hearts. And he was --
through his servant, Pope John Paul. The Pope was bent with old age, palsied
with Parkinson's. His voice was weak. Yet his message roared out to this crowd
of nearly one million: 'Only Jesus is the true master, only Jesus speaks the
unchanging message that responds to the deepest longings of the human heart,
because he alone knows 'what is in each person.' Today he calls you to be the
salt and light of the world. . . . What call will [you] choose to follow?'
"I believe our Holy Father is smiling down from heaven as he watches over the
millions of young people all around the world who have heeded his message and
begun to walk the narrow path that leads to eternal life, the life he now enjoys.
As they say at World Youth Day, 'JP2, we love you.' And we always will."
Scott Hahn is Professor of Theology and Scripture at Franciscan
University of Steubenville and author of several bestselling books, including
Sweet Home, co-authored with his wife Kimberly. He is also co-author,
with Curtis Mitch, of the Ignatius
Catholic Study Bible. For more of Dr. Hahn's thoughts on Pope John Paul
II and the papacy, visit this
"John Paul II was a spiritual father, and so we're all mourning as family.
He embodied God's fatherhood to a household of more than a billion men and
women of different ethnic, cultural, and economic backgrounds. Because he
was a father, he witnessed to the unity of all God's family. As a Protestant,
I was drawn to him by the beautiful and brilliant way he wove Scripture
into everything he did. As a Catholic, I loved him even more for the way
he not only taught the faith, but lived it.
"How fitting that he's dying exactly forty years after the close of Vatican
II. In biblical terms, forty years is a generation. His papacy embodied
Vatican II. He has presented the fullness of faith to the world in the most
understandable ways, and drawn millions into the heart of the Church. The
end of his papacy is the end of a generation."
Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton
University. Professor George is a member of the President's Council on Bioethics.
Professor George has published widely on law, ethics, and philosophy in
books, scholarly journals, and contributed an essay to The
Mind and Heart of the Church. He previously served as a presidential
appointee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
"Pope John Paul II was, without doubt, one of the greatest spiritual
leaders and moral teachers of the post-Reformation era. He set
an extraordinary example of personal integrity and courage, not only for
his fellow Catholics but for people of every religious and philosophical
viewpoint. Throughout the course of his pontificate he campaigned
tirelessly for human rights and human dignity throughout the world.
He practiced and inspired resistance to the great totalitarian systems and
tyrannies that rose and, with his help, fell in the 20th Century. He fostered
harmony between Catholics and Eastern Orthodox and Protestant Christians, reached
out in friendship to Jews and members of other faiths, and warmly promoted
interfaith understanding and cooperation. He eloquently defended the
right to life of every human being, irrespective of race or sex, age or
size, stage of development or condition of dependency. And he dedicated
himself to the defense of the weakest and most vulnerable members of the
"On his visits to the United States, he called all Americans
to be true to the great principles of liberty and justice inscribed
in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. His selfless
service to God and man inspired Americans of all faiths and men
and women of goodwill across the globe.
"As we mourn his death, comforted by our faith in God's love and mercy,
let us pay tribute to him by renewing our baptismal promises and
reaffirming the hope to which he was an unparalleled witness."
David B. Currie is a former Evangelical Protestant missionary and
the best selling author of Born
Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic. received a degree from Trinity
International University and studied in the Masters of Divinity program
at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
"Pope John Paul II is the greatest thinker of the 20th century.
On a global level, his tireless pursuit of charity and truth has changed
the course of history. On a personal level, he opened my mind up to the
truth and charity of the Roman Catholicism. While all my life I can remember
reading about Catholics and their beliefs, Pope John Paul was the first
Catholic that I read for myself. I found the last thing I ever expected.
Here was no "whore of Babylon," but a truly holy Christian of
almost immeasurable intellectual depth, explaining the Gospel to the modern
world. The world will never be the same, and neither will I."
Thomas Howard was raised in a prominent Evangelical home (his sister
is well-known author and former missionary Elisabeth Elliot), became Episcopalian
in his mid-twenties, then entered the Catholic Church in 1985, at the age
of fifty. He is the author of several acclaimed books, including Evangelical
Is Not Enough, On
Being Catholic, and Lead,
Kindly Light, the story of his journey to the Catholic Church.
"I was received into the Ancient Church at the age of fifty in l985.
I can think of very few popes under whose pontificate I would rather have
entered the Church than John Paul ll. Certainly he is to be found,
with Pope St., Gregory the Great and St. Leo the Great, in a small category
of the greatest Roman pontiffs of history.
"The whole world would acknowledge, willingly or unwillingly as the case
may be, that this man has had an unparalleled influence on the moral thinking
of the "post-modern" epoch--perhaps the most difficult epoch to come along
the historical road. Increasing numbers of the world's population
loathe his thinking--for the same reason that 'if the world has hated Me,
it will hate you.' He has testified to the Truth. This, of course,
has brought both solace and instruction to hundreds of millions of people,
Catholic and non-Catholic, and even non-Christian. What do we think
about a given vexed moral or philosophical issue? Well, the Pope says.
. . . The gigantic sequence of his encyclicals and other writings,
including his books, constitutes a moral and philosophical massif visible
to all of heaven and earth."
"In my own case, I would have to pay tribute to all of these writings, as
having clarified my thinking, instructed me, and opened immense vistas of
Truth. But perhaps it is the icon of the man himself, now painfully
bent, with his mitre at a 45-degree angle as he stands in front of us all,
that has been most encouraging to me. Courage, sanctity, wisdom, suffering,
experience, integrity, devotion to the Lord and to Our Lady: how shall
we number the virtues of this man?"
is the author of several critically acclaimed, best-selling biographies
of great nineteenth- and twentieth-century Christian authors. He is also
the co-founder and co-editor of an international magazine, Saint Austin
Review, dedicated to reclaiming Catholic culture, and is writer-in-residence
and assistant professor of literature at Ave Maria University in Naples,
Florida. His most recent book is Literary
Giants, Literary Catholics.
"Pope John Paul II figures alongside Chesterton, Belloc, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien
and Newman as one of the major figures on my path to conversion. His resolute
faith has been as inspirational in my life has it has been in the lives
of countless others.
"The pivotal part he played in the overthrow of the Communist tyranny in
eastern Europe makes him a major player on the macro-political stage of
the twentieth century. The dynamic traditionalism of his Theology of the
Body has cut through the sexual sterility of prurience and puritanism. In
the past 150 years the Church has been graced with a proliferation of great
and saintly Popes: Pius IX, Leo XIII, Pius X, Pius XI and Pius XII; all
of whom were true giants of faith and sanctity. I have no doubt that John
Paul II deserves his place in their illustrious company."
Ahlquist is the president and co-founder of the American Chesterton
Society. He is the creator and host of the television series, "G.K.
Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense," on EWTN. Dale is the publisher
of Gilbert Magazine, author of The Chesterton University Student
Handbook, editor of The Gift of Wonder: The Many Sides of G.K. Chesterton,
and associate editor of the Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton (Ignatius).
His most recent book is G.K
Chesterton: Apostle of Common Sense.
"I was in Rome on May 13, 1981, the day the Pope was shot. I was not Catholic
at the time, but I was certainly caught up in the whirlwind of events. I
saw first hand the historical and political and religious significance of
the Bishop of Rome. Still, the last thing I expected to happen was that
I would one day enter the Church. During my long pilgrimage, I was accompanied
by the historical heroes of the Church such as St. Francis and St. Thomas
Aquinas, and especially G.K. Chesterton. But there were two faces of the
present day Church that were always bidding me come closer: Mother Teresa
and Pope John Paul II.
"Chesterton said that one of the things that drew him to the Church was
the fact that it was attacked from all sides and often for opposite reasons.
He said that when something is accused of being too red but also too green,
too short but also too tall, you may be very sure that it is exactly right.
I found this to be the case with Pope John Paul II as well. He was attacked
from all sides. Liberals would say that he was too conservative. Conservatives
would say that he was too liberal. He was always too this, but also too
that. Which means he was right where he was supposed to be. I think the
great majority of Catholics realized this. That is why they loved him so
dearly. He was exactly what he was supposed to be."
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