Thursday, April 07, 2005

Remembering Pope John Paul

Peggy Noonan has a terrific column in today's Wall Street Journal on John Paul II's 1979 visit to his native Poland, his first since becoming Pope:

On June 2, 1979, the pope arrived in Poland. What followed will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it.

He knelt and kissed the ground, the dull gray tarmac of the airport outside Warsaw. The silent churches of Poland at that moment began to ring their bells. The pope traveled by motorcade from the airport to the Old City of Warsaw.

The government had feared hundreds or thousands or even tens of thousands would line the streets and highways.

By the end of the day, with the people lining the streets and highways plus the people massed outside Warsaw and then inside it--all of them cheering and throwing flowers and applauding and singing--more than a million had come.

In Victory Square in the Old City the pope gave a mass. Communist officials watched from the windows of nearby hotels. The pope gave what papal biographer George Weigel called the greatest sermon of John Paul's life.

'We Want God'

As Noonan points out, John Paul's visit was one of the key events on the road to 1989. It inspired the creation of Solidarity, and gave the Polish people hope that the totalitarian yoke of Marxism-Leninism could be overcome. The Poles, in turn, would inspire others in Eastern Europe with the same belief.

For more on John Paul's life and legacy, see this excellent Web site from PBS Frontline.

With the passing of Pope John Paul II, the world has lost a major champion of freedom and one of the great figures of the late 20th century. He was a great leader and a good man, and will be missed.


Anonymous Brandon Chiasson said...

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2:21 PM  

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