World loses champion with Pope#039;s passing

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 14, 2005

The world lost a champion for compassion on Saturday as Pope John Paul II succumbed to the ailments that had come to cripple the Holy Father these last few years.

Cripple, but not deter.

Throughout his final years the Pope's travels increased. It was as if he sensed the coming end to his life and desired to conclude his great campaign of love and forgiveness. While the Catholic Church is not the dominant denomination in the Alabama and in the south, we still feel sorrow at the Pope's passing in large part because we recognize his impact on shaping the world around us.

Many still recall the threat posed by the former Soviet Union during the Cold War years. It is remarkable that Pope John Paul II's death and that of Ronald Reagan's came within a year of one another. Both men had a hand in pulling down the Iron Curtain that covered those eastern European countries for so long.

Gov. Bob Riley and Sen. Jeff Sessions commented on this earlier in the week.

Riley called the Pope's 26-year papacy an 'inspiration to millions.'

"He was a man of obvious integrity and compassion and because he had an abiding love of freedom," said Riley. "His partnership with President Reagan to free those enslaved by communism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union was a turning point in the Cold War.

It’s doubtful there has ever been a pope who so effectively translated his faith into such widespread admiration for man.&uot;

Sessions agreed.

"Power can come in many forms," said Sessions. "Pope John Paul's passing recalls the famous response of the atheist Stalin when he was criticized by the Vatican: 'How many divisions has the Pope?' he asked. Well, John Paul did not have an army but he did have spiritual power and now Stalin is dead and the Soviet Union has been consigned to the ash bin of history. No little credit goes to this magnificent leader for his role in these events."

Pope John Paul II will be missed, not because of what he represented to the Catholic Church, but because of what he represented in our lives; an embodiment of peace, love and understanding in a world that oftentimes tries men's souls.