It seems like only yesterday he was Blessed John Paul II, and but a moment before that "simply" Pope John Paul II, one of history's most spiritually and politically influential human beings. His consistent work for human freedom and reconciliation are what I think of most this morning. He managed to visit 124 countries during his very long papacy, wrote five books and fourteen encyclicals. A philosophy professor in his younger years, he was a towering intellectual reported to have total fluency in at least eight languages. To him, through his astute and persistent effort, the world owes the removal of the Berlin Wall. But perhaps what many of us remember best is the picture of Pope John Paul II in conversation with Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who had attempted to assassinate him, as he visited him in prison to bestow his blessing and forgiveness. Pope John Paul II was a champion of interfaith dialogue and understanding who did a great deal to improve diplomatic relations with both Israel and the Muslim world, work that seems all too pertinent to this day.
It strikes me that our current generation has been given more than our share of highly gifted spiritual guides and leaders. I remind myself, when the news seems filled with nothing but unremitting conflict, that we are also living in a time uniquely blessed with some remarkably great people, some of them literally saints that we are still able to see and hear on film. What miracles we've witnessed. Before it happened, no one would ever have imagined that the Berlin Wall could come down...but it did. Today is a great day to send a prayer of thanks for the amazing gift of St. Pope John Paul II.