Cultural Revolutions

Pope John Paul II, R.I.P.

By any standard, the life of Pope John Paul II was extraordinary.  Born in a small town in a country that had been the plaything of dynasts for centuries before his birth, and which became the target of history’s bloodiest tyrants during his adult years, Karol Wojtyla became the first non-Italian pope in nearly five centuries and the first Slav ever to occupy the Chair of Peter.  Blessed with a remarkable intellect, a facility for languages, great charm and charisma, and a steely resolve, he used his gifts to the fullest, in a life spent defending Christian Truth against the various ideologies that would, as he told hundreds of thousands of Poles gathered in Warsaw’s Victory Square in 1979, “exclude Christ from history.”

In many ways, the most dramatic days of this long pontificate came early, just eight months after Cardinal Wojtyla became pope, when he returned to his homeland for nine days.  To adapt a title from a book devoted to the ideology John Paul II helped to vanquish, these were nine days that shook the world.  Up to one third of all Poles saw John Paul II in person on that trip, and they came to believe that they were not alone.  And once they realized that, communism’s days were numbered, both in Poland and throughout Eastern Europe.  The communists knew how formidable their enemy was: The week before the Holy Father’s death, the Italian paper Corriere della Sera uncovered...

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