"Pope John Paul II was unquestionably the most influential voice for morality and peace in the world during the last 100 years. His extraordinary gifts, his strong Catholic faith, and his experience of human tyranny and suffering in his native Poland all shaped him, and yet he was respected by men and women from every conceivable background across the world. He was truly one of those rare individuals whose legacy will endure long after he has gone.
"It was my privilege to meet with him at the Vatican on various occasions, and I will always remember his personal warmth to me and his deep interest in our ministry. In his own way, he saw himself as an evangelist, traveling far more than any other Pope to rally the faithful and call non-believers to commitment. He was convinced that the complex problems of our world are ultimately moral and spiritual in nature, and only Christ can set us free from the shackles of sin and greed and violence. His courage and perseverance in the face of advancing age and illness were an inspiration to millions - including me.
"I have been invited to attend the funeral service for Pope John Paul II, but I will not be able to go for health reasons. I have asked a member of my family and one of my long-time associates to represent me at that service.
"May his death remind each of us that some day we too must die and enter into God's presence - and may we each commit ourselves afresh to Jesus Christ, who died and rose again for our salvation."
With millions of others around the world, FutureChurch offers prayers of gratitude for Pope John Paul's dedicated life and particularly for the serene and graceful way he chose to meet death. As resurrection people, we celebrate Karol Wotjyla's entry into eternity and rejoice with him that he has at last been joined even more intimately to the God for whom and to whom he gave his life.
Pope John Paul leaves an impressive legacy. He played an important, perhaps indispensable, role in the normalization of relationships between the Soviet Union and the West. His frequent and uncompromising calls for justice and peace, most recently regarding the war in Iraq, were both challenging to secular powers and consoling to the oppressed. His healing outreach to the Jewish community worked to assuage still lingering anti-Jewish prejudice. His personal piety and prayerfulness inspired millions, particularly the young.
All papacies have both strengths and weaknesses. Within the Church itself, John Paul II implemented the centralized, authoritarian style of governance that served him so well in helping the Polish Church survive Communism. While this governance style may have given greater security to some Catholics, it has also limited worldwide Catholicism's ability to creatively meet the challenges of the 21st century. Perhaps foremost among internal challenges is the severe shortage of priests at a time when numbers of Catholics are rapidly expanding.
With other members of our Catholic family, we share a sense of sadness and loss at Pope John Paul II's passing. At the same time, we trust God's continued guidance of the Church in the upcoming conclave and years to come.
To Pope John Paul II, the Bishop of Rome, we echo Jesus words in Matthew 25:14-30: "Well done, good and faithful servant, come share your Master's joy."
Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life
"Today we bid farewell to Pope John Paul the Great, the Pope of Life. His teachings will guide and nourish the Church for centuries. In particular, his teachings on the sanctity of life, especially the unborn, will continue to stir our consciences to build a culture of life."
Chuck Colson, Founder and President of Prison Fellowship
"Pope John Paul II was one of the truly heroic figures of the 20th century"
"Pope John Paul II was one of the truly heroic figures of the 20th century. He will be remembered not only as a great leader, but as one of the handful of people singularly responsible for the collapse of the Soviet empire. Stalin once derisively asked, 'How many divisions does the Pope have?' John Paul II answered that question and changed the world.
"I had the honor of meeting his Holiness, and I have actively been a part of a collaborative fellowship called Evangelicals and Catholics Together. The Pope's willingness to reach out to Christians outside of the Roman Catholic faith was critical to promoting unity across the Christian family. His vision, his determination, and his loving spirit will be missed by Christians around the world."
Tony Perkins, President of Family Research Council
"Pope John Paul II helped win the Cold War and was a champion for cultural issues throughout the world. With the loss of this amazing figure the world is missing one of the greatest men of our time, but for all of us touched by his time here on earth, we are consoled in the knowledge that we are strengthened by his legacy.
"Karol Wojtyla had a lifetime of service to this world. He provided leadership throughout the Cold War, which led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end to modern communism in Eastern Europe.
"His passion brought leadership on many cultural issues, including traditional marriage and the protection of unborn children. He also took a strong stance against embryonic stem cell research and human cloning. "The Pope must be recognized for his prolific writings, his gift for language, and his outspoken affirmation life that we enjoy from our Creator, from conception to natural death.
"I only have admiration for this godly man who championed freedom and peace, human life, and prayer. He will be missed."
Thomas J. Reese, Editor of America
John Paul II presided over the Catholic Church for 26 and a half years, longer than any other pope except St. Peter and Blessed Pius IX. For about half the people living today, he is the only pope they have ever known. During those 26 years, he visited over 130 countries, published more than 50 major documents, canonized hundreds of saints and appointed most of the church's active bishops.
But these numbers are only part of the story. Pope John Paul II will go down in history as the most important world leader in the second half of the 20th century. He changed the course of history and helped bring an end to the Cold War though his support of Solidarity and the Polish freedom movement. This started the landslide that wiped out Communism in Eastern Europe and eventually the Soviet Union. He was the right man in the right place at the right time to shape world history. For those of us who grew up under the terror of the mushroom-shaped cloud, this was an extraordinary achievement. And he brought it all about as a nonviolent revolution without shedding blood, proving foolish the conservative hawks who had counseled violent confrontation and first strikes, which would have cost the lives of millions.
But John Paul's care for the world was not just centered on Eastern Europe. He also was a prophet for peace and justice elsewhere, especially the Middle East and the third world. He balanced concern for the rights of Palestinians with his condemnation of terror. He supported humanitarian intervention but opposed preemptive war. He worried about the impact of economic globalization on the poor in the third world, and urged rich countries like the United States to give more generously to development. In a world of competing economic and national self interest, he was a prophetic voice for humanity and reconciliation. He admired the American people but was not afraid to challenge government policies that were contrary to moral values whether it was the Clinton administration's population policies or both Bush administrations' wars against Iraq.
John Paul will also be remembered for tremendously improving relations between Catholics and Jews. Long after people forget what Communism was, there will still be Catholics and Jews who will look back at the end of the 20th century as a turning point in their relationship. Disagreements and controversies will continue, but they will be disputes among brothers and sisters not enemies. Likewise, he began a dialogue with Muslims which hopefully will bear fruit in the years ahead. These were actions of millennial importance. But John Paul's vision of himself was not as a politician or diplomat but as a teacher, not surprising since he had once been a university professor. No pope other than perhaps Pius XII has left such a large corpus of writings and documents on such a variety of topics. His writing ran the gambit from poetic musings to scholarly tomes. He came to the papacy with firm convictions about how Vatican II should be interpreted. He felt there was a need for stability and calm after the tumultuous days that followed Vatican II. He saw his responsibility as protecting the deposit of faith while at the same time applying it to the needs and concerns of the day. That not everyone accepted his teaching must have been one of his severest disappointments.
But John Paul was often mislabeled as a conservative. True, he stressed traditional church teaching. He also allowed his subordinates to silence and remove theologians from teaching positions. But anyone who listened to him carefully realized that he did not fit into the normal liberal-conservative boxes of American politics and culture. True he opposed abortion, the use of condoms, gay marriage, women priests and a married clergy. But he was to the left of liberal Democrats when it came to opposing capital punishment and the war in Iraq and supporting foreign aid and the United Nations. And while he opposed women's ordination, he also opened practically every other church position to women, from altar servers to diocesan chancellors.
John Paul will also be remembered for his incredibly successful pastoral visits to every corner of the world. People by the millions came out to pray with him and hear him preach. "What did they come out to see? A reed shaken by the wind?" They came to see a holy man, a man of conviction and principle, a man who cared about them and a man who had changed the course of history. In this day of world leaders who tell us what their handlers think we want to hear, who don't open their mouths without checking the polls and focus groups, John Paul was clearly different. He spoke with conviction, he was principled, he challenged us and said hard things. Even those who disagreed with him admired his honesty and conviction. He will be sorely missed; he will be a hard act to follow. May he rest in Peace.
Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, Chairman of Traditional Values Coalition
"The death of Pope John Paul II is a cause for mourning worldwide. Throughout his leadership of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Paul's theme has always been `Be not afraid.' He lived this belief and serves as an inspiration to millions of Christians."
Rev. Sheldon observed of Pope Paul, "He was unafraid to challenge the Nazi regime and later the Communists in Poland and stood strong with President Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher when they worked together to bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union. His faith in Jesus Christ was what motivated him to speak out fearlessly about tyranny and to always defend the right to life of the unborn and those who could not speak for themselves.
"Pope John Paul's own physical illnesses had slowed him down during the past few years, but during those times, his strong faith in Jesus Christ gave him the strength to carry on with dignity.
"He was a man who played a significant role in liberating millions from the slavery of Communism and was deeply concerned about the third-world countries and the millions who went to bed hungry and had nothing but poverty in their way of life.
"Pope John Paul was a man of peace; always concerned when there was physical conflict and violence. So much so that he even visited and blessed the man that attempted to murder him at one time.
"He was also a man of righteousness, never wavering in his belief that the Holy Scriptures were to be obeyed in matters of morals and human sexuality. He spoke out clearly that homosexuality was not a gift from God, but could be healed through the Gospel.
"He will go down in history as one of the world's greatest leaders. His character and vision for freedom will be sorely missed.
"I join with millions of Christians around the world in mourning his passing, yet we also rejoice in what his life and vision meant to all of us."