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John Paul II Mourned
Pope Dies after Suffering Heart, Kidney Failure
Pope's Body Lies in State at Vatican's Apostolic Palace
The deceased Pope John Paul II laid at Vatican

Pope John Paul II's body lay in state at the Vatican's Apostolic Palace on Sunday, and Vatican television showed the pope's remains clad in crimson vestments, his head covered with a white bishop's miter. The powerful images gave the world its first glimpse of the late pontiff since his last public appearance Wednesday. John Paul died Saturday evening at 84 after suffering heart and kidney failure following two hospitalizations in as many months


John Paul declined rapidly after suffering heart and kidney failure following two hospitalizations in as many months. Just two hours before announcing his death, the Vatican had said he was in "very serious" condition, although he was responding to aides.

Since his surprise election in 1978, John Paul traveled the world, inspiring a revolt against communism in his native Poland and across the Soviet bloc, but also preaching against consumerism, contraception and abortion.

John Paul was a robust 58 when the cardinals stunned the world and elected the cardinal from Krakow, the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.

In his later years, however, John Paul was the picture of frailty, weighed down by ailments that included Parkinson's disease. Although he kept up his travels, he was no longer able to kiss the ground.

Profile: Pope John Paul II

Pople John Paul II
The appointment of Karol Wojtyla as Pope in 1978 was in many ways seen as a groundbreaking move for the Catholic Church.

The first Polish pontiff - and at 58, the youngest Pope of the 20th Century - he had risen swiftly through the ranks of Catholic clergy to become Archbishop of Krakow.

His career — although rapid — was not spectacular. Although respected, he was little known outside Vatican circles, and few experts tipped him as successor to Pope John Paul, who died after only 33 days in office.

Karol Wojtyla took the name of John Paul II after being elected in a two-day session of the College of Cardinals sitting in the Sistine Chapel.

Dynamic early life

Born near Krakow in 1920, the young Karol Wojtyla devoted his energies to sports including football and skiing. An avid theatre lover, at one time he also considered becoming an actor.

During the Nazi occupation in World War II he studied theology — in hiding for part of the time — and was eventually ordained a priest in 1946.

He was quickly promoted, becoming archbishop in 1964 and cardinal in 1967.

An outside candidate, his approach to the papacy was dynamic. John Paul II has never been a man to remain shrouded behind the walls of the Vatican.

He has travelled constantly. After his appointment, he quickly established himself as an instantly recognisable figurehead to the world's largest Christian community.

He has visited more than 100 countries and is estimated to have effectively circled the globe 27 times.

However his desire for closeness with people almost led to his death. In 1981 he was shot and seriously wounded by a Mehmet Ali Agca, a Turkish fanatic, in St Peter's square.

After a long recovery he visited and forgave his would-be assassin.

Conservative views

Despite the Pope's progressive, hands-on leadership, he is not without his critics, particularly over his views on contentious issues such as divorce, contraception and abortion.

At a Vatican conference in 2001 he spoke out against laws allowing divorce, abortion, homosexual unions and rights for unmarried couples.

Critics both inside and outside the church say such views risk alienating many Catholics and are out of touch with a rapidly changing world.

In recent years, the Pope has been dogged by ill health and has become increasingly frail.

He had a tumour removed from his colon in 1992, dislocated his shoulder in 1993, broke his femur in 1994 and had his appendix removed in 1996.

In 2001 an orthopaedic surgeon confirmed what had been suspected for some time - that the Pope was suffering from Parkinson's disease.

In October 2003, St Peter's square in Rome was filled with pilgrims from around the world as Pope John Paul II celebrated his Silver Jubilee.

Just five months later, on 14 March 2004, the remarkable life of the pontiff reached another milestone when his papacy became the third-longest in the history of the Catholic Church.

The Pope marked his 84th birthday in May of that year, but despite deteriorating health has refused to let up his gruelling schedule of appearances and foreign trips.

The Pope holds a weekly audience on Wednesdays and until his latest bout of ill health led to the cancellation of his engagements, had not missed one since September 2003.


Legacy of John Paul II

Charismatic, Controversial Leader Redefined Papacy during 26-Yeal Reign.

By Jane Lampman
CSM Staff Writer

A charismatic yet controversial leader who captured the attention and admiration of the world for more than a quarter century, Pope John Paul II died on April 2, ending one of the longest papal reigns in history.

During his 26 years, he redefined the papacy as that of pastor and evangelist, extending the reach of the church with his savvy use of the media and indefatigable travels to more than 130 nations.

"No human being in history ... had ever spoken to so many people, in so many different cultural contexts," according to his biographer George Weigel.

While deeply disappointed by the decline of Catholicism in Europe, John Paul II presided over rapid growth of the church in Africa and Asia, which fueled a 40 percent increase worldwide, according to church statistics.

Yet while widely respected for his courage and personal holiness, John Paul II was often a controversial figure globally for his conservative stance on issues such as contraception. He stirred dissent within the church as well, presiding over a growing polarization between conservative and liberal wings.

Tested in the crucibles of Nazism and Communism, the Polish-born pope became an eloquent voice for freedom and justice, as well as the defender of traditional Catholicism.

He stirred millions - Catholic and non-Catholic alike - by demonstrating that a voice of strong faith and moral conviction could leave an imprint on the modern world.

For many, Pope John Paul II stands as one of the great leaders of the 20th century.

"He'll go down in history as the most important world leader in the second half of the century," predicts political scientist Thomas Reese, editor of America magazine, a Catholic weekly. "He started the avalanche that wiped out communism. His courage and political shrewdness in dealing with the regime in Poland was extraordinary."

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, among many others, has acknowledged the pope's catalytic role.

The white-clad figure used his bully pulpit to speak out forcefully on moral issues, from abortion and euthanasia to the death penalty, war, and biotechnology. He also criticized the inequities of capitalism.

This did not always win him favor.

Within his own flock, a growing number of liberal Catholics questioned his hardline stances on social issues.

On the world stage, his opposition to the Iraq war created strains with the US administration. And the Vatican has been widely criticized for opposing contraceptive methods that could protect people from HIV/AIDS or reduce the demand for abortion.

Over the past year, the church initiated a campaign to protect marriage between a man and a woman, including opposition to civil unions for gays and lesbians.

While conservative on issues of personal morality, John Paul II was liberal on social and economic justice, advocating reliance on international law and calling on wealthy nations to address global poverty. His remonstrances had little impact on world leaders, but they did help inspire the grass-roots Jubilee 2000 campaign that won debt relief for the world's poorest countries.

To the pope, the secular, materialistic values of contemporary society - utilitarian world views that fail to put human beings at the center of concern - represented "a struggle against God." As a philosopher, he used his prolific writings to lay out a Christian alternative to the humanistic philosophies of modern times.

"His profound insight into what it means to be truly human will be shaping Catholic thought for many generations," says Alan Schreck, a theologian at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.

The attempt on John Paul's life in 1981, and his forgiveness of the assailant, led him to apologize and seek forgiveness for aspects of the church's history, such as anti-Semitism.

One of the pope's most important legacies is his unprecedented outreach to other faiths, particularly Judaism. Rabbi James Rudin of the American Jewish Committee, who negotiated with the Vatican, says, "This pope has probably done more to strengthen Catholic-Jewish relations than any other in history."

Father Reese concurs: While difficulties remain, "500 years from now, people will look back at this as the turning point in Catholic-Jewish relations."

The pope also reached out to Muslims, and on a visit to Damascus, Syria, in May 2001, became the first pontiff to set foot in a mosque. His vocal opposition to the Iraq war helped reassure many Muslims that it was not a Christian campaign against Islam.

The church made significant strides in ecumenical dialogue under John Paul, but failed to achieve his highest priority - that of ending the schism with Eastern Orthodoxy.

The pope's outreach to the faithful of all ages and backgrounds - he seemed to enjoy a special rapport with young people - won him tremendous affection. But he left a church deeply divided and in some ways adrift.

"His support for many conservative lay movements such as Opus Dei ... and his rejection of opposing views in the church created a climate of unease among some parts of the Catholic population," says James Donahue, president of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif.

Traditionalists were heartened by his unwavering orthodox voice on doctrine and the way he clamped down on dissidents. He required oaths from those teaching at Catholic institutions and, under his tutelage, the Vatican reasserted authority over bishops.

But others felt the church was out of touch with reality and the needs of the times. In America, particularly, millions of Catholics have gone their own way on questions of contraception, divorce, and even abortion. Many were distressed by the pope's refusal to discuss the question of married priests (to say nothing of women's ordination), at a time when fewer men were entering the priesthood and hundreds of parishes were closing.

"He was a magnificent model of priestly, pastoral, spiritual, and ecclesiastical profundity, and generosity of spirit," says Martin E. Marty, a renowned historian of religion. "But his example did not lead to recruitment of new generations of priests, and the decline in numbers and morale among priests will be used to measure him."

Perhaps the biggest blow to his stature and moral authority in the US was the failure to act swiftly and compassionately on the clergy sexual abuse crisis which burst into public view in 2001. Confidence in the hierarchy has been undermined. Today only about one third of American Catholics attend mass in any given week.

At the same time, John Paul II enlivened the faith of millions and shaped a papacy with prodigious weight in the world. A small indication of his widespread appeal is that every year of his tenure, polls showed he was among the most admired men in the world. Last year, amid declining health and activity, he was No. 3.




 

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