Page 1304 - Week 05 - Tuesday, 5 April 2005

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The pope’s death ends a history-making pontificate of more than 26 years, obviously one that dramatically changed the Catholic Church and left its mark on the world. It was in 1978, against all odds, that Karol Wojtyla became the first non-Italian pontiff in 455 years, having been elected as John Paul II at the relatively young age of 58—relatively young when it comes to those who have achieved election as a pope.

Whilst he was relatively young in those terms, he began a journey that carried an intense amount of pressure for someone moving into his 60s. I find it interesting, in seniors week in this society where we see challenges for older people joining the work force, that one could take on a role such as this when they are almost 60 years of age, and have such a dramatic impact on world affairs for another 26 years. Is that not an inspiration for us all?

Pope John Paul was a man intimately and physically acquainted with suffering. Despite his various bouts of ill health and the attempted assassination on him, he battled on with his work and celebrated publicly much of the work as leader of the Catholic Church. He went on to lead the church to the strongest position it has been in in a long time. Never before, I would suggest, has the Catholic Church had as much respect as it does today.

A decade after witnessing the fall of communism the pope fulfilled another dream. He visited the Holy Land in March 2000. Praying at Jerusalem’s western wall, he asked forgiveness for Catholic sins against the Jewish people over the centuries. It is doubtful that there has ever been a pope who has so successfully translated his strength, determination and faith into such widespread respect and goodwill. In a world of shifting trends and sometimes leaders of doubtful virtue, John Paul II has been a towering figure at the moral centre of modern life.

In closing I would like to again refer to a definitive description of John Paul II by Reverend Father Thomas Reece, who, in a book entitled Inside the Vatican wrote:

This is not a pope who looks at the public opinion polls. He says what he thinks is right and wrong from conviction. And that’s why people admire him. He’s a man of integrity and prayer, even if they don’t agree with him.

Not only was John Paul II a holy man and spiritual leader of more than one billion Catholics, he was also a truly great citizen of the world and a man of peace.

MRS BURKE (Molonglo): I would like to add my brief but nonetheless sincere respects to what some people may see as a man for his times. That is the way I like to see the pope. We may have differing views about Pope John Paul II, but we have to consider the things this great man did in the time span, and what he achieved in that time span. He brought together people from across the world who were once enemies, and he was a man who majored upon the civil rights of human beings in third world and Eastern bloc countries.

He will be well remembered for his compassion and genuine unconditional love for humanity, particularly children and young people. It is remarkable to note that his final hours were marked by an overwhelming number of young people keeping vigil outside his Vatican apartments. It is interesting also that, in his last message specifically to the

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