Memories of St. John Paul II
As Pope Francis arrives today in the United States for his first visit, I thought about the five years I helped to cover Pope (now Saint) John Paul II.
No matter what country, people thought the pope was making direct eye contact–even in a huge crowd.
As overall news coordinator for the papal visit to India, I saw a meeting between him and (now Blessed) Mother Teresa. Moreover, three million people attended one Mass. Both events were amazing!
He was the first world traveler of recent popes, earning him the title of “John Paul II: Superstar.” More important, he played a significant role in the downfall of the Soviet Union, with his support for Solidarity in his homeland of Poland.
I spent a great deal of time reporting about the plot to kill him, traveling to Bulgaria, Germany and elsewhere to reconstruct the events and individuals charged with the crime. The trial and conviction of Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who almost killed the pope, was one of the most bizarre events I ever saw, mainly because Agca seemed like a Turkish Charles Manson.
Whatever the case, it was a blessed ride!
Papal Poll: Francis Gets Thumps Up Overall
Sixty percent (60%) of American Adults share a favorable opinion of the current pope, with 30% who have a Very Favorable view of him. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 23% view Pope Francis unfavorably, and that includes only eight percent (8%) with a Very Unfavorable opinion. Seventeen percent (17%) are undecided.
The late Cardinal John Foley, a longtime Philadelphian, would be happy a pope was visiting again.
Pope Francis Gets Some Thumbs Down on Communism Stance
During his trip to Cuba, the pope did press the Communist leaders as his predecessors did.
St. John Paul II called for “great change” and urged more respect for religious and other human rights in 1998. Pope Benedict XVI echoed that call in 2012.
CNN.com notes, “Aboard the papal airplane on the way to Cuba, Benedict said, ‘It is obvious that the Marxist ideology as it was conceived no longer corresponds to reality: it is no longer possible to respond to or to build up a society in this way. New models must be found, patiently and constructively.'” See more at http://cnn.it/1KvMZD0
Christopher Harper is a longtime journalist, who reported in Europe and the Middle East. He teaches media law and international journalism. Send suggestions and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.