Pope John Paul II, who will be canonized in Rome on Sunday, saw possibilities where others saw only barriers, author George Weigel wrote in a commentary in The Wall Street Journal
Weigel, who wrote a two-volume biography of John Paul II, recalls that in a speech at the United Nations in 1995, the pontiff predicted that a "springtime of the human spirit" would follow two world wars, concentration camps, and other misery.
The tragic history of his native Poland was a strong influence, Weigel writes, and he believed that the key to freeing Eastern Europe from Soviet domination was to "ignite a revolution of conscience," which would inspire people to reject Communism and resist oppression.
"This son of Poland was, at the same time, a man of global vision with a deeply humanistic soul, forged by what he regarded as the crisis of modernity: a crisis in the very idea of the human person," Weigel wrote.
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"That crisis, he believed, was not confined to Communism's materialist reduction of the human condition, which he tenaciously fought as a university chaplain, a professor of ethics, a charismatic priest, and a dynamic bishop. The crisis could also be found in those Western systems that were tempted to measure men and women by their commercial utility rather than by the innate and inalienable dignity that was their birthright."
"When he was elected pope in 1978, some observers fixated on what they imagined to be possible, saw in the Catholic Church only contention and possible ruin," Weigel wrote. "He saw possibilities for dramatic cultural, social, and eventually political change in Eastern Europe — and then helped effect them."
The New York Post
reported that the canonization of John Paul II and Pope John XXIII is expected to draw a record 3 million pilgrims to Rome this week.
Nineteen heads of state and 24 prime ministers are expected to attend the canonization ceremony in St. Peter’s Square.
In line with Pope Francis’ no-frills papacy, the canonizations will be a much more sober affair than the three-day extravaganza that marked John Paul’s beatification, the last step before sainthood, in 2011, according to the Post.
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