Carol Wojtyla 1920-2005
The obituaries have been written, the cardinals are gathering, and Pope John Paul II lies in state in the Vatican.
A faith, a people, and a world mourns.
This man was elected when I was 4 years old. I don't remember his ascension to the pontiff seat. For myself, he has always been.
His role as leader of the Roman Catholic Church brought him to our Mass and into our prayers.
His roots in Poland made him familiar to my mother and her side of the family. My grandmother fled her homeland, Poland, and the devastation of WWII.
His traveling brought him directly into our lives. In May 1980, only 1 1/2 years after his election, he came to (then) Zaire. I remember sitting on the side of the road waiting for his motocade to pass by. Our family was blessed with meeting His Holiness and receiving a blessed rosary. A photo on our wall shows a young and vibrant pontiff framed on either side by elephant tusk ivory, with a small 6 year old watching him from the front of the crowd. That was me.
Some of his teachings weren't popular, his conservative stance not always well-loved. But his outstretched hand and heart to the religions of the world, his desire for peace during political turmoil, his understanding of pain and suffering, his prayers for every child... these are what mark his papacy.
Nations around the world hold days of mourning. It is expected in some places, like the Catholic Philippines, while Cuba and Iran's show of respect prove how fully his death is a global loss.
Pope John Paul II. May he rest and find peace in heaven.