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John Paul II's life and death

A sampling of statements

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The following statements were issued by various religious and political leaders. They range from very positive to very negative. If you do not wish to read critical comments on Pope John Paul II's life, you might wish to bypass the comments of the Fundamental Baptist Information Service, Edwin Kagin, and Hans K?g. Readers' discretion is advised.

bullet Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan: "Quite apart from his role as a spiritual guide to more than a billion men, women and children, he was a tireless advocate of peace, a true pioneer in interfaith dialogue and a strong force for critical self-evaluation by the Church itself." 5
 
bulletAhmed Bedier, Central Florida director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) wrote a letter to the editor of the St. Petersburgh Times in Florida. It is titled "A legacy of tolerance:"

"On behalf of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim community, I would like to offer our sincere condolences on the death of Pope John Paul II to members of the Roman Catholic Church and to all people of conscience."

"Muslims worldwide respected Pope John Paul II as an advocate for peace, justice and human rights. He worked tirelessly to build tolerance and understanding among people of all faiths."

"Muslims will remember Pope John Paul II as the first Pontiff to visit a mosque. In May 2001 the pope visited the Ummayad Mosque in the Syrian capital of Damascus, where he held and kissed a copy of the Koran. Furthermore, he built bridges between Christians, Jews and Muslims and encouraged respect for diversity."

"The late pontiff understood that ignorance, bigotry and oppression are a threat to our world and led by example to eradicate them. Religious, civic and political leaders in the Tampa Bay area and across the world would benefit by following his model. We look forward to reaching out to all segments of our society and continue on our mission of building bridges of understanding."

"Pope John Paul II's message of international peace and interfaith reconciliation is one that will reverberate for generations to come. Though the world will miss him, his legacy can live on through furthering his work of building respect and tolerance." 4
 

bulletBritish Prime Minister Tony Blair: "Throughout a hard and often difficult life, he stood for social justice and on the side of the oppressed, whether as a young man facing the Nazi occupation in Poland or later in challenging the communist regime. He never wavered, never flinched, in the struggle for what he thought was good and right." 5
 
bulletU.S. President George W. Bush: "The Catholic Church has lost its shepherd, the world has lost a champion of human freedom, and a good and faithful servant of God has been called home." 5
 
bulletFormer U.S. President Bill Clinton, former President of the U.S. wrote: "In speaking powerfully and eloquently for mercy and reconciliation to people divided by old hatreds and persecuted by abuse of power, the Holy Father was a beacon of light not just for Catholics, but for all people." However, he was more critical when he discussed the pope's legacy when traveling to Rome for the pope's funeral. He told reporters that Pope John Paul II: "centralized authority in  the papacy again and enforced a very conservative theological doctrine. There will  be debates about that. The number of Catholics increased by 250 million on his  watch. But the numbers of priests didn't. He's like all of us - he may have a mixed  legacy." Pastor Joseph Grant Swank Jr., of New Hope evangelical church in Maine responded to Clinton's latter comment. He wrote: "This rank sinner of the most alley cat genre plows into the Pope on the way to the Pope's funeral! In moments after making  his 'confession,' the former United States President then has the audacity to kneel in St. Peter's Church, looking on adoringly at the Pope's corpse." 1  
 
bulletJames Dobson, founder and head of Focus on the Family wrote in a statement: "Today's passing of Pope John Paul II is an immeasurable loss - not only to our friends of the Roman Catholic faith, but to the entire world. We found common cause with him and with the 'culture of life' he espoused so eloquently; the legacy he left us is to be cherished.

"While we grieve the profound loss of this remarkable man, we celebrate his life, his ministry and his undeniable impact on the world. During his time as leader of the Catholic Church, he embodied the belief that freedom is a gift from God that should not be infringed by any government; that all life is precious and should be protected; and that dying is part of living and should not be feared nor hastened artificially.

"Pope John Paul was an uncompromising voice on the sanctity of life - in fact, his was one of the greatest contributions of the 20th century to that cause. The 'culture of life' will forever be indebted to the man who championed the value of all human life, even to his last breath." 7
 
bulletFundamental Baptist Information Service (FIBS): "...from a Bible-believing standpoint the pope cannot be eulogized. The Bible states that his false grace-works gospel is under God's curse (Galatians 1:6-9), and it would be foolish to praise that which God has cursed. He was a false apostle (2 Cor. 11:13-15) who taught doctrines of devils (1 Tim. 4:1-5)....By any standard, one of Pope Paul II's [sic] greatest legacies is the expansion of ecumenism. Coming into office in 1978, he put shoe leather to the Vatican II Council of the 1960s. He broke down more 'denominational barriers' than any man other than Billy Graham....According to Bible prophecy, these efforts will not result in peace on earth or the establishment of the kingdom of God but the ushering in of the Antichrist and the fulfillment of the events described in Revelation 17." 2
 
bulletFranklin Graham of Samaritan's Purse called Pope John Paul II "unquestionably the most influential voice for morality and peace in the world during the last 100 years." 3
 
bulletBilly Graham, founder of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, when interviewed by Katie Couric on NBC television, said that he and the pope preach the same gospel. He said: "We disagree on a lot of doctrinal issues and I guess those disagreements will always be there. At the same time we did agree on the fundamentals that Jesus Christ is the son of the living God who came to this earth to die for our sins and when he died on that cross and shed his blood he took the sins of the world with him on the cross; and if we confess our sins and repent and by faith receive Christ into our hearts God will forgive us and cleanse us. These are fundamentals of the faith we agreed on and support and we appreciate this man and the stand he has taken on so many of these moral issues." 2 (Graham appears to be incorrect in the second part of his statement. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that salvation comes from God through church sacraments. Graham, and all or essentially all other very conservative Christians teach that salvation comes from trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior.)
 
bulletThe Institute on Religion and Public Policy has presented their annual Jan Karski Award to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to freedom -- particularly religious freedom. Pope John Paul II was the recipient of their 2004 award. Future awards will now be presented as the Pope John Paul II Wellspring of Freedom Award. They issued a statement saying: "His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, who passed away this past Saturday at age 84, tirelessly struggled for freedom, dignity, solidarity and respect for all peoples regardless of faith throughout his life."

"As a young man, Karol J?ef Wojtyla experienced the brutality of a godless totalitarian regime and defied the Nazi occupation forces first-hand, risking his own life to protect Polish Jews from persecution."

"Even as a priest, Karol J?ef Wojtyla worked against the tyranny of the Communist oppressors in Poland, continuing his indefatigable resistance to despotism and working toward the expression of inalienable freedoms by all peoples of the world."

"During the Second Vatican Council, Archbishop Wojtyla was an articulate and outspoken advocate for religious freedom.  As a recently passed Senate Resolution honoring the Holy Father stated, Archbishop Wojtyla "assert[ed] that the Church could not claim religious liberty for itself unless it was willing to concede it to others. Pope John Paul II, upon returning to his homeland, frequently cited the Council's declaration that religious freedom was 'the first of human rights', a phrase embraced by Polish Catholics in their struggle against the hegemony of the Communist regime." 6
 
bulletEdwin Kagin, Kentucky State Director for American Atheists wrote in part: "Opposed to birth control. Opposed to the rights of gays. Opposed to the rights of women. Opposed to the right to have an abortion. He made a virtue of human suffering rather than working for meaningful ways to prevent human suffering. He sought ways to deal with the persistent problem of so many priests of his church raping children -- mostly same sex children. Perhaps he could have suggested that they obey the law. He exonerated Galileo, and he apologized to the Jewish people for his church having not condemned, and maybe even having helped their un-excommunicated communicant Adolph Hitler.

Many of the faithful thought he was correct in all things. And they obeyed him. Except when he condemned capital punishment and the war in Iraq. The pope, they figured, got it wrong on those -- that abortion is god-prohibited murder, but that killing people in prisons and on the battlefields is fine no matter what the Vicar of Christ has to say on such matters. The dead Supreme Pontiff also thought the teaching of evolution was okay. Many think he was wrong on that too, and that they are more qualified to decide where people came from than the chief primate." 8
 
bulletHans Küng, president of the Global Ethic Foundation, and a leading Catholic theologian whose authority to teach was withdrawn by the Church, published an article in Der Spiegel, a leading German newspaper. He wrote: "Karol Wojtyla was not the greatest pope of the 20th century but he was certainly the most contradictory."

"Outwardly, he called for conversion, reform and dialogue with the rest of the world. But this was sharply contradicted by his internal policy, which was oriented toward the restoration of the pre-Second Vatican Council status quo, obstructing reform, denying dialogue within the church and absolute Roman dominance....."

"John Paul II supported human rights while withholding them from bishops, theologians and women. The Vatican has yet to sign the European Council's Declaration of Human Rights: far too many canons of the absolutist Roman church law of the Middle Ages would have to be amended first." Küng listed eight other "contradictions" in his article. 10
 
bulletMassachusetts Family Institute: A spokesperson wrote: "Massachusetts Family Institute would like to extend our prayerful condolences to our Catholic brothers and sisters over the loss of Pope John Paul II. He stood for all that we believe in, especially the sanctity of life and the importance of marriage. He was instrumental in the fall of world Communism, and will be recorded as one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century, and certainly one of Christianity?s greatest ever. May his legacy spur us on to be victorious in the cultural wars of the right to life and the definition of marriage." 5
 
bulletNdaba Mazabane, chairman of the World Evangelical Alliance said: "As evangelicals we celebrate his being a champion of the sanctity of human life and care for the vulnerable, principles that we share. His deep concern with the current culture of death and his promotion of a culture of life was significant and welcome." 7
bulletThe Rev. Robert Sirico, head of the Acton Institute, wrote: "I think what's unique about him was he articulated the vision in such an accessible way that everyone understood. It was very hard for anyone to say that this was a mean man. What he spoke, he spoke with love; he spoke with profound respect, even for people who disagreed with him."

"He was a man of prayer, a man deeply committed to Jesus Christ. A man who respected them, regardless of our differences, a man for me as a priest is really the model of the priesthood, other than of course Jesus Christ Himself. But this man embodied the Gospel in a unique way." 9
bulletEric Svendsen, founder and director of New Testament Research Ministries wrote: "Let me be very clear here. The official teachings of Roman Catholicism stand in opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ--no less than the teachings of the Judaizers in Paul's own day stood opposed to the gospel. Indeed, Roman Catholicism has added so many obstacles to salvation that have to be hurdled as a prerequisite to salvation, that the Judaizer heresy anathematized by Paul in Gal 1:8-10 looks like a Christian denomination by comparison! I wonder if Paul, upon learning of the death of the head of the Judaizers, would have appeared on JNN (Jerusalem News Network) to say what a great leader this man was, and, 'yes, we had our differences on some things, but we held so many other things in common!' Or, perhaps John would have appeared instead to sing the praises of Cerinthus, that great evangelist of the Gnostics! 'He was such a great evangelist because he preached the gospel to millions and did so much good'!"

"What gospel? What good? How can we speak of the 'good' a man does if his life is dedicated to another gospel, one we have not received, and one that is in fact based on those 'good' things he did? What 'good' is there in standing up for moral causes if in the end the people you've won over by those moral causes end up believing a 'gospel' that cannot save?"
 
bulletFormer British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: "By combating the falsehoods of communism and proclaiming the true dignity of the individual, his was the moral force behind victory in the Cold War." 5

References used:

  1. "Former president Clinton insults pope on way to funeral," Life Site News, 2005-APR-07.
  2. "Pope John Paul II dies," Friday Church News Notes, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, 2005-APR-08.
  3. "Graham remembers pope's warmth, courage," Winston-Salem Journal (NC), 2005-APR-02.
  4. Ahmed Bedier, "A legacy of Tolerance," St. Petersburgh Times, 2005-APR-07, at: http://www.sptimes.com/
  5. "Massachusetts Family Institute E-Alert," 2005-APR-06. See: http://www.mafamily.org
  6. "Religious Freedom Program Named in Honor of the Pope of Freedom. John Paul II was Recipient of 2004 Religious Freedom Award," Institute on Religion and Public Policy, 2005-APR-06.
  7. "What is Dr. Dobson's response to Pope John Paul II's death," Focus on the Family, 2005-APR-02, at: http://family.custhelp.com/
  8. Edwin Kagin, "The Death of a Pope," AANews, American Athiests, 2005-APR-05.
  9. Pete Winn, "Pope Recalled as 'Voice of Conscience'," Citizen Link, 2005-APR-05, at: http://www.family.org/
  10. Hans K?/font>ng, "The nine contradictions of Pope John Paul II. He had many qualities, but consistency was not one of them," Der Spiegel, 2005-MAR-26, at: http://service.spiegel.de/
  11. Eric Svendsen, "On Evangelical comments concerning the death of the Pope: An apology," Real Clear Theology Blog, 2005-APR-08 at: http://ntrminblog.blogspot.com/

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Copyright is held by the persons issuing the statements
Originally posted: 2005-APR-08
Latest update: 2009-NOV-09

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