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Americans Mourn the Death of His Holiness John Paul II

Pope was "Inspiration to Us All," Bush says

Posted: April 2, 2005 > President's Statement on the Death of Pope John Paul II      

President George W. Bush, Mrs. Bush and their daughter, Barbara, are given a tour by the Pope in August 2001 of his country retreat, Castel Gandolfo. (White House photo by Eric Draper)

The President presents the Medal of Freedom to Pope John Paul II during a visit to the Vatican in Rome, Italy in June 2004. Bush said, "His principled stand for peace and freedom has inspired millions and helped to topple communism and tyranny. The United States honors this son of Poland who became the Bishop of Rome and a hero of our time." (White House photo by Eric Draper)

President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush walk into the Cross Hall prior to the President giving remarks on the death of Pope John Paul II at the White House on Saturday April 2, 2005. (White House photo by Paul Morse)

The 84-year old pontiff died April 2 following heart and kidney failure. He had suffered for years from Parkinson's disease and was being treated for an infection when he passed away at his residence in Vatican City.

Pope John Paul II was "a faithful servant of God and a champion of human dignity and freedom," Bush said.

At the White House April 1, Press Secretary Scott McClellan said the pope has been "an inspiration to millions of Americans ... [and] to people all over the world. He has provided great moral leadership."

"The outpouring of love and concern from so many, including millions of Americans, is a testimony to his greatness," McClellan said.

Speaking on April 1, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also reflected on Pope John Paul II's legacy, citing him as a figure with "unparalleled impact through his great moral authority, through his willingness to speak out for people in need, through his willingness to speak out for freedom."

The pope was born Karol Józef Wojtyla in Wadowice, Poland, May 18, 1920, and studied at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, as well as a school for drama, before being called to the priesthood in 1942. In Nazi-occupied Poland, he attended a clandestine seminary in Krakow before being ordained in 1946.

He was nominated Archbishop of Krakow in 1964, and Pope Paul VI made him a cardinal in 1967. Cardinal Wojtyla was selected as pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church October 16, 1978, and chose the name John Paul II. He was the first Slavic pope in the history of the Catholic Church, and the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.

During his 26-year papacy, Pope John Paul II was both a spiritual leader and a social reformer, consistently advocating human rights and democracy. He made more than 100 trips abroad, attracting large crowds, and traveled more miles than all previous popes combined.

In his 1994 best-selling book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, he wrote, "We cannot afford forms of permissiveness that would lead directly to the trampling of human rights, and also to the complete destruction of values which are fundamental not only for the lives of individuals and families, but for society itself."

Coming from communist-ruled Poland, he was a symbol of anti-communism during the Cold War and was a supporter of Poland's Solidarity movement. The pope's criticism of dictatorships encouraged opposition movements that brought down autocrats in countries such as Paraguay, Chile and the Philippines.

Pope John Paul II also criticized Western nations, warning against the dangers of materialism, selfishness and secularism, and he urged the West to share more of its resources with developing countries.

The pontiff survived an assassination attempt in 1981, and later visited his would-be assailant in prison and forgave him.

On June 4, 2004, President Bush presented Pope John Paul II with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a ceremony held at the Vatican.

"[W]e appreciate the strong symbol of freedom that you have stood for, and we recognize the power of freedom to change societies and to change the world," Bush said.

The medal's citation praised the pope for championing "the cause of the poor, the weak, the hungry, and the outcast," and for defending "the unique dignity of every life, and the goodness of all life.

"Through his faith and moral conviction, he has given courage to others to be not afraid in overcoming injustice and oppression. His principled stand for peace and freedom has inspired millions and helped to topple communism and tyranny," the citation said.



Washington, DC
April 2, 2005

I am deeply saddened by the death of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II. The pontiff was a world statesman whose leadership played a key role in the fall of Communism and the democratic transformation that swept Europe in its wake. In the 26 years of his papacy, Pope John Paul II's advocacy for human rights and human dignity never wavered. The wisdom and universality of his teaching will continue to guide all of us who, like Pope John Paul II, believe in freedom and faith.

Secretary Condoleezza Rice


Latin America Mourns Pope John Paul
Source: VOA News

Heavily Roman Catholic Latin America is mourning the death of Pope John Paul, who made his first papal visit to the region shortly after becoming the Church's spiritual leader.

His first visit to Latin America was in early 1979, when he made stops in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas. In later years, the pope traveled to countries such as Chile, Venezuela, Jamaica, Brazil, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

In January 1998, Pope John Paul traveled to Cuba. During his historic visit to the communist country, John Paul celebrated open-air Masses with Catholics there and met privately with Cuban President Fidel Castro. While in Cuba, the pontiff called for the release of dissidents as well as an end to the decades-long U.S. embargo against the island.

On Friday, in a rare television appearance, Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega informed Cubans that the pope was on his deathbed. The cardinal paid tribute to the pope as a man who carried the moral weight of the world during 26 years.

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