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.
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)
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,"
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
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
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
The pontiff survived an assassination attempt in 1981,
and later visited his would-be assailant in prison and forgave
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
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.
STATEMENT BY SECRETARY OF STATE CONDOLEEZZA
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
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
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
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