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Goodbye, John Paul II

Needless to say, I disagreed with the pope on a goodly number of issues pertaining to religion. But guess what? That's why I'm not Catholic. His views on contraception or abortion simply didn't impact me. He forced no one to belong to his church, so I couldn't begrudge his running it the way he saw fit (BTW, for all the Catholics out there, I know I'm probably being terribly heretical by referring to the Catholic church as "his" church and all that, but, theology aside, that's kind of how it looks to an outsider.)

But at the end of the day, he was much, much more than simply the leader of a faith to which I don't belong. He was a citizen of the world as well as of the Kingdom of God, and he's made an impact here on this planet far greater than all but a handful of men have ever done. As much as any one individual, John Paul II was responsible for the collapse of the global communist empire. That is a gift, a legacy, for which all freedom-loving people should be thankful, regardless of their faith (or lack thereof.)

I saw him once, nearly twenty years ago. It was a beautiful September day on the "Horseshoe" of the University of South Carolina. Classes were cancelled, and we waited for him there on the grass for many hours, and the atmosphere was much more Woodstock-like than one might expect for the occasion: semi-naked chicks, boom boxes, and dudes with tie-dyed shirts playing Hackey Sack.

I remember that I almost didn't go, but I can't now remember why. Something stupid, no doubt. But I went, in the end. I was there, I saw the pope, and it was an experience I won't forget. "It is wonderful to be young," he ended his speech. "It is wonderful to be a student at the University of South Carolina."

Well yeah, it was. And you played no small role in that.

Good Bye.


I remember that visit, as well. I remember him as a very cool dude, a kind of nice grandfather with a cool cap.

I also remember the T-shirts that were printed and worn by students forced to move out of their dorms temporarily for security reasons. The shirts proclaimed "I was moved by the Pope."

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