The Hope of Pope John Paul II

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Four summers ago, I was fortunate to attend a walking tour of Krakow, the “city of saints,” led by George Weigel, who has a beautiful piece in the Wall Street Journal today, marking the centenary of Pope Saint John Paul II.

Weigel shares the experience of Yelena Bonner, the “tough-minded wife of Soviet nuclear physicist and human-rights campaigner Andrei Sakharov,” whose husband had arranged a secret meeting between her and the pontiff in 1985:

Emotionally hardened by decades of battling the KGB, Bonner wasn’t given to sentimentality. Nor was she religious. Yet a two-hour, one-on-one meeting with Pope John Paul II left her sobbing. She told Alberti afterward, “He’s the most incredible man I’ve ever met. He’s all light. He is a source of light.”

Pope John II was undoubtedly an extraordinarily impressive and charismatic individual, but why such a visceral reaction? “Pope John Paul II cannot be explained or understood unless he is taken for what he said he was: a radically converted Christian disciple,” Weigel explains.

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In his biography Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II, Weigel wrote:

Much of late modernity assumes that dependence on God is a mark of human immaturity and an obstacle to human freedom. The life of Karol Wojtyła and his accomplishment as Pope John Paul II suggest a dramatic, alternative possibility: that a man who has been seized and transformed by the “more excellent way” can bend the curve of history so that freedom’s cause is advanced.

Madeleine Kearns is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute. She is from Glasgow, Scotland, and is a trained singer.

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