The man in white who changed the world

From The Guardian: Cristina Odone analyses the conflicting forces behind John Paul’s papacy and compares his ability to shock with his power to inspire awe:

Popepicture64ready_1  The frail octogenarian, riddled with ailments – by the end, these included Parkinson’s, kidney failure, septic shock and heart failure – fought ferociously to lend moral dignity to his last moments. For the two months following his admission to hospital with a respiratory infection, John Paul II turned his suffering into an act of faith – and a humbling reminder to the rest of us of the invincibility of spiritual strength. The Vatican supported John Paul in his dying mission.

During his last hours, as millions around the world held spontaneous vigils, Vatican spokesmen issued regular bulletins about the 84-year-old pontiff’s condition. Gone were the secrecy and obfuscation long associated with the curia: here instead were detailed reports about tracheotomies, urinary tracts, septicaemia.

The effect was to ensure the world’s participation in this personal Calvary. From Goa to Guadeloupe, from Manila to Manchester, people – many of them non-Catholic – waited anxiously for the latest news from St Peter’s. News networks around the world turned their lenses on the Vatican apartments, and to the square where 70,000 well-wishers thronged. Continuous live coverage took over radio stations – leading one Five Live broadcaster to joke to me that he felt as if he were working on Vatican Radio.

The Pope had taught his followers that life – whether it be of the unborn, the infirm, the poor or the outcast – was always precious. Now, his own seemed the most precious of all.

Shock and awe: the hallmark doctrine of the war he so vehemently opposed perfectly described the emotions John Paul II generated during the 27 years of his papacy. To be a Catholic with Karol Wojtyla at the helm was to bounce from the shock of hearing the reiteration of some of the Church’s most anachronistic doctrines, to the awe of watching a frail octogenarian attack the world’s superpower for its human rights record.

Read more here.