He died the way he lived: humbly and courageously.
Pope John Paul II was a spiritual leader worthy of the world’s admiration and appreciation. The five million faithful who crammed the streets of Rome in days-long lines for one last glimpse of the Vicar of Christ represented something deep about the remarkable man who led the Church.
He could have been buried in his ruby red slippers with gold-embroidered crosses, signifying royalty. But John Paul II eschewed such monarchical ceremonies even at his installation 26 years ago. Following the example of his namesake predecessor, he refused the traditional coronation ritual of being carried around St. Peter’s Square on the papal throne with the crown of a king held overhead. He would be a pope of all the people, not just of the privileged.
He was buried in simple brown loafers made for him by his longtime cobbler. He went to his grave in the same shoes he had traveled the world in to greet souls high and low.
Differences in doctrine notwithstanding, even Baptists can learn from the way this man modeled the spirit of Christ. One Baptist leader issued this statement: “As Baptist Christians we give thanks to God for the life and legacy of Pope John Paul II. His devotion to Jesus Christ has inspired and challenged multitudes. In a world of war and violence, he was a voice for peace. In a world of greed and materialism, he was a voice for justice. In a world of oppression and tyranny, he was a voice for freedom. In a world of suffering, he was an example of courage and compassion. For many of us, his most memorable words were his constant reference to those of Scriptures, ‘Be not afraid.’
“In this hour of loss, [we] offer our prayers for our sisters and brothers in the Catholic Church. We also offer our hand of Christian fellowship in serving Christ’s Kingdom. And, we pledge our solidarity with all Christians in being the presence of Christ to one another and to the world.”
Pope John Paul II’s personal motto and prayer was Totus tuas, “Totally yours.” He meant this both as a servant of God and of all the people of God. Because he was totally committed to his heavenly Father and all his Father’s children, the Holy Father gave reason for all God’s children to rise up and call him blessed.
Rest in peace, good and faithful servant.
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