While sitting with a determination to write on subjects that have come, shifted, realigned and even come and gone over the past two weeks, when I’ve written little for this space, I have once again been unable to do so. Earlier today I heard that Pope John Paul II had passed away. Within minutes the story was retracted, yet the news that he was close to death has stayed with me. Keep writing I would say, so many significant events have passed and despite their importance I’ve not commented on them. Just keep writing… whether it is Kyrgyzstan, Zimbabwe, Lebanon, Ukraine, Sudan or any other part of the world facing the challenge of reform, the terrible weight of bigotry, the unyielding passion of fanaticism, or the struggle to find hope in an increasingly dangerous world, I had something to say. But again, I was unable.
The imminent death of a man of character and influence like few others in our recent history binds my mind and heart just as two weeks ago I was bound by concern for the unheard voice of one soul in Florida. Why is it that distant loss reaches so deep into my heart that breathing becomes a challenge? Just keep writing, even if it has nothing to do with the spread of democracy, I tell myself again. Just keep writing.
I don’t know any more about the passing Pope than you or many others. What I know is that he held firm to his beliefs at a time when the world needed a man willing, able and ready to do just that. Like Ronald Reagan he stood for something and by doing so played a significant part in the ending of the Soviet Union. But many stand for something, that can’t be it. It must be what he stood for. At a time when self supplants selflessness, Pope John Paul II was a selfless servant of his faith and the traditions of the Catholic Church. Had I been a Catholic, perhaps I’d been more able to express the cause of my admiration and respect for the man. I can’t.
All I know is that the sight of this frail man over the last few weeks has wrenched my heart. It is simply a great loss for the world to see him leaving us. A shepherd of men and women of all faiths, standing on a foundation of moral and ethical thought with a depth beyond my capacity is about to leave the flock. Did we learn the value of life, the significance of liberty, the necessity of responsibility or the promise of hope that this shepherd of men so ardently taught? It must be the fear that not enough has been learned and that another of the simple, yet profound, men who stood guard over a flock more concerned with fool and fancy will be lost. Our world is in need of more men with an eye toward good, a forgiving ear, an eloquent and sharp way with words and most of all a love for us all.