A Man Named Wotyla

Yesterday began the process of sanctification of Pope John Paul II, who put his stamp on the second half of the twentieth century and the early years of the twenty-first, leaving his temporary earthly life to join that of eternal heaven. Undoubtedly he was a different Pope. A global pilgrim, e took his ministry to the most remote corners of the world, and was heard and respected by believers and nonbelievers. Charismatic, a natural communicator, he established ties of love and peace with all peoples, deeply affecting children and young people, adults and elders of both sexes.

He lived in difficult times and in glorious ones, marked by fascism, the Second World War, totalitarianism, the Cold War and the collapse of the socialist camp–a giant with feet of clay, a utopia built against the grain of history–that turned into a daily tragedy for the many who suffered and those few who still suffer.

Honest and demanding of himself and with the doctrine of his Church, he always spoke out, expressing his feelings and what he considered correct at the time, undeterred by adverse opinions nor seduced by the need for approval. Controversial, he dabbled in all areas of worldly and spiritual life, and his voice was capable of reaching the most dissimilar ears. An ecumenical pope, he held out his hand to all varieties within Christianity and even other religions, uniting in the convergences, seeking the greatness of human beings in love and brotherhood and not hatred and violence.

From his native Poland he was projected to the world and never tired of traveling it, even when his physical strength waned. As in many other countries, he was among us. In the bright January of 1998 I heard a young and distinct address, different from the old, outdated, repetitive and boring of every other day, teaching us to not be afraid and to take our own destiny into our hands.

Undoubtedly, despite our national tragedy that has gone on too long, we had the good fortune to live the time of a momentous Pope, to whom Cubans are still in debt.

May 2 2011

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