June 22, 2007 – John Paul II and the Law-Some Preliminary Reflections
At the deepest levels of his self-understanding and sense of vocation, the late Pope John Paul II was a Christian disciple and a pastor of Christ’s Church. Precisely as such–as a disciple, a priest, and a bishop–John Paul II exerted what many believe to be the greatest influence on world affairs of any pope since the high Middle Ages.
His pivotal role in the collapse of European communism is now widely acknowledged. In time, his influence in the democratic transitions in Latin America and East Asia will also be recognized (as will another less-heralded contribution, his refusal to give up on Africa at a moment when other world leaders seemed prepared to let that continent fall off the edge of history into the abyss). At two crucial moments in the late twentieth century–in 1979, during a particularly perilous period in the Cold War, and in 1995, as the West was taking a holiday from history while clandestine and malign forces gathered strength–John Paul II stood at the center of what much of the world thinks of as power, the great marble rostrum of the General Assembly of the United Nations, to defend the universality of human rights and the capacity of human reason to grasp the truth of things, including the moral and political truth of things.