(Vatican Radio) April 2nd is the 10th anniversary of the death of Pope Saint John Paul II, that unforgettable day in 2005 when the eyes of the world were fixed on the Vatican as the Polish Pope lived out his last hours on this earth. So, a decade later, how alive is the memory of Pope John Paul and what were his greatest achievements? Those were the questions that Susy Hodges put to two interviewees. The first was George Weigel, a Catholic scholar and author who wrote a best-selling two volume biography about Pope John Paul II and who was given unprecedented access to the Polish Pope and those who knew him whilst researching his work. The second was Father Leszek Gesiak, the head of Vatican Radio’s Polish Section, who examines the lasting impact of one of the greatest figures in Poland’s history.
Weigel said he believed that Pope John Paul’s influence and stature on the world stage has increased in the 10 years since he died: “He looms larger than ever as the man who re-invigorated the Catholic Church for the 21st century.” He also pointed to the Polish Pope’s “pivotal role” in helping to bring about the collapse of communist rule in Europe.
Father Lesek Gesiak too describes the “huge impact” that Pope John Paul II had on the history of Poland and other countries in Europe and his “inspirational” role in the collapse of communism. When asked to sum up Pope John Paul’s greatest achievements, Father Gesiak points to the late Pope’s “very clear doctrinal vision” of the Catholic faith, his position on defending the role of the family and human life and his strong emphasis on the importance of the personal freedoms of human beings, a process which helped set the stage for the toppling of communism and the move towards democracy in central and eastern Europe.