FROM the former President of Poland who said Pope John Paul II’s death was “as if Poland lost its mother”, to US President George W. Bush who said the Pope was ‘a champion of human freedom’, the world’s political leaders voiced appreciation for the late Pope.
“He looked after Poland as a mother looks after her family,” said Lech Walesa, who led Poland’s Solidarity movement, which helped bring about the downfall of Communist rule.
Mr Walesa, who was a friend of the Pope, the former Archbishop of Krakow, became Poland’s first democratically elected President in 1990.
Mr Bush praised Pope John Paul II as “a champion of human freedom” and a “witness to the dignity of human life”.
In England, Prime Minister Tony Blair said the world had lost a leader who was revered by people of all faiths and none.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that apart from the Pope’s role as a spiritual guide “he was a tireless advocate of peace, a true pioneer in interfaith dialogue and a strong force for critical self-evaluation by the Church itself”.
In Cuba, Fidel Castro published a letter to the Vatican on the front page of the newspaper Juventud Rebelde on April 3, saying the Pope’s death was “sad news” and offering “the most heartfelt condolences of the Cuban people and the government”.
In China, where there has been no such warming of relations with that nation’s Communist government, Liu Jianchao, spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, issued a statement expressing his country’s condolences. China prohibits religious activity by any group not specifically permitted by the Government and does not recognise the Vatican’s authority over Catholics in that country.
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev called the Pope “the No 1 humanist on the planet”.
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said the Pope’s death “represents the loss of one of the most towering world figures in recent history”.
Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said the people of her country “received the news of his death with a deep sense of grief and loss.
Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi said Italians are “mourning the loss of a father” who will be remembered as a man of freedom and justice.
Irish President Mary McAleese said Pope John Paul’s story “is that of a man of immense faith and conviction and, in latter years, great personal courage. He engaged with human culture and civilisation in every aspect and in every corner of the world”.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said the Pope would be remembered for his travels and because he preached world peace, citing the pontiff’s opposition to the US invasion of Iraq.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called Pope John Paul II a “friend of the Jews” and “a man of peace” who would be remembered for working for reconciliation among peoples. CNS
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
The Catholic Leader acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First Peoples of this country and especially acknowledge the traditional owners on whose lands we live and work throughout the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.