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What a moment this is in the history of Catholicism.

A pope headed for sainthood so rapidly.

And for good reason.

John Paul II deserves to be known as "great" because his presence on the world stage (and it was a huge presence) came at the most critical time not only for Catholicism and Christianity and belief in one God but for the world in general. He became the most memorable Pope of the twentieth century.

This is a man who exuded goodness like a radio transmitter, a man -- a saint -- with whom countless non-Catholics could identify. There was an aura of brightness around him.

Even world leaders felt the power, which seemed supernatural. President Reagan flew to greet him when he arrived in the U.S.; former U.S.S.R. President Gorbachev knelt to kiss his ring during a visit years after. President George Bush spoke of the force he felt around John Paul II.

It was the force of deep prayer (he often seemed to lapse into ecstasy during the Rosary). It was the force of love: no one personified compassion and forgiveness and understanding more than he did. It was the force of intellect: While mainly a priest and mystic (and prayer-warrior), Karol Józef Wojtyla could talk philosophy and theology with anyone. A great theological intellect named Joseph Ratzinger was an assistant and a great admirer and obviously remains one into his own ponitifcate.

Reviewing the life of the late Pope, Quin Hillyer, in the American Spectator, said he finds it impossible to resist the conclusion that he was "one of the greatest men not just of this age, but of any age in recorded history."

No one came away unimpressed -- not even the man who tried to kill him. And the effect he had on politics was fantastic. John Paul II is responsible more than any other single human for the fall of Communism -- first in his native Poland (where the devout Catholic Lech Walesa, financed secretly by the Vatican, and constantly consulting John Paul II, led the charge) and next in other countries under the yoke of the U.S.S.R. Then -- incredibly, fantastically -- Communism fell in the republics in the U.S.S.R. itself. No one would have guessed that could happen, let alone so quickly.

It did so after John Paul II consecrated the world and implicitly the Soviet Union to Mary's Immaculate Heart (per her request, as a prerequisite for Russia's conversion, at the famous apparition site of Fatima).

It was the Fatima anniversary day of May 13 on which John Paul II -- Mary's pope, the "pope of the secret" -- miraculously survived a bullet that strangely moved through his body in a way that just missed critical organs and blood vessels. He visited Fatima three times and during one visit placed the very bullet that injured him in the crown of her statue in the chapel of apparitions.

He was a Pope whose rise was even prophesied by Saint Padre Pio (who then was canonized by John Paul II, who canonized many great saints). At a time of horrific revelations of clergy abuse -- and of the infiltration by homosexuals -- John Paul II stood as a massive example of manliness -- this most masculine and attractive and charismatic of popes, one of the rare ones in history whose greatness matched outward appearances and exceeded hyperbole.

Hat's off Sunday -- Divine Mercy Sunday, a day he instituted. Another sign: He died on the very vigil day of that feast! Thousands have claimed miracles. Will his intercession become like that of St. Thérèse? Will he one day also be a doctor of the Church? The prediction here is that Blessed John Paul II will end up a saint at the level of predecessors like Saint Padre Pio and Saint John Bosco.

[resources: The Miracles of John Paul II, and The Rosary of John Paul II]

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