[EDITORIALS]Pope embodied justice, fairnessPope John Paul II, the spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church, died Sunday afternoon. A 100,000-strong crowd of pilgrims gathered solemnly at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City to mourn the pope’s death. Despite the prayers of those who sang, “Hallelujah, he will rise again,” the pope passed away at the age of 84. His farewell note read, “I am happy and you should be as well.” With the pope having returned to the arms of Jesus Christ whom he had served, the world has lost a spiritual leader who touched the hearts of so many with words and actions that transcended religious differences.
Like the title of his autobiography, “Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way,” Pope John Paul II was a promoter of harmony between different religions and set an example to Catholics all around the world with his actions. His “Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions,” in which the pope said that he would not exclude but respect the truth that other religions teach, was a cry for world peace. As a son of Poland, a land that underwent much persecution in history, he also led the church to repent. For the first time the pope officially acknowledged the seven sins that the Catholic Church had committed in the last 2,000 years of its history and asked for forgiveness. He was always at the head of any movement to preserve and respect humanity. This is a great debt that the world cannot forget.
Pope John Paul II visited Korea twice in his lifetime. He became the first pope to visit Korea in May 1984. Coming as a friend and a messenger of peace, the pope first visited Gwangju, which had seen a massacre of civilians by the military just four years before, and appealed earnestly for forgiveness and reconciliation. He visited patients suffering from Hansen’s disease, more commonly known as leprosy, who were quarantined at an island called Sorokdo and comforted them. The pope visited Korea again in the autumn of 1989 to attend the 44th World Eucharistic Congress in Seoul. Shortly after this visit, the Pope finally saw communism topple in Eastern Europe and the Cold War end. He also showed particular concern for the protection of human rights and religious freedom in North Korea. He earnestly wished to visit North Korea, but never did.
The pope, who always stood by the side of those who were oppressed and suffering once told us to, “Be not afraid! Open the doors to Christ!” Despite his illness, he prayed every day for the evangelization of China. One billion Catholics around the world have lost a spiritual father but six billion people around the world have lost a champion of peace and human rights. “In a world that seems to get more troubled as time goes by, I will be your speaker and your voice of conscience,” the pope once said. This world makes his empty place seem all the more bigger.
This is why the entire humanity mourns the death of the pope regardless of ideologies and boundaries. We pray that his successor will succeed with a similar sense of justice and conscience.