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An American Journalist Reflects on the Passing of a Polish Pope

By Dennis Daily
Special to ASSIST News Service CENTRAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA (ANS) -- As a journalist who was raised in the Catholic tradition and, like many Catholic boys, entertained the idea of being a priest at one time, it's interesting to watch the way the world’s media has treated the death of Pope John-Paul II.

Even though we have our religious differences, I'm always in awe of the way the head of the Catholic Church is treated with such reverence in the mainstream media.

To be honest, there's something really heartwarming seeing men and women of all faiths, working for the major networks and news organizations, talking in such familiar and respectful terms, it's almost as if they were raised in the Catholic tradition, even though, in many cases, that is not the case.

Watching the Pope's declining years was painful. Many of us remember the strange news that a priest from Poland, of all places, had been elected to be Pope. We would later find out that his name emerged during the Papal Enclave as the cardinals tried over and over to reach a consensus on who should lead the world's one billion Roman Catholics.

We later found out he had worked behind the scenes for years. His jovial nature, extreme intellect, energetic persona and ability to speak many languages had made it possible for him to make friends among the hierarchy of the Church.

When more and more cardinals started putting his name into the voting hopper there was suddenly a groundswell of support.

History will likely treat this Pope well. Not only for his rise to the Vatican from the hidden depths of an underground seminary in Nazi-occupied Poland, to a priest who would rather ski than do anything else, to a world politician who, in many ways, was one of the main reasons that the Soviet empire fell.

We all remember his visits to the United States, his love of young people and his hopes for the future.

The big question now is, of course, who will follow him. In a time when secularism is on the rise, when the diversity of world religion confuses the issue, when the American church has been beset by embarrassing scandal and when the world's youth is reaching out for a new direction, the next Pope HAS to be a good one. Maybe when his name is announced we will be as surprised as we were when the gregarious priest from Poland was named to the papacy. If that is the case, hopefully the next Pope will not only follow in the footsteps of the last, but even outrun him in many ways. That would please me greatly.

I only hope that he is a Pope who understands the psyche of the American church; a Pope who is able to rule with a strong and unwavering hand, but who also knows that the church has to be held together and that continued good relations with all sectors of Christianity (and the world's other religions) is the only way the total Body of Christ will thrive as the world becomes more complex.

President Bush spoke for us all. So did Billy Graham. A great man has died. We pray for a remarkable successor.

Dennis Daily is a former member of the staff of the old UPI Radio Network in Washington, DC., and a former network religion editor. He is currently news director of a radio station in California's Central Valley. His e-mail is:

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