Area residents look back on Pope’s legacy as death nears

Published 8:28 pm Saturday, April 2, 2005

NILES - Addressing the legacy that the Pope will leave behind, Father Dave Otto, pastor at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church in Edwardsburg said, "His suffering was a witness to the church and to the world. " Discussing the question of whether or not Pope John Paul II should have stepped down when his health began to fail earlier, he said, "No. I think this is what he wanted, to exemplify our redemption through the suffering of Jesus."
Father Dave, as he is known to his parish, also commented on the pope's ministry in the world arena. "His whole ministry was to reach out to people, especially the youth. He opened up the papacy, traveling around the world. Whoever is pope in the future won't be able to sit at home.
As to whether the pope's successor might lead the church in the same directions as John Paul II, Father Dave said," He radically transformed the papacy. I can't imagine you can pull that back. There was such upheaval in the 1960s in what the church went through with Vatican II. He settled things down and pulled people back together. That's what the papacy is probably going to be like. "
Marci Charbonneau, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Lake, said, "I think he has been able to communicate with everyone in all of his travels. He got Communism out of Poland. He doesn't get swayed by anybody. He stands his ground."
Charbonneau also stated, "I look at him in a very positive way. He was a good communicator of our Catholic faith. I think he handpicks the people who follow him. I'm hopeful that someone with the same values will continue to fill his footsteps."
Pastor Brian Klawiter-Benton of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Niles, said, "I was born in '78. He's the only Pope I've known. I was impressed with, coming from Poland, his work with the labor movements. He demonstrated a strong stand against Communism.
Kay Weber, an Edwardsburg resident, was raised protestant, but joined the Catholic Church when she married her husband, Doug. She said, "I've been listening to the reports. I don't know. I think he's been an excellent Pope. I liked him. He was often reserved, but he got along well with others."
Addressing changes made to the church by John Paul II, Weber said, "He was very progressive, although sometimes not enough, particularly in recognizing females in the church. I don't know that we'll ever see that. But he will be greatly missed when he is gone."
Rick Sullivan, registrar at Holy Cross College, had many insights as a Lay Catholic, which he said should be "Lay with a small 'm' and Catholic with a small 'c".
In regard to the pope continuing on even through ill health, Sullivan said, "I thought he should have stepped down earlier, maybe even a month or two ago. His bishops resigned at 75. Why not the Bishop of all Bishops?"
Sullivan felt others perceived the Pope's legacy as being steadfast to his religion even while he was ill, but he felt instead, "He deserved to retire and rest and allow someone to come into the papacy with more stamina."
As to Pope John Paul II's papacy, Sullivan said, "He didn't live up to my expectations. I thought he would be a mover and shaker when he took the name John Paul II, to continue in more progressive directions like the previous Pope. Vatican II changed things mid-way for me. Half of my life was in the old church and half in the new. I knew the traditional liturgy, the catechism, but Pope John 23 really modernized the church. He gave a whole new perspective on what it means to be a current Catholic."
Sullivan pondered the future of the papacy. "I believe Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in almost 500 years. He picked up the mantle of Pope John 23, but turned out to be more conservative. As he got older, it became more apparent. I became less enthused about the lack of momentum. I recognize he reached out to the Greeks and many others, but I feel he could have made the ecumenism more meaningful.
No matter what the perspective each of us has, however, there is no denying the power of the papacy in today's world. It reaches into each government, city, and church. And since Pope John Paul II became the third longest-reigning pope in history in 2004, he has had a number of years to establish his values in a world of many cultures and attitudes.
Regardless of the issues of faith and theologly, Pope John Paul II has had an impressive history.
While pope he has declared 476 new saints and beatified 1,320 people.
Pope John Paul II's legacy also includes becoming the first pope to visit Cuba, a mosque and the White House. He made concerted efforts to help reconcile issues between Christians, Jews, and Catholic and Orthodox Churches. And the pope's efforts to end Communist rule in Eastern Europe mark his place in world history as well.
With the pope near death, it is a time to reflect on the many changes brought about during the Pontiff's lifetime. It is also a time consider their effect on the future of not only the Christian world, but the each country, each government, and each culture.