My mother grew up Catholic in a small town in Alabama. When she was a teenager in public school for the first time in high school, one of the students asked her if it was really true that she would have to sleep with a priest on her wedding night.
I grew up in the same town and recall when John Paul II replaced his short-lived predecessor. From that time forward, I paid attention to his career. He was dedicated to freedom, a man who had lived through the oppression of the Nazis and the Soviets. Now, he was the most powerful religious figure on earth. He did not shrink from the challenge. His Poland would eventually prove pivotal in loosening the Soviet's iron grip on Eastern Europe.
In addition to freedom, Pope John Paul labored against the easy and deadly conveniences of the age. His greatness brought evangelicals and Catholics into a single camp in opposition to the culture of death and materialism. The alliance was made easier by his insistence that Protestants were separated brethren and his desire that the church should again be one. We may yet see his wish fulfilled within decades rather than centuries. The two sides are closer now than at any time since the Counter-Reformation.
Though I am an evangelical Christian, I do not hesitate to recognize this Pope as God's minister to the world and as the greatest public Christian of the age (with apologies to Billy Graham).