Still, he was not without detractors critical of the church’s slow response to the priest sex abuse crisis. It was not until December 2002 that he accepted the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law as archbishop of Boston. Law had allowed accused priests to continue serving even after repeated allegations of sexual abuse.
“I think there was an information gap between the United States and the Holy See in the first months of 2002 so that the pope was not living this crisis in real time as we were in the USA,” George Weigel, the pope’s official biographer, told a Vatican press conference last week. “Once he became fully informed in April of that year, he acted decisively to deal with these problems.”
John Paul II was the most traveled pope in history, visiting some 129 countries. On a 1979 trip to the United States, one of his stops was in Boston.
It was on these trips that his love for the people was most apparent. While the trips must have been physically grueling, John Paul made every effort to get as close to the people as possible. That desire for contact nearly cost him his life when, in 1981 he was shot and wounded by Mehmet Ali Agca in St. Peter’s Square.
Retired Judge Thaddeus Buczko of Salem was awed by John Paul’s sacrifice.
Buczko, a personal friend of the pope, credits John Paul for his support of Solidarity, a non-Communist Party Polish trade union federation.
“I can’t even talk about all the things he did for Solidarity,” Buczko said. Sainthood is a fitting honor for the man, he said. “He was a very humble person.”
In 2001, Fran Landry, a page designer for our sister paper, The Eagle-Tribune, took part in a papal audience with John Paul II, an event she credits with helping her to quit smoking. Landry had painted a portrait of John Paul and presented it to the pope. For years a photo was displayed in a corridor of our offices of John Paul receiving Landry’s portrait — and a copy of The Eagle-Tribune.
The love John Paul II had for his flock was returned many times over. On his death in 2005, crowds filled St. Peter’s Square chanting “Santo subito!” Saint now!
Yesterday, that demand of the Catholic faithful was fulfilled.