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Famous Papal Scholar Describes Pope John Paul II’s Legacy

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Noted Catholic intellectual and official biographer of Pope John Paul II, George Weigel presented a lecture on the impact of Pope John Paul II on the Catholic Church and the world. The lecture took place on Tuesday, Oct. 26 from 5-6:15 p.m. in Wortmann Ballroom. It was attended by Roanoke College students and faculty, local community members, and several local Catholic Priests.

Weigel believes that there are ten major achievements that should be engrained in the public consciousness for Pope John Paul II’s legacy ranging from major reforms of the papal office to helping bring down communism in Europe in the early 1990s.

“Everything he did in the church, in the Catholic Church more specifically, and everything he did globally explain his discipleship,” Weigel said.

Along the way, Weigel told entertaining stories about his travels to the Vatican, personal stories about the late Pope, and his experiences as a television analyst for the Holy See. Weigel is a distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center. He has appeared on NBC multiple times as an expert on the Vatican. Weigel is also the author of numerous books and articles on Catholicism. His latest book is called THE END AND THE BEGINNING: Pope John Paul II–The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy.

Throughout the lecture, Weigel emphasized the point that Pope John Paul II tried to reshape the papacy as an institution that would represent the teachings of Jesus Christ. He credits Pope John Paul II for being a real advocate of governmental and economic reform that would promote religious freedom throughout the world. This includes trying to bridge the gap between different religious sects from Judaism to fundamental Protestantism

Pope John Paul II even tried to heal the one hundred year schism between Rome and Constantinople, but the tension was so strong that he was not successful in bridging the divide, Weigel explained.

Another side of the late pope that Weigel tried to present was the intellectual aspect of his career as the high pontiff. In Wegiel’s view, the Roman Pontiff completed the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (1962-1965), which was the doctrinal change instituted by the Church, by using leadership to guide the world through the changes. He explains that Vatican II did not leave the church with a single creed or book that uniformly explained the changes to the public.

Pope John Paul II courageously reassured the people that this was the right move for the church. In science, the Pontiff was instrumental in expanding the rational discourse between the Catholic Church and the scientific community.

“Pope John Paul II, was absolutely secure in constitution that all truths, if they were really true, pointed towards the Truth: God and Jesus Christ,” Weigel said.

Weigel also pointed out that the leader of the Holy See tried to promote the universal declaration that all human life was sacred, from conception until death. Weigel called it Pope John Paul II’s “Culture of Life” campaign. He believes that while there are some contradictions in Pope John Paul II’s teaching on this subject he will eventually be vindicated in the matter. Weigel firmly believes that Pope John Paul II’s legacy in the world of ideas will be in the true defense of reason and capacity to grasp truth through God and by his sponsorship of the latest Catechism.

Overall, students seemed to approve of the lecuture.  Those that were Catholic and non-Catholic alike enjoyed the perspective that the speaker brought to the topic of the late pope.

“I think it was important for this audience to see the impact that the pope had (and still has) on the world, whether or not they regard him as their spiritual leader,” said Kathleen Ouyang ’13.

Photo Credit: Image Shack and The Daily Mail