Kenneth L. Woodward in Newsweek:
John Paul II held the chair of Saint Peter for more than 26 years—leading his flock longer than almost any other pope. For nearly a decade, he persevered in office despite a slow and painfully public deterioration from Parkinson’s disease. This avid outdoor athlete who spent many a papal vacation skiing and hiking in the mountains, this former actor who made all the world his stage, this relentless global traveler who bent and kissed the tarmac in tiny countries never before visited by a pope, aged, suffered and physically declined before our eyes. And so we watched as he lost the ability to walk, as he slurred when he tried to talk, as his head dropped and saliva fell from his lips during church ceremonies. Those who follow Christ must welcome suffering, he firmly believed, and he would not hide his own from public view.
Future historians seem certain to record that John Paul personalized the papacy in ways that none of the cardinals who elected him (with 103 of 109 votes after 10 ballots) could have foreseen. He transformed the See of Peter into a fulcrum of world politics—his politics. The papal voice—his voice—was heard and often heeded in major capitals like Moscow and Washington. Above all, he took the papacy—which only a century earlier was locked inside the ecclesiastical confines of Vatican City—on the road. He visited Africa four times, Latin America five, managing altogether an astounding 104 pilgrimages to 129 countries around the globe. In doing so, he transformed the figure of the pope from distant icon to familiar face. His face.
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