Pope John Paul II: the beloved pope who left reformists cold

The Malay Mail

VATICAN CITY, April 27 — Pope John Paul II, who was declared a saint today along with John XXIII, was a charismatic leader who helped topple communism but was criticised for failing to tackle the scourge of child sex abuse by priests.

The first non-Italian pope since the Renaissance, and the first from eastern Europe, Polish Karol Wojtyla was hugely popular, eschewing the pomp that surrounded his predecessors and seeking contact with ordinary people.

During a papacy that lasted nearly 27 years, John Paul II travelled far and wide, often greeted by massive crowds as he championed peace, denounced human rights abuses and deplored the decadence of the modern world.

Some of the most memorable moments of his papacy were his attempted assassination in St Peter’s Square, his call on mobsters to repent and a meeting in which he kissed people with AIDS at the height of the devastating epidemic.

John Paul II also sponsored ultra-conservative Catholic movements like Opus Dei and the Legion of Christ in an effort to counter rising secularism in the West and win new followers, particularly in the developing world. …

Dogged by a rising wave of scandals of paedophile priests, the pope, at the behest of US bishops, approved new measures to punish clergymen committing sexual abuses but only after a long silence.

His refusal to denounce Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legion of Christ and a serial sexual predator who abused male seminarians and fathered at least three children despite his vows of chastity, drew criticism.

But the Vatican has brushed off the accusations, with spokesman Federico Lombardi saying there was “no personal implication” of the pope in the scandal.

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