‘He Was a Gift to the World’

“In a self-centered culture, this pope bore witness to service, to personal sacrifice and the humanizing values rooted in love. Yes, in the words of the cliché, this pope was a Catholic. But he saw heroic witness in any people who stood for goodness and hoped for the renewal of civilization. …We should not be focused on the frailty of his last years, but on the incredible vitality that he brought to his mission during most of his tenure. He went everywhere, not just centers of Catholicism, whether the American Midwest or a former Soviet republic or Fidel Castro’s Cuba. In his 26-year papacy, he made more than 104 trips outside Italy, taking in 129 of the world’s 191 independent states. He held talks with more than 1,500 heads of state or government. … He was a gift to Catholics. He was a gift to the world.”
International Herald Tribune

“This is a great loss … for humanity as a whole. The State of Israel joins all those who mourn his loss. Israel, the Jewish people and the entire world, lost … a great champion of reconciliation and brotherhood between the faiths.”
— Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom

“He wasn’t the Pope they wanted. The papacy that has just concluded, one of the most remarkable in the 2,000-year-old history of the See of St Peter, was never meant to happen. This is one of the most extraordinary aspects of Pope John Paul II’s extraordinary career. He was Pope by accident. And that fact may have a considerable bearing on what happens next.”
The Independent, London, England

“His life has come to an end. Our great countryman has died.”
— Parish priest, the Rev. Jakub Gil, Wadowice, Poland

  “Throughout a hard and often difficult life, he stood for social justice and on the side of the oppressed, whether as a young man facing the Nazi occupation in Poland or later in challenging the communist regime. He never wavered, never flinched, in the struggle for what he thought was good and right.”
— British Prime Minister Tony Blair

“This is a sad day, we are very sad to lose him. We will never forget his noble stance in support of the oppressed people, including the Palestinians.”
— Hesham Youssef, spokesman for the secretary general of the Arab league

“The Catholic Church has lost its shepherd, the world has lost a champion of human freedom, and a good and faithful servant of God has been called home. In his native Poland, that witness launched a democratic revolution that swept Eastern Europe and changed the course of history. Throughout the West, John Paul’s witness reminded us of our obligation to build a culture of life in which the strong protect the weak. And during the Pope’s final years, his witness was made even more powerful by his daily courage in the face of illness and great suffering. … We will always remember the humble, wise and fearless priest who became one of history’s great moral leaders.”
— President George W. Bush

“The nation’s leadership and people have received the news of John Paul’s passing with profound sorrow. We always saw, and continue to see, Juan Pablo II as a friend. … We express our message of condolences and respect to all Catholic believers in Cuba and all of the world. … Cuban officials will always remember the pope’s January 1998 visit to Cuba when he criticized four decades of U.S. trade sanctions against the island.”
— Cuba’s Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque

"Pope John Paul personally, and his works and ideas, have had a strong impact on the world."
— Patriarch Alexy II, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church

"An enlightened and inspired priest, he devoted himself to responding to the search for sense and the thirst for justice that is expressed today on all continents. [History] will retain the imprint and the memory of this exceptional sovereign pontiff, whose charisma, conviction and compassion carried the evangelical message with unprecedented resonance on the international stage."
— French President Jacques Chirac

“Much has been written and said about the exemplary life of John Paul II. But when people look back years from now, it may be his death they remember best. When he breathed his last on Saturday, the Pope had been a sick man for over a decade. It was a long death and a very public one — intentionally so. John Paul used his own suffering to send a profound message about the value of human life.”
Globe and Mail, Toronto, Ontario

“The Pope embodied the best that is within all mankind as well as the commonness of humanity. … His actions and statements transformed relations between the Catholic and Jewish faiths, and made a fundamental impact on the struggle against anti-Semitism. We will miss him.”
— Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres

“Despite the Pope’s progressive, hands-on leadership, he is not without his critics, particularly over his views on contentious issues such as divorce, contraception and abortion. At a Vatican conference in 2001 he spoke out against laws allowing divorce, abortion, homosexual unions and rights for unmarried couples. Critics both inside and outside the church say such views risk alienating many Catholics and are out of touch with a rapidly changing world.”
— BBC News, London, England

“These are tears of joy. The pope did all he could for Poland. He brought God back to communist Poland, and then the feeling of freedom.”
— seamstress Iolanta Szarkowiec, Warsaw, Poland

“Around the world, bells tolled and worshippers prayed in remembrance of the man who reigned for longer than all but two of his predecessors and was credited with helping bring down communism in Europe and spreading a message of peace during his frequent travels around the world.”
Arab News, Jidda, Saudi Arabia

“Physically, he has gone, but his spirit still lives on among Catholics around the world.”
— Father Michael To, on the Indonesian island of Nias

“For me he was another Christ. He truly lived the life of Jesus. He showed us how to live, how to suffer, how to love and even how to die.”
— Sister Simone of the Mother Teresa’s order, from Austria

“This is a man who has carried the moral weight of the world for 26 years … turning himself into the only moral reference for humanity in recent years of wars and difficulties.”
— Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Cuba’s Church leader

“It will be a moment without precedent. Rome will grind to a halt to guarantee the full development of the demonstration of love for the pontificate, guaranteeing the maximum security for all the heads of state who will arrive to pay homage to the pope.”
— Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni

“Pope John Paul II envisioned the restoration of the unity of the Christians and he worked for its realization.”
— Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians

“We will miss him as a distinguished religious figure, who devoted his life to defending the values of peace, freedom and equality. He defended the rights of Palestinians, their freedom and independence.”
— Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas

“Pope John Paul was a leader of manifest holiness and a faithful and prayerful friend of the Anglican Church. There will be time in the days ahead for the proper tributes to be paid; for now we remember his life and ministry with thankfulness and hold the church that he led in our thoughts and prayers.”
— Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams

“Pope John Paul II was a conservative and a provocateur, but he was also a great man. All over the world, even those who disliked him are either praying or somehow paying their respects to him. And for a good reason: The world feels like a more dangerous place without him.”
— Matthias Matussek,  Speigel online, Hamburg, Germany

“Why not an African pope? We have played second fiddle for so long, but now the church has found its roots in Africa … just as a Polish pope was the right man to meet the great political shift of the last generation, the end of the cold war, an African or Latin American pope could be just what the church needs to secure its future in the new millennium. … It could be that a pope from Africa or Latin America could stamp out our generation’s evils — extreme poverty, ethnic strife and disease — and transform Africa just as the Holy Father transformed the rest of the world.”
— Father Julius Olaitan, administrator of Lagos’ Holy Cross Cathedral

“God has called him to rest in his arms. Today let’s keep him in our thoughts during our prayers.”
- Rev. Sun Shangen, at Beijing’s Southern Cathedral at Xuan Wu Men

“Quite apart from his role as a spiritual guide to more than a billion men, women and children, he was a tireless advocate of peace, a true pioneer in interfaith dialogue and a strong force for critical self-evaluation by the Church itself. I offer my deepest condolences to Catholics and others around the world who were touched by his life of prayer and lifelong dedication to nonviolence and peace.”
- U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan

“The global reach was evident Saturday, as Catholic faithful attended early morning mass in the Russian capital, Moscow. In Jerusalem’s old city, the faithful gathered at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. A special mass was also held Saturday in the Church of Nativity in the city of Bethlehem. In Cologne, Germany, some 1,500 people gathered at the famous 13th-century Gothic cathedral. At Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, worshippers lit candles beneath a photo of the Pope. It was a similar scene at Vienna’s landmark St. Stephen’s Cathedral and in London’s Westminster Cathedral. In Pakistan, a mainly Muslim country that John Paul visited in 1981, children lit candles as their tearful teachers and many others gathered at a Roman Catholic Church in the central city of Multan to pray. And in New Delhi, India, Roman Catholics gathered at Sacred Heart Cathedral for special prayers to the pontiff. The Pope was front-page news across much of Asia but not in China, where the state-run media ignored it.”
—, Ottawa, Ontario

“Pope John Paul II was a man I held in high regard. His experience in Poland, then a communist country, and my own difficulties with communists, gave us a common ground.”
— The Dalai Lama, issued by his office in exile in the Himalayan town of Dharmsala, north India

“Pope John Paul II was unquestionably the most influential voice for morality and peace in the world during the last 100 years. His extraordinary gifts, his strong Catholic faith, and his experience of human tyranny and suffering in his native Poland all shaped him, and yet he was respected by men and women from every conceivable background across the world. … His courage and perseverance in the face of advancing age and illness were an inspiration to millions, including me.”
— The Rev. Billy Graham

“Fifty per cent of the collapse of communism is his doing.”
— Lech Walesa, founder of Poland’s Solidarity movement

“Pope John Paul II wrote history. Through his work, and through his impressive personality he changed our world.”
— German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder

“Both his enemies and his friends recognize that he has left his mark on the world.”
— right-wing daily Eleftheros Typos, Athens, Greece

“He spoke words of hope and friendship and gave a concrete sense to the reconciliation between Islam and the [Catholic] Church.”
Le Matin, Casablanca, Morocco

“Europeans will never forget his fight for peace and human dignity.”
— European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso

  “On a visit to Lisbon in 1991, seeing that a large crowd had gathered outside the Vatican Consulate, he appeared on the balcony, without any bodyguards and only a few meters away from the audience, and said: ‘So, you want me to say Goodnight? Then Goodnight.’ The audience replied ‘Goodnight’ and the Pope put his hand to his ear, pretending not to hear. The audience repeated, louder, ‘Goodnight!’, the Pope repeated his gesture and the audience, louder, shouted ‘Goodnight!’ Then the Pope said ‘Ah OK, goodnight’ and he went inside to applause and affectionate laughter from the adoring crowd.”
Pravda, Moscow, Russia