by Robert Docter –
General John Larsson, international leader of The Salvation Army released the following statement immediately upon being advised of the death of Pope John Paul II.
“With the death of Pope John Paul II the world has lost a spiritual leader and a statesman of towering stature. His courage in speaking for those who have no voice, his rock-like stand for the values in which he believed, and the tireless way in which he carried out his worldwide pastoral duties, have been an inspiration to millions. His life has left an indelible imprint on his era, and his achievements are historic.
“Salvationists around the world join with their Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in thanking and praising God for the life of John Paul II, and pray that they may know the comfort of Christ in their sorrow.”
Commissioner W. Todd Bassett, USA national commander, stated: “When one dies in The Salvation Army, we use the term ‘promoted to Glory.’ As we reflect on the life and sacrificial service of Pope John Paul II, we relize this is a man who has brought honor and glory to the name of our Lord Jesus and now has been promoted to that glorious place in eternity where we can all go because of the cross of Jesus.”
Born Karol Jozef Wojtyla in 1920 in the small Polish city of Wadowice, 35 miles southwest of Krakow, he entered the priesthood in 1946. With two masters degrees, two earned doctorates and excellent communication in eight languages, he was perceived within the church as an intellectual leader by the late fifties. By 1967 he was appointed Cardinal by Pope Paul VI and became the Bishop of Rome, the Vicar of Christ with his elevation to the papacy at age 58 upon the unexpected death of John Paul I in 1978. He chose the name John Paul II both as a tribute and a signal of identification with his three predecessors.
Within eight months he was back in Poland for nine days, attracting large crowds, speaking pointedly and, at first, quietly then, later, very publicly, supporting the Solidarity movement. The seeds, sown first in Poland, soon brought freedoms flowers and the end of communism throughout eastern Europe.
Refusing to limit himself only to church administration, he showed tremendous courage both in his efforts to improve relationships with other religions of the world, and in his widespread political confrontation with any acts of oppression physical, social or economic. This brought him into conflict with capitalistic thinking that he branded as over materialistic and punitive to the poor. His travels brought him to 115 different countries over a 20 year period. He focused on the cause of human rights and social justice.
In the last ten years he has battled Parkinson’s disease as well as an assassination attempt, and his approach to his own death modeled the power of faith for an entire world.
The College of Cardinals assemble in conclave assemble in the Sistine Chapel one week following his funeral. Here, 117 voting Cardinals, under the age of 80, begin the process of electing a new Pope. This requires a two-thirds vote for the first 12 days. If a new Pope remains unchosen following that time period, a simple majority can complete the process.