The Pope died about two hours ago while I was out getting groceries. A palpable sense of sadness is settling on America as people realize the implications of this event; TV is going to suck for the next week. Even though I disagreed with many of the positions this Pope took--something that would have been true of any Pope--I have to admit that he was one of the most influential and important people on the planet over the last quarter century. I'm not going to go into his career or his cultural/religious/political impact. Many others will do that, and in far greater detail than I would ever be inclined to do. I just wanted to share a few random thoughts.
While tens of millions will mourn Pope John Paul II over the next few days, who will mourn Karol Joseph Wojtyla? That is, who were his friends and family; who thought of him as simply Karol and not Holy Father? They will suffer a special kind of alienation at this moment. Because they will be surrounded by a public outpouring of emotion, the uniqueness of their own pain will be drowned, hidden, and lost. The millions who would be inclines to cry, "we know how you feel; we loved him too," for the most part, don't know how they feel and miss the point entirely.
The Pope is not just a religious leader; he is also a head of state. He had his own little country, the Vatican City. Most trivia mongers will point out that the Vatican City is the smallest country on Earth (0.4 sq. km), but it has many other claims to fame. Among them are:
- The Vatican City has the lowest birthrate on earth (no births per 1000).
- Consequently, it has the highest ratio of immigrants to native-born in its population (100:00).
- Though many have criticized the pontiff's sexual policies, they have resulted in the lowest level of teenage pregnancies on earth (none).
- The last statistic is especially amazing in light of the fact that citizens of the Vatican City almost never get married!
- Citizens of the Vatican City have one of the highest standards of living on the planet. Everyone lives in a palace and homelessness is completely unknown.
- The Vatican City has universal healthcare, total employment, and a budget for arts and architectural preservation that exceeds their military budget.
That's not a bad record for a world leader to leave behind.