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Europe

Press Review: Karol Wojtyla, Papal Star

European editorial comment on the death of Pope John II on Monday ranged from exuberant admiration to respectful criticism.

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Eulogies to John Paul II are filling European newspaper columns

Madrid daily El Mundo wrote: "Never before has a person after his death been so highly honored worldwide as Pope John Paul II. From 'world leader' George W. Bush to communist dictator Fidel Castro to the fundamentalists of the Taliban -- nearly all world political actors eulogize the pontificate of the deceased church leader in the highest tones. Indeed, each has his own motives. But it's striking that the appreciation encompasses the entire globe. Here we have a real global phenomenon. John Paul II was the pope of the globalization era."

Moscow's Izvestia daily said: "The death of John Paul II is the end of the era of great post-war personalities. Then, history took place not just as a conflict of systems but also as a struggle between great personalities. Then, Reagan's naive greatness relied on the pope's measured greatness, was bolstered by Solzhenitsyn's sparkling greatness, found an echo in Sakharov's disheveled greatness, in Havel's refined greatness and in Walesa's featherbrained greatness, multiplied itself with Thatcher's dosage -- and already dreary Soviet czarism fell apart."

Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza remarked: "We lived in the era of John Paul II -- for that is how the last quarter-century will be dubbed -- the time of the pope who changed the Catholic Church, the world and, finally, every one of us. … His demands were high. That's why he often caused controversy. But the words of controversy never changed the respect and admiration for St. Peter's successor in Rome. He personally experienced both of the 20th century's worst demons -- the totalitarianism of the Nazis and of the Communists. The shadows of Auschwitz and Kolyma continually accompanied his teachings … We are sad today. The Poles' greatest authority will never return. And we thank fate that this extraordinary representative of Christ, who did so much good, appeared in our life."

Parisian daily Liberation commented that: "Karol Wojtyla was at the same time an iron pope and a 'pope star.' He switched back and forth between engaged conservatism in the real world and the reactionary defense of dogma. … This dogmatism prevented him from increasing the number of clerics through ordaining women into the priesthood or allowing priests to marry. It also held him captive in the image of a prelate bent only on restoration and not renovation. In the midst of the return to religiosity, from which the Catholic Church alone didn't really seem to profit, this immobility will possibly remain his main sin in the memory of his own congregation."

Switzerland's Neue Zürcher Zeitung wrote: "All those Catholics were fooled who believed that as pope Wojtyla would declare the bishops' synod the church's 'parliament' and himself its highest executive organ. He didn't allow the primacy of the bishop of Rome to be shaken, not from modern inner-Catholic powers, nor from the other Christian communities. John Paul II leaves his successor a difficult legacy. The whole world will measure the new pope against his predecessor. But his charisma defies any comparison."

Munich's Abendzeitung commented: "His unflinching rejection of every form of birth control was consistent. But it was counterproductive in the fight against poverty and overpopulation. And his condemnation of condoms at a time when AIDS had long been known to be a global threat didn't put a brake on the disease's spread. If you add to that his adversity to internal church reforms, from celibacy to ordaining women, the image gets tarnished. However, exactly these contradictions constitute the fascination with this man. The same people who turned away in irritation when he claimed the Catholic Church was superior to other religious denominations took pleasure in his decisive partisanship against the war in Iraq. Pope John Paul II was an authority, and he made many people uncomfortable. Still, his contradictions were always evidence that this pontifex, who never wanted to shake the dogma of infallibility, was a person with human weaknesses. That too fascinated so many people worldwide."

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