US Catholic Faith in Real Life

John Paul II: Global leader

Online Editor | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
Pope John Paul II's work for peace in response to Communism and terrorism is one of the highlights of his papacy. What one part of JPII's legacy is most significant to you?

I grew up in the 1970s and '80s at a time when global events were strongly influenced by the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. In the early years of Pope John Paul II’s papacy, there were many—myself included—who feared that a crisis in Europe or elsewhere could draw the two nations into a conflict that could only end with what war planners of the time called MAD: Mutually Assured Destruction. Yet by the time the pope died in 2005, the Soviet Union no longer existed and many of the nations of Eastern Europe—including John Paul’s beloved Poland—had managed a difficult transition to both democracy and capitalism.

While Communism’s own “internal contradictions,” as a Marxist might put it, were largely responsible for its collapse, Pope John Paul II played an important role in ensuring that this collapse did not descend into chaos and violence. The pope’s well-known support for the Solidarity trade union movement was not merely a reflection of national pride or anti-communism. It also reflected Catholic social teaching’s traditional emphasis on mediating institutions—churches, trade unions, civic organizations—that stand between the individual and the state. In Eastern Europe, these institutions drew strength from Pope John Paul’s attention and support. He and they thus played a critical role in ensuring that there were individuals and organizations ready to step into the vacuum created by the fall of Communism.

—Peter Nixon, a U.S. Catholic contributor


So much of our nation was in turmoil after the 9-11 attacks almost 10 years ago. The call for revenge (called “justice”) was intense. Through my office window, I had watched the billowing black smoke coming from the Pentagon so I understood that instinct. My Catholic faith, however, led me in a different direction. One of the major spokespeople for peace in those days was Pope John Paul II, and I will always be grateful that he gave voice to my faith. As our nation approached the Iraq War, many of us stood on the streets of Washington holding signs that quoted him calling war a defeat for humanity. I was proud to be Catholic.

—Stephanie Niedringhaus, Communications Coordinator,
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Read more about Pope John Paul II at

What one part of JPII's legacy is most significant to you? Email a short response to  Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.