And of course John Paul is the most widely traveled pope of all time, greeting huge adoring crowds around the world until he was too feeble to do so anymore. On his first visit to Washington, he waved to a little girl in the front row of the crowd on Pennsylvania Avenue — my daughter.

Nor can we forget John Paul the avid skier. He did all sorts of things popes weren’t expected to do, with a joie de vivre not usually associated with the papacy. He has also written books of philosophy and poetry and made recordings. You never knew what this surprising pope was going to do next. He has also canonized more saints and elevated more cardinals than any previous pope.

Still, orthodox Catholics ask whether his papacy has been a success. He seems to have retained a naive Sixties faith in ecumenical “dialogue,” however fruitless it turned out to be. The maladies that have infected the Church since the Second Vatican Council (at which he was an enthusiastic participant) haven’t been remedied — liturgical corruption, low Mass attendance, poor Catholic education, errant bishops, heretical theologians.

And one of the worst scandals in Catholic history erupted on his watch: the revelation that homosexual priests had been abusing boys. This was a natural result of the homosexual domination of American (and possibly other) Catholic seminaries that had been increasing since the 1960s, well before John Paul’s papacy; but he seemed to have had no clue that it was going on and hardly to have believed it when he learned. That doesn’t speak well for his supervision.

But all in all, no man of our time has even begun to rival his stature. Whatever great means, John Paul II is what it means. ~Joe Sobran