Either way, the pope and Reagan eventually got much of what they wanted: the toppling of one Soviet client state after another.

Now, 10 months after Reagan’s death (Maggie is still with us), the pope, too, is gone. All three of these legacy-makers took their offices within 28 months of one another–and all three would richly enjoy a story that broke Sunday afternoon in, ironically, Moscow:

Askar Akayev, the strongman president who was driven out of Kyrgyzstan by a democracy-minded mob less than two weeks ago, announced that he would formally resign on Monday. That opens the way for elections he won’t be able to rig. Another irony there: It was Akayev’s alleged manipulation of parliamentary election results to give him a docile legislature that led to weeks of protests and, in late March, his ouster.

Pope John Paul, with his wry sense of humor, surely would relish the fall of one more domino so soon after his death. His native Poland emerged from Nazi domination only to suffer decades of Soviet puppetry. With Reagan and Thatcher–a clandestine trio or just three like-minded leaders–the pope leveraged the Polish people’s frustration into the fall of Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, the Soviets’ pet strongman.

Kyrgyzstan’s demand for democracy isn’t the novelty Poland’s was. Kyrgyzstan is a poor country of 5 million mostly Muslim citizens who, long after the fall of the Soviet empire, have yet to truly emerge from their subjugation to Moscow.

But the collapse of one more ossified regime, one more relic of Soviet oppression, is one more rebuke to Soviet leader Josef Stalin’s dismissal of one of Pope John Paul’s predecessors: “How many divisions does the pope have?”

There are no papal divisions in Georgia, Ukraine or any of the former Soviet lands that have found–or still must find–their way to freedom. But thanks to Pope John Paul and others, more of these dominos surely will fall. ~The Chicago Tribune

It is just this sort of obnoxious editorial that caused me to cancel my unfortunate subscription to this newspaper. Pope John Paul II was a great man with a profound moral and spiritual vision that did indeed help Catholics in the Soviet bloc combat the corrosive effects and enervating control of communism. Whether or not his influence was as great in other parts of the Soviet bloc as it was in Poland and Hungary is the sort of uncomfortable question that is left unasked, as it might compromise the increasingly conventional image of Pope and President as breakers of the Soviet Union, as if the internal dissension in the largely historically Orthodox lands of the Soviet bloc was just a consequence of kindly, non-Orthodox interventionists from the West.

In spite of some of the Pope’s regrettable choices regarding the Uniates in eastern Europe and ecumenism in general during his pontificate, which inevitably did so much to undermine whatever confidence he hoped to gain in the Orthodox world, he was undoubtedly a man of remarkable integrity and faith. This abuse of his largely admirable legacy to shill for the most fraudulent and ridiculous of the recent “revolutions” in post-Soviet space is pathetic, as if tying the completely meaningless changing of the apparatchiks in Bishkek to Pope John Paul’s other achievements would somehow make this farce more respectable.

For those who actually found Mr. Akayev’s rule so terrible, his replacement by Mr. Bakiyev will be as meaningful for the domestic reform of Kyrgyzstan as the succession of Andropov after Brezhnev was for the internal politics of the USSR. If the editors of the Tribune really had any respect for the late Pope, beyond the ways in which they could use him as a symbol for their deluded ideology, they would not have sullied his name by attaching it to the disorderly and pointless charade that has been the “Tulip Revolution.”