I’m not Catholic. I was raised Methodist and go through my days today mostly agnostic, but I do have my moments.
Last year for Christmas, some family gave me a book called Conclave, by John Allen, the Vatican Bureau Chief for the National Catholic Reporter. John is probably one of the best writers on the subject of the Catholic Church and the Vatican I’ve ever read. His book, Conclave, is a fascinating read on the events that we just watched unfold in Rome.
He writes, in his column The Word from Rome, of his own response to the death of Pope John Paul II:
Oddly enough, having prepared for these experiences night and day for more than five years, having run through endless scenarios on both logistical and journalistic fronts, the one thing that I never accounted for is that I would also have a personal, emotional response. After all, a man died, and not just any man — John Paul loomed incredibly large in my life. I met him eight times, traveled with him to 21 nations, and probably wrote millions of words about him all told. While I realize there are perfectly reasonable criticisms to be made of various aspects of his papacy, what seems to me beyond question is that he was a man of deep faith and integrity, a genuinely good person striving by his lights to serve God, the church, and all of humanity. His final days taught me, and taught all of us, how to face impending death with both grit and grace, and it’s a lesson I will never forget.
All that came to a crescendo during the funeral Mass, as I was sitting next to Christiane Amanpour and my colleague Delia Gallagher on the CNN set, watching the papal gentlemen pick up the pope’s casket and turn it around for one final farewell to the crowd in St. Peter’s Square. At that moment I had to choke back tears, realizing in an instant that I would never write another sentence about John Paul II in the present tense.
You don’t say goodbye to someone like John Paul without a sense of loss.
I have more thoughts on Allen’s writings and on my own emotional and spiritual response to the death of the Pope to say in the coming days…